Photo Credit: Liz McMohan via Flickr
Luck be a wobbly knee. By now, you’ve heard. Derrick Rose’s right knee buckled in the third quarter of a game against the Portland Trail Blazers and he had to be assisted off the court. The MRI has yet to be performed but the story is all too familiar.
On April 28th, 2012 with 1:11 to go in the game, Rose fell to the floor on a patented wayward jump pass and the rest is gut-wrenching history. The resulting nausea intertwined with depression and depression intertwined with nausea led me to some inexorable questions: What is it about sports? Living and dying with the fate of one sports franchise is unavoidably a turbulent and one-sided affair. Why trouble ourselves with such a hapless endeavor?
Over time, I’ve coughed up a few answers. Spectator sport is a vehicle of vicarious exhilaration, allowing us to weave our own personal narratives while taking part in the triumph and vigor of ball games, won and lost— all from the sanctity of our armchairs. Sure, the element of risk is ever-present and sometimes we’ll toil in misfortune, but there’s alleviation in that it’s a shared grief. In the end, what’s left of our travail is worthwhile: memories, emotions and on rare occasions, derived immortality. We’ll never nail a corner trey in transition, nor do we have a say over the results, but there’s a talismanic quality in just being there.
Needless to say, I’ve reconciled with myself over time in regards to these questions. The events of that afternoon, including an ensuing flurry of emotions, fundamentally changed the way I approached basketball. After years of battery, delivered by uninspiring front office moves followed by vague promises, I approached my renewed outlook as an indiscriminate lover of all things related to the NBA with considerable glee.
But one can only alter the essence of their nature to a certain degree. The shift from team fandom to general obsessiveness is ultimately not one of dichotomy, rather a continuum in which my position left me vulnerable to the Bulls’ misfortunes. As much as I’d like to pretend that it didn’t, last night sucked.
Whatever happens with Rose sucks but on a selfish note I’m glad I’ve lost some of my “live or die with the Bulls” emotions.
— Seerat Sohi (@DamianTrillard) November 23, 2013
A portion of this tweet is true. It hurt, but the pain was notably different. Sports are a zero-sum game. The misgivings of one team morph into the triumph of another. All things considered, there’s never really too much misery to go around. But injuries, especially when they spite players of Rose’s quality, are different; they’re costs that’ll never be replenished. Talk of Rose’s competitive drive is trite with cliché, he’s an athlete among athletes; alpha among alphas. Inadvertently, he’s also an entertainer who can tantalize his patrons. A healthy Rose is an adept hunter, stalking his prey with merciless and crafty instincts. But what compels us toward him is not the efficiency with which he kills, but the manner in which he does it.
Rose’s game reeks of inventiveness. Each drive is a disregard for convention, pushing to the brink our notion of just how many ways a ball can be put in a basket with gravity hanging in the balance; each contortion a creation, each reverse a magical evocation. His and-one’s display a magnificent show of strength and resilience, with a vitality that stares mortality in the face and at the same time foreshadows his own looming demise.
That’s always been the problem, hasn’t it? The nervous tension that developed in the back of your mind, in the pit of your stomach whenever Rose performed the inhuman. Rose took 18 months to recover yet it’s unlikely any extra day spent rehabbing made a difference. The harrowing reality has always been right around the corner. In fact, it’s been ready to pounce every time our dear entertainer turned a corner.
A true Icarus, Derrick Rose always flew too close to the sun. His true magnificence perhaps wasn’t in his ability to create and inspire, but that it took so long for him to get burnt.
What happens this morning happens this morning. The results of the MRI, no one knows, but the crutches accompanying the sides of the former MVP as he left the Moda Center felt like a devastating primer for a devastating future.
It may feel like it sometimes, but basketball isn’t stuff of the gods. It’s the stuff of overstretched mortals dedicating their life’s work to one sole trade. Invention and creation… that comes with the territory of playing so recklessly with fire. As the sun rises over an icy Edmonton morning, I can’t help but think we just witnessed the last of Rose’s blazing glory.
I desperately hope I’m wrong.