This might surprise some of you, but Derrick Rose and I are not the same person.
He's a world-class athlete; my flirtation with athletic immortality is shooting somewhere between 100 and 200 for 18 holes. He's a multi-hundred-millionaire; my budget is multi-zeroes away from being balanced. He's younger than springtime; my driver's license would say I'm older than winter if my eyesight were still good enough to read it.
Here's the real difference: Derrick Rose gets to go back to work when he feels he's ready; I have to go back to work when a doctor says I'm ready.
The most irritating aspect of sports is that they insist on residing outside of what passes as society's current normal. Athletes don't play or live by our rules. They often don't even know what our rules are or care to find out.
I can't tell my bosses I'm still sick, come into the office to practice pretend journalism with colleagues and beg off whatever assignment they have for me on that given day.
Yet Rose can tell his bosses he's still not right, show up at practice to play pretend basketball with teammates and refuse to join them on the court for a game that night, or the next night, or for a full season of nights.
Apparently this can go on forever.
Allow me to clarify: I could continue to shirk my normal duties if a note from a doctor, a televangelist or my mother stated that my sniffles were too severe to operate a laptop or other heavy equipment.
Same goes for Rose. He would be justified in not playing in an actual game, or in the playoffs, or for the entire season if a doctor recommended against it. (Mothers and televangelists are gray areas in sports.)
Rose's problem is that doctors -- reportedly the Bulls' and his -- cleared him to play weeks ago.
Yet Rose is not playing. He's not taking that final wobbly step in the rehabilitation process. He's not willing to endure the discomfort that would come from competing on the NBA level with a repaired knee. He's resisting risking not playing up to his MVP standards in public.
For some reason, sports permit an athlete to be his own physician even though he would not know a scalpel from a stethoscope. I would not know the difference either, yet I have to go back to work when a doctor squeals to human resources that I can.
At some point the policy in sports became that the athlete knows his body better than anyone else does. Maybe that's true when the problem is neurological or some other frequently mysterious ailment.
But Rose's health issue is a knee. Does he really know that particular body part better than a doctor who studies X-rays and MRIs?
A good guess is no, which is why so many Bulls fans are irritated.
It's easy to sympathize with an athlete so physically broken that he can't return to work. Forgiving mental weakness is another thing.
If doctors diagnose that a basketball player is fit to play, the public expects him to overcome rehab's mind game and get back into a basketball game sooner than later.
Yet with five games left in the regular season, the Bulls still are playing without their superstar point guard. Derrick Rose knows his body better than anyone does, yada-yada-yada, and he'll be back when he's ready, blah-blah-blah.
Oh, I don't know, maybe I'm simply annoyed that I had to tough out this great piece of American literature between sneezes.
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