Peer pressure never an issue for Bulls' Rose
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Bulls guard Derrick Rose warms up before a playoff game against the Heat. Now he will wait until next season to warm up for a game in which he actually plays.
If the Derrick Rose story proved anything it's that peer pressure in sports isn't what it used to be.
Instead it's what the Bulls and Rose's teammates allowed it to evolve into the past year.
Before we get into that, let me say that I sat at home Thursday and expected this email to arrive from the Bulls' public-relations department:
"Even though Miami eliminated the Bulls from the playoffs Wednesday night, Derrick Rose is day to day for Games 6 and 7 against the Heat. Nothing has changed. God will let Derrick know when he's ready to play again and he'll let us know and we'll let you know and you can let ripped-off season-ticket holders know.
"The future depends on the return of Derrick's muscle memory, and anyone familiar with his scandalous college entrance exam knows that memory of any sort isn't his strong suit. We understand that Derrick is making the City of Big Shoulders look like the Village of Fragile Psyches and, to be honest, we don't care because he is Derrick Rose."
Rose didn't play a single blink of NBA basketball this season despite being cleared by doctors and despite being one of the highest-compensated American athletes during the past year.
Two aspects of this are particularly troubling.
First, while none of us without medical degrees knows for sure whether Rose's surgically repaired knee was strong enough for game action, it would have been comforting if he fought Bulls management to let him play in the playoffs.
Instead, they left it up to him and he left them dangling.
Second, even worse than Rose's reluctance to test his knee in a game has been his teammates' persistent public support of his decision to sit out.
"As a player you want him to come back, but you have to look at the big picture," center Joakim Noah said after the Heat ended the Bulls' season Wednesday night. "The way he handled it was great."
No, peer pressure just isn't what it used to be.
If anything, the norm traditionally was that athletes were guilty of demanding that a teammate return to action before he was healthy.
Fairly or not, the injured were viewed suspiciously. If a player could stand upright without bone sticking out of skin, well, he was expected to take a shot and give it a shot.
Think of how many times you heard an injured player say that he didn't feel a part of the team. Yet there Rose was, highly visible, shooting jump shots before games, cheerleading on the bench, welcomed into the inner circle, made to feel as much a part of the Bulls' run as if he were playing like the superstar point guard he was.
Teammates — more so even than fans or the media or management — usually were the people who ostracize an injured athlete.
Football and hockey players especially are pressured inside the locker room to get out of the training room and onto the playing field.
Even in baseball, the more that injury-prone former Cubs pitcher Mark Prior sat out the more he was looked upon skeptically in the clubhouse.
Now, though, Rose's teammates likely are trying to figure out how much playoff money they should vote him.
Noah might say, "He can have my share, too." Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson might add, "Mine, too."
Seriously, fans, peer pressure simply isn't anywhere near what it used to be.
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