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Keith Strudler: Future Tense For Chicago Fans

For Derrick Rose, the future is not right now. That’s likely disappointing for Chicago Bulls fans who have waited for some eternity for that moment to come. They’ve endured injury after heart breaking injury as perhaps the league’s third best player watched from the sidelines, keeping the Bulls from being little more than a playoff nuisance for the Eastern Conference’s elite. Now, after essentially two years of waiting, Rose is finally wearing something other than a suit and tie on the bench and can actually contribute to a team some consider, if Rose is playing and healthy, perhaps the best in the entire league.

Yet despite that hopeful aspiration, that’s not the only future Rose is working towards. Where Chicago fans see future as next June, when the NBA Finals take place, Rose is thinking way past that. That’s what he indicated this week in an ESPN radio interview. Rose, who’s sat out several games already this season with nagging aches and sprains, said he’s not sitting out to preserve his body for a stretch playoff run later this season, like the aging San Antonio Spurs often do, but rather for after he’s done with basketball. As he put it, he doesn’t want to have aches and pains at business meetings or kids’ graduations because of what he did in the past. As he said, he’s just trying to be smart.

At the very least, it would be hard to indicate Rose saying that out loud, much less on radio, as particularly smart. For someone’s who’s struggled to maintain public support while’s he’s largely taken money for not playing, the idea that he might continue that trend voluntarily may not sit well with an audience that pays either way. So if nothing else, Derrick Rose might want to consult his PR team before pontificating on air.

Rose’s thoughts of life after sports aren’t unusual. They usually come from football players, where the extra hits don’t just hurt now, but perhaps forevermore. That’s the mindset that led two 23 year olds, Armond Amstead and David Wilson, to retire this season before their careers really began. Both had injuries or conditions that could make football life threatening right now, not just years down the line. And many former football players appear to be suffering from CTE, a degenerative brain condition caused essentially from too many concussions. So it’s clear why football players might rest instead of play, because they’re thinking about life after football. That’s exactly why the NFL doesn’t offer guaranteed contracts. Because they don’t want guys worried about the future when they’re paying for the present.

That’s not the case in the NBA, where superstars command long term contracts worth more than most small nations. Rose still has three years left on a deal that pays him about $20 million per. And that’s whether he worries about his kids’ graduations or not. So from a purely financial perspective, Chicago would rather see more immediacy to Derrick’s motives.

It’s clear that basketball doesn’t offer the same perils as its more aggressive sporting counterparts do. Not a lot of former NBA guys walk around punch drunk or can’t remember their kids’ names when they’re 50. Sure, they have bad knees and bad backs. But who doesn’t. It’s kind of like going into politics. If you don’t want to have feelings hurt, perhaps that’s not the best career choice.

Maybe we’re seeing the where privilege ends and responsibility begins. In far too many triangular disputes between athlete, employer, and fan, the athletes get a raw deal. They sacrifice their bodies and souls for the tenuous support of fans, fans who will turn in a heartbeat when times get rough. Just ask anyone who’s played for the Eagles or the Jets, or even worse, some college quarterback who’s been booed off the field. That’s a common refrain the drama of sports.

But that’s not the case here. Derrick Rose has been able to amass fabulous sums of money because he’s got perhaps the best crossover dribble since Allen Iverson. And for that, we give of ourselves. Our time, our money, or hearts. That’s a relationship, a trust we build with our sports stars. You give of yourself, and we’ll give back.

Derrick Rose seems to have forgotten his part of the deal. Yes, professional basketball is tough on the human body. So is driving a taxi. And for anyone who’s waited on a cold night for a cab in Manhattan, well, it’s not an excuse to quit and make us wait for another cab way in the future. Especially when for some of us, the future is right now.

Keith Strudler is the director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and an associate professor of communication. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler


The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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