When I first decided to write about Derrick Rose and some of the reaction to his reaction to his series of very serious knee injuries, I was going to use the Rose story as a tie-in to a bigger story about the relationship between fans and professional athletes. It would have led with the $300 million contract recently signed by Giancarlo Stanton, and I’d articulate how this symbiosis allows this type of deal to happen, and how Stanton’s value is created by the thousands of people who will buy his jersey and other team apparel, the millions of tickets people will purchase to see him play, and the billions of dollars media companies will pay the MLB to televise their games. I’d also mention how the same fanaticism that makes fans fans can also make them feel some type of ownership over the players they’re watching and rooting for.
But I decided not to. Because too much context would have obscured and eventually drifted away from the only reason I decided to write about Derrick Rose and some of the reaction to his reaction to his series of very serious knee injuries: Only Derrick Rose is Derrick Rose. You, reading this, are not Derrick Rose.
“Duh,” I can already hear some people saying, “ Of course I’m not Derrick Rose. I’m ***insert random name that’s not “Derrick Rose”***” To your credit, you might very well be aware you’re not Derrick Rose. If you are, I’m not writing this about you. (But, you’re still free to read.) Instead, I’m addressing the people — the internet people, the barbershop people, the writer people, the “people in your family” people — who seem to believe they are Derrick Rose. I believe they believe they are Derrick Rose because of how convinced they are of exact what Derrick Rose — the real life Derrick Rose — is thinking and what he should do with his body.
To you people who believe they are Derrick Rose, despite how many tickets you buy, message boards you join, jerseys you rock, posters you hang, and cable packages you subscribe to, Derrick Rose’s body does not belong to you. It belongs to Derrick Rose. It belonged to Derrick Rose when he spent tens of thousands of hours on various basketball courts in Chicago, perfecting off-hand finishes and in-and-out crossovers — years before you’d start to believe Derrick Rose’s body belonged to you. And, while you might have thought it belonged to you when he became a high school star and then a college star and then an NBA MVP, it sure as hell didn’t belong to you when he tore his ACL, did the year’s worth of grueling rehab, came back, tore his meniscus, and did the year’s worth of grueling rehab necessary to recover fully from that.
And, since you are not really Derrick Rose, you don’t know what if feels like to have a body you’ve spent decades strengthening and testing and fine-tuning — a body your livelihood and the livelihoods of everyone close to you depends on to eat — break down on you. You don’t know how it feels to be erased of two years of your athletic prime while many of the peers you worked so hard to be superior to have caught (and even surpassed) you. You don’t know how it feels to deal with the juxtaposition of knowing you’re fully recovered physically but still not quite there mentally. You don’t know how it feels to consider the irony that the twists, turns, torques, and explosions synonymous with your name contributed to your injuries. And you definitely don’t know how it feels to do everything you can to return to being the Derrick Rose people like you want to be, only to read and listen to people like you doubt Derrick Rose still wants to be Derrick Rose.
And that’s the thing. Disparaging someone’s pain tolerance doesn’t make you any tougher than the person actually experiencing the pain. Questioning someone’s will doesn’t give you more willpower than the person whose will is being tested. Dismissing someone’s very human doubts and concerns doesn’t make you a better human than the person exhibiting their humanity. Insulting someone’s intelligence doesn’t make you smarter than the person speaking. And, pretending to be Derrick Rose does not make you a better Derrick Rose than Derrick Rose is. It just makes you a worse you.