In recent headlines, Derrick Rose, point guard for the Chicago Bulls, has been described as uncertain. Unreliable. Injury-prone. Snakebitten. Washed-up. Weak (literally and figuratively). Unlikely able to play at a high-level. A person not fully in charge of the English language.

Offensive, right?

It’s taxing to read and, frankly, I’m tired of coming across so much harsh criticism from a city historically passionate about its sports teams and athletes. By now, anyone who pays even a glimmer of attention to the National Basketball Association knows the soft-spoken point guard has had a few major injuries in recent years.

Humble Beginnings

Wilson was ranked one of the top high school basketball players in 1984. Unfortunately, his life was cut short over a spat with classmates in that same year. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Rose hails from Chicago’s Southside neighborhood of Englewood, and became the league’s rookie of the year after a nearly flawless 2008-2009 season. Then comes an Adidas endorsement that made at least $1 million per year. Of course, more endorsements would soon come, but after his third season, he made history by becoming the league’s youngest most valuable player — and for his home team. This meant a lot for Rose, having gone to Simeon High School, a public school in Chicago famous for producing stellar athletes.

The entire city was devastated by the murder of young Ben “Benji” Wilson in 1984, at the young age of 17; he was also a breakout star basketball player of Simeon, poised to excel at the collegiate and, most believed, professional levels. Chicago was confident and rooting for Rose to pick up that torch Wilson didn’t have the opportunity to carry for the city of blue collars and plain ol’ hard work.

But something terrible has happened — and I’m not referring to Rose’s back-to-back-to-back injuries. I’m talking about the morale of his supposed fans. It could be one part frustration and another part disappointment, but there’s so much angst and negativity surrounding someone who, on the outside, looks relatively bulletproof to the criticism.

“You see, you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals, on the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love its will to reach the sun. Well…we are the roses. This is the concrete. These are my damaged petals. Don’t ask me why…thank God…ask me how.”

-Tupac Shakur, Mama’s Just A Little Girl

Where Is The Support?

I came across a Chicago Sun-Times piece on Rose recently that harped that his monotone inflections make fans question his thought process. Since when does someone speaking in monotone equate not being able to think critically? Could it be Rose was thinking about his next statement in order to avoid what seems to be unavoidable criticism? Not to inject race prematurely, but it just seems quite convenient for white reporters to basically call a young, Black athlete dumb as often as they can get away with it. And more to the point, he’s paid millions of dollars to hone his craft of basketball — not report the news. Besides, how much can one say about such a sensitive topic? We know the specs anyway: in 2011, the year I met the great Windy City, he faced and overcame a series of minor injuries before tearing the ACL in his right knee. After taking a full season to recover (whether critics think he needed all that time or not), he came back mentally ready to lead and play the game in 2013, only to injure his right meniscus that same year.

It’s actually quite amazing to see someone get knocked down so many times, but rise like the phoenix to do what he does best, which is to play the game with little-to-no theatrics. C’mon, dude makes half-court shots with no celebration afterward. For him, it’s effortless. It’s just what he does.

Another blogger for Chicago Now lamented a point that’s self-evident: when players disappoint fans, they are ripped from every possible angle. Rose is no different, but one thing’s for sure: he always does exactly what he says he’s going to do.

Perhaps the vague responses to reporters’ mundane questions like, “will the team be able to continue without you?” “Are you coming back this season?” “Are you OK with the organization putting a timetable on your recovery?” are to protect himself from getting in a situation he can’t get himself out of. The world is watching, critiquing and anxious to pounce on anything (they think is) wrong that he does.

Pressed Down and Shaken Together

Watching the most recent media talk on March 9, before the Bulls put up a fight against the Memphis Grizzlies, I didn’t see someone uninterested in his future as an athlete, as some reports state. I saw someone annoyed with having to answer stupid questions that would require him to be a fortune teller to answer. From what I can see, he’s better versed at showing what he can do versus telling it. That could be due, in part, to being from Chicago.

The Windy City is very much a place of folks that don’t complain, they just do. Who’s got time to talk when there’s business to tend to? Mouths to feed? Critics to dismantle? Not that I know him personally, but it could be he’d rather just show everyone how’s he going to lead, or, if his body (and God) say otherwise, how he’ll take a seat and contribute in a different capacity.

Either way, one would expect a different level of support from Chicago sports fans — or so I thought. Rose is just a kid from Englewood with impeccable talent and a resilient spirit who doesn’t seem to be moved by the comments of naysayers. At the end of the day, supporters should have the faith and believe he’s going to deliver and try his best every single time he steps onto the court. Less time should be spent making snide remarks about his speech and lack of discussion of his personal life. Hello, it’s personal, not to be galvanized for public curiosity and speculation.

So why does Rose continue to be the hotbed of negative chatter at sports bars week after week? Is he cursed? Are the shoes poorly manufactured? Hmm, hold on to that idea, you might see it again.

I can’t call it at this point; like most everything in life, we’ve just got to see what God’s cookin’ up. He’s full of surprises – God and Rose.

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