The ludicrous, but true, premise of Argo has nothing on this: Dennis Rodman is now in North Korea. Is he really there for basketball diplomacy, setting up a kids clinic with members of the Harlem Globetrotters? Is it really for a production that will appear on HBO in the spring?
Or is that just a cover while Rodman puts his real skills toward stopping North Korea’s nuclear program and missile tests?
Hey, stranger things have happ . . . well, no, they haven’t.
But Rodman really is there now, reportedly having arrived in Pyongyang, with three Globetrotters, making his presence felt in a country with a seriously tense relationship with the U.S. He also is meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who’s a Michael Jordan fan.
"I’m not a politician," Rodman wrote on Twitter. "Kim Jung [sic] Un & North Korean people are basketball fans. I love everyone. Period. End of story."
In Argo, a fake movie-making operation was set up to help people who had escaped from the U.S. Embassy takeover in Iran to get out of the country. In this case, Rodman and the Globetrotters were sent by Vice media, a New York TV production company, for the HBO thing.
"Is sending the Harlem Globetrotters and Dennis Rodman to (North Korea) strange?" Vice founder Shane Smith asked the Associated Press. "In a word, `Yes.’ But finding common ground on the basketball court is a beautiful thing."
Rodman never found common ground, even in the NBA, even while he was winning titles and playing with Jordan. And I would like to sit here with a bunch of punch lines over the idea that Rodman will be teaching his style to those unsuspecting North Korean kids, but there’s one problem with that:
When I was showing the game to my kid, now a middle schooler, I pulled out video of Rodman and taught him to play like the Worm. His totals the last three games: 16 minutes a game, two points, 22 boards, two cuts around the eye, one kick from an opponent to the calf, one elbow back to that kid’s chest while officials weren’t looking, one elbow from an opponent to his shoulder, one knee back to his . . . well.
And one coach saying, "I love watching him play. He’s a beast under that basket."
I’m not proud of this.
That’s a lie. Yes, I am.
For all of Rodman’s antics and general goofiness, he is still one of the best defenders/rebounders in NBA history. Without a jump shot, he made $10 million a year, got into the Hall of Fame and married Carmen Electra.
Teaching your kid to be like Rodman is not teaching him to wear a wedding dress or cover himself in piercings and tattoos. It’s not teaching him to throw cheap shots. It’s teaching him that every coach wants a tall, athletic kid who fights for every rebound and every defensive stop.
It’s about taking pride in doing all the dirty work and, yes, getting a little dirty at times doing it.
Anyway, there is no chance that any of those North Koreans kids will see Rodman that way. He won’t be like that around them, and will only be for show.
The AP said it showed a picture of Rodman, piercings dangling from his lip and tattoos on his chest, to a North Korean, who said, "He looks like a monster!"
It’s actually too bad that the Globetrotters are going to be overlooked on this. They have brought basketball diplomacy around the world for decades, and don’t get credit for laying groundwork for the first Dream Team or Jordan. The Globetrotters say they’ve visited 122 countries in 87 years.
Well, that story has been around for years. Dennis Rodman on a diplomatic mission in North Korea? At the very least, I expect to see some North Korean teens copy his personal style just to drive their parents nuts.
Meanwhile, reports are that the White House made two secret visits to North Korea last year for diplomatic trips that failed.