Rose’s message misses the point

Let’s discuss the Jalen Rose-Grant Hill debate at its essence: Who is responsible for raising and developing our fatherless children?

That’s what this whole “Uncle Tom” thing is about.

In the infamous documentary “The Fab Five” and in multiple follow-up interviews about the ESPN show he produced, Rose complained: “Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me.”

A product of Detroit’s rough inner city, Rose grew up poor and with no connection to his father, Jimmy Walker, a college basketball star and nine-year NBA vet.

Ironically, and thanks partially to the legacy of the Fab Five, Michigan now shies away from recruiting kids like Jalen Rose.

The Michigan team that lost by two points to Duke on Sunday features numerous white players, the black sons of three former NBA players (Tim Hardaway, Joe Dumars, Tito Horford) and the son of a powerful NBA/NFL agent (Mark Bartelstein).

When Rose conceived his attack on Duke and its black players, he anticipated the conversation focusing on white racism and elite white institutions’ responsibility to recruit kids from his background. Rose’s ignorant definition of an Uncle Tom and the slandering of Grant Hill were supposed to serve as harmless, attention-grabbing potshots to draw attention to his real point:

“The Fab Five were great for college basketball, and Duke, Michigan and every other school should aspire to land players just like me.”

Before I go further, let me end two charades: 1. There was nothing admirable about the “candor” in the Fab Five documentary; 2. It was not clear that Rose was speaking as an 18-year-old when he disparaged Hill and other black Duke players.

Everyone at ESPN is patting Rose and Jimmy King on the back for their raw honesty and candor. I’ve seen Dana Jacobson, Skip Bayless and Jemele Hill do it.

Let me get this right. When black men call each other “Uncle Toms” and “bitches” for no good reason and the financial benefit of ESPN, it’s admirable candor? When Don Imus calls black women “nappy-headed hos” for no good reason and the financial benefit of a radio station, it’s a crime against humanity and a fireable offense?


And if it’s clear Rose and Jimmy King were speaking in past tense, there would’ve been no need for Rose to send Hill and Jay Williams tweets before the documentary aired explaining that’s how the Fab Five felt 20 years ago.

If it’s clear Rose and King don’t view Hill as an Uncle Tom, a bitch and a sellout now, then it would be very easy for Rose and King to offer a concise apology for the confusion and move on. But, asked repeatedly during the past week to back away from the statements, Rose sidestepped each time.

“Well, the bottom line is this: They do recruit a certain kind of player,” Rose told Skip Bayless. “They recruit a lot of players from private schools.”

Yep. Duke, for the most part, recruits two-parent kids. But, more than that, Coach K recruits kids who are willing to be led. Every good coach wants to be a leader. He wants to use his intellect, maturity and life experience to mold boys into young men and winners.

Coach K is no different than John Thompson.

Patrick Ewing and those Georgetown players of the early 1980s submitted to coach Thompson’s will and vision. They built a legacy that stands 30 years later. Unlike Michigan and the Fab Five, Georgetown basketball looks the same today as it did during Hoya Paranoia. Think about it.

I covered the Fab Five. Jalen Rose had no interest in being led by anybody. He thought he was smarter than everybody else. His personality and his sense of leadership dominated the Michigan basketball program.

Bitterness is a poison too many fatherless black boys view as an antibiotic.

In the documentary Rose cops to being bitter about his upbringing. In subsequent interviews Rose has stated he believes his bitterness drove him to success on and off the court.

He’s wrong, and his message is dangerous. Bitterness, envy and hatred destroy the person harboring those feelings. Bitterness inspired by fatherlessness is one of the primary reasons there are more young black men incarcerated than in college.

Jalen Rose doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He’s the exception, the aberration. He’s 6-feet-8, the offspring of an elite athlete. People like Perry Watson recognized Rose’s potential, wrapped him in a cocoon of support and love and fought to make sure Rose’s bitterness didn’t engulf him.

Most fatherless kids don’t grow to be 6-8. They’re 5-8, have little athletic skill and are justifiably mad at the world. They don’t have groups of men bending over backward helping them to see all the opportunities the world offers them if they can put away some of the bitterness and focus on doing what’s necessary to get an education.

Despite his Sarah Palin-like, blame-the-media, FOX News public-relations strategy, I like Jalen Rose. His heart is in the right place. We need to get his head in the right place.

His intentions at Michigan were good. So what? Because of his refusal to submit to mature leadership, Rose took the Wolverines to hell. The Fab Five Wolverines could’ve stood for something important, substantive, something far more than baggy shorts, black socks and trash talk.

Rose shaped the team in his bitter, defiant image, and he’s so conceited he can’t understand why Duke isn’t desperately looking for the next Jalen Rose.

Bitterness is a cancer that spreads.

To this day, Jimmy King, who graduated from a rich, predominantly white suburban high school in Plano, Texas, is pretending he’s an original member of the Geto Boys, a 5th Ward gangster. The documentary captures Chris Webber, a soft-spoken, intellectual from a great family, dropping MF-bombs as he walks to the locker room after losing to Duke.

Take away Rose, and the Fab Five adopt Juwan Howard’s personality. Howard is from a tough Chicago background, but he never harbored the kind of resentment that infected Rose. Howard, the original Fab Five commitment, recruited King, Webber and Ray Jackson.

It was Howard’s team until Jalen took over.

I don’t mean to demonize Jalen.

He grasps where America is headed. Mainstream opportunities for impoverished, single-parent kids are disappearing, even for black kids blessed with athletic talents.

I’ve been writing and talking about this for five or six years. The sports world is pushing back hard against hip-hop, baby-mama athletes. You can call it racism. I call it a rejection of values that don’t contribute to consistent winning, brand enhancement and the maximizing of profits. It’s a business decision.

Professional sports owners don’t want to pay a young man $30 million and also be responsible for teaching him how to be a man.

Coach K wants talented basketball players — regardless of color — willing to be led.

Seventy-two percent of our children (black kids) are being born to unwed mothers. It’s our responsibility to raise and develop them in a manner that prepares them to compete in this society.

We have to defuse their hostility and redirect their focus toward the opportunities. The overwhelming majority won’t be born with the necessary gifts to be a pro athlete or any kind of entertainer. An embrace of education is the only path that makes sense.

As for athletics, it’s our responsibility to raise kids willing to be led by men we trust and respect. We can’t be upset that some coaches — white and black — don’t want the hassle of doing a job God intended parents to do.