By Chris Pennant (@kwandarykitten)
There’s a lot of noise in this time of 24-hour news and even the most insignificant sports tidbit gets at least five minutes of airtime before fading into memory.
Most of these news bits really aren’t deserving of such over-analysis and can be easily distilled into two categories: trash or not trash. It’s difficult for a regular person to find the time to distill, but have no fear, I’ve taken it upon myself to do it for you. Here’s the latest edition of “Trash or Not Trash.”
I didn’t mean for this week’s “Trash or Not Trash” column to center on two (former) Chicago icons who have alternately been praised and pilloried across the media spectrum in recent years.
It is coincidental that Kanye West’s tweet about “being used” came in the hours before the surprising and emotional 50-point game from Derrick Rose Wednesday night, but a certain dichotomy exists between the two situations and that can’t be ignored, especially in Chicago.
So this week’s column is focusing on these two men, the events surrounding them and the differences that separate them.
TRASH — Kanye’s “return” tweet
Would you look at that?… This week, Mr. West — really, more likely, his public relations team — tweeted out that he was done “being used” by the powers that be to promote the right-wing Republican agenda. It wasn’t just Kanye wore that damn MAGA hat without a hint of irony. It was the unapologetic way he repeatedly affirmed his belief in what the hat represented.
Open letters are the most overused writing technique of the Digital Age, but as a lifelong Chicagoan, there’s no other way for me to express myself in this situation, so here’s my message to this brother.
Your half-assed renouncement of your recent statements about right-wing politics and the current administration doesn’t mean a damn thing to me or anyone else in Chicago. Four months ago, you were wearing a MAGA hat and questioning the central issue of slavery without any compunction. A few weeks ago, you were hanging out with your boo Trump at the White House and looking for all the world like one of his most fervent supporters.
Now, “your eyes are open,” because your shoes aren’t selling. It’s not our fault you didn’t connect those dots, it’s yours. It’s your fault you confused taking a political position with a publicity stunt. It’s your fault you didn’t understand that might lead to public outrage and commercial backlash against your album and your apparel sales. It’s your fault you now have to damage control by donating profusely to Amaya Enyia’s mayoral campaign.
Chicago doesn’t always appreciate its great artists, and they often leave at their first chance. You said as much on “Homecoming.” You were different. We appreciated you, no matter the situation. But playing Stepin Fetchit to the leader of the white nationalists is indefensible, no matter how much money you might throw at a good cause. Kick rocks, ‘Ye. LA’s your home now.
(Kinda) TRASH — Derrick Rose and the Jury of Public Opinion
The chance that Derrick Rose could score 50 points in a game at this stage of his career probably didn’t occur to his most dedicated fans, it certainly didn’t occur to me.
Chicago Bulls fans know the saga of Derrick Rose — from the MVP year to the knee injuries. The long recovery and mixed messages from Rose’s camp. The eventual departure, and most importantly, the rape allegations and subsequent civil trial. I want to be clear: Derrick Rose admitted, under oath, that he did not understand sexual consent. I couldn’t support him under those circumstances. That was my limit.
Everyone has their line in the sand, but the issue is recognizing when we move that line and for whom we move it. The trouble with “cancel culture,” aside from the knee-jerk mob mentality of social media, is that current societal norms determine what we’re cancelling without regard for reason. Person X did what??? They’re dead to us and that’s it.
So what’s the difference between Kanye West and Derrick Rose? Not much. Kanye vacillates between principles like he’s picking them from a drive-thru menu. Rose posed for pictures with the jury after his civil trial ended. We can’t ignore that, but it doesn’t mean we have to dismiss the game he had, and that’s where the court of public opinion is wrong.
Deadspin’s Laura Wagner (who was unable to pass up a typical Deadspin cheap shot by calling his output “the flukiest game of [Rose’s] career”) put it best:
…Sports and morality have nothing to do with one another, and if you accept that success doesn’t make someone a paragon—something an entire industry of sports mythologizing has argued against forever—you accept the corollary that you can appreciate or even celebrate a shitty person’s achievements without ignoring their shittiness. (In fact, if you can’t do that, sports might not be for you.)
I’m not naive enough to believe Derrick Rose has learned from his mistakes just because he’s playing basketball well again. I certainly hope he has, and I hope he’s mature enough to realize he needs to set an example for his family and his son.
But while I’m waiting to see proof of it, I’ll also be waiting for him to drop a 40-dub on another unsuspecting team. When it happens, I’m fairly certain it won’t be a fluke.
Chris Pennant covers professional basketball for WARR Media