A media friend of ours emailed us yesterday and said, "Dennis Rodman's publicist just called me and promised he's going to pull a 'major' stunt at his book signing tomorrow." We couldn't imagine what Rodman could possibly do that could be classified as "major," save for, you know, sitting down and being quiet for a little while. But we realized we'd been sitting indoors for far too long; screw it, we'd go. Why not?
Well, as it turns out, a "major" event for Rodman is somehow talking idiots like us to actually show up. The book, I Should Be Dead By Now, is published by Champaign, Ill.'s own Sports Publishing LLC, and that's our neck of the woods, so we felt like we owed it to them to go. Besides, you know, what's more fun than sitting out in the cold for an hour waiting for a 40-something has-been to show up? Nothing, that's what.
Our full report begins after the jump.
When we arrived in lower Manhattan at the Borders bookstore on the corner of Pine and Broadway, we noticed an immense police presence immediately. By our count, there were 20 policemen, 30 photographers and about 20 people waiting for Rodman. A amicable Brooklyn cop named Frank asked us if we were "press," and, for lack of a better answer, we said, "yes." "Youse need a better camera there," he said, and we had to agree.
We tried to make friends with the mass of photographers waiting for Rodman to show up — he was 45 minutes late — but once we said the word "Web site," they acted like we'd just run over their dog. As you can tell from this photo, they're a grizzled, grumpy group. They all seemed pretty demoralized to have this assignment; we overheard one tell another, "Is this really what I went to school for?" The other responded, "See, that was your first mistake, going to school."
A man in a suit saw us taking pictures and leaned over to ask what all the commotion was about.
"Is somebody coming by?" he said.
"I think Dennis Rodman is doing a signing here," we said.
"Is he still famous?"
"No. No, he's not."
At last, word filtered to us that Rodman and his entourage was finally approaching, and we looked up Broadway to see — of course — a hearse creeping toward, escorted by about 12 attractive women wearing far too little clothing for the conditions.
This one, in particular, was so cold you could hear her teeth chatter. We leaned over to her and asked if she wanted our jacket. She grinned slightly and shook her head. "I'd totally get in trouble," she said. "But boy, do I wish?" We started to ask her how much she was getting paid for this, but we were starting to push our luck at that point, and besides, it was time for the "show" to begin.
Three serious looking men in suits opened the back of the hearse and wheeled out the inevitable coffin. The women then took their positions and gathered around the coffin, surrounded by a bunch of guys who looked like Your Cousin Vinny. (One guy was actually wearing a jumpsuit; we probably don't need to tell you this whole event was sponsored by GoldenPalace.com.) The woman with the best public speaking skills stepped in front of the cameras and began to give a speech about "everyone coming here to lay NBA legend Dennis Rodman to rest."
Everyone yawned. She continued: "So who better to give the eulogy than the man who knew Rodman better than anyone else." Another yawn. One photographer snickered to another one, "I bet it's fuckin' warmer in that coffin than it is out here. I'd stay in there too."
Surprise! Yep ... it's Beetlejuice.
The real reason for all this silliness had arrived, and Rodman's "eulogy" consisted of posing for an endless amount of pictures. Rodman is so desperate to have his picture taken that he actually looked directly at us and mouthed "you got a good shot?" even though all we had was a little digital camera that we still haven't quite figured out how to work correctly.
Rodman stood there for about 20 frigid minutes, posing, and we decided that since we spent 25 bucks on the damn book, we might as well go inside and get it signed.
As you can tell from this photo, the "signing" had far more photographers than it did screaming fans. In fact, for a minute there, we thought there wouldn't be any fans.
And then we saw her. She was a mother, with a fat husband, two loud and bratty kids and a hat that said "Extreme Championship Wrestling." But we saw her jersey: "Bulls 91." And we remembered.
You see, Dennis Rodman used to be our favorite player in all of basketball. We even had a jersey of our own. You can have your Michael or your Kobe or your LeBron. Nobody provided us more joy in watching the game of basketball than Dennis Rodman. He was impossible not to watch; we would find ourselves beginning to root for missed shots so he could get the rebound.
Maybe it was the way he sprinted down the court like his knees had pogos in them. Maybe it was the endless diving into the crowd for loose balls. Maybe it was just the relentless, almost pathological hustle; Rodman played like his life relied upon every individual rebound, every second, every shot, every win, every loss. He was magnetic. When you strip away everything else, Rodman was a winner, someone who made everyone else on the court better. And he did it with so much passion that it wouldn't have surprised anyone if, one day, after a championship, he set himself on fire, right there at center court. And we would have loved him for it.
But that's not this Dennis Rodman. He's just another sad former athlete with nowhere to go, and nothing to do. Desperate grasps at fame have become his golf. He's not even a cartoon anymore; he's a Xerox of a carbon copy of a faded photograph of Dennis Rodman. It made us very sad, to see him like this. And we wondered if anyone would even remember how truly unique a player he once was.
We walked up to his book stand. He made no eye contact and whispered in the ear of his publicist as he scribbled in magic marker. We leaned toward him.
"Can we get a picture?"
Without looking up, he nodded. "Sure, dude."
And we had it. Another picture of another failed celebrity, just one more chaotic day in a life of nothing but. As we walked away, we heard a father talking to his son.
"So who's this, Daddy?"
"He used to be a basketball player. You can have the book, but you can't read it until you're older."
"Does he play anymore?
Nope. He doesn't. I Should Be Dead By Now? You're already there, Dennis.
(We feel obliged to point out that Darren Prince, Rodman's hooked-on-phonics agent, has taken issue with this story. He's so cute when he's angry.)