You know what I say? Oprah Doprah is what I say. TV fancy lady
Oprah Winfrey banned Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman from
plugging his new book--Walk on the Wild Side--on her show last
week, calling it "vulgar."
Well, Oprah, what you know about jock books wouldn't fill a
dentist's spit cup. Athletes have been writing books like this
for years. There is not a thimbleful's difference between
Rodman's latest work and most of the others that preceded it.
For instance, in The Art of Pitching (1984), Tom Seaver offered
a risque look at his private world. "In addition to my uniform
shirt, I always wear a T-shirt underneath," Seaver wrote
brazenly. "If it is warm, I wear a short-sleeved cotton shirt.
If it is cooler, I wear a woolen undershirt." Rodman is no
different. He, too, discusses his apparel choices. "I like
dressing up in women's clothes," he writes, "because it makes me
feel good and brings out my feminine side.... I like dyeing my
hair and posing naked and showing off my tattoos."
Mickey Mantle, in his controversial autobiography, The Mick
(1985), told about where and how he liked to spend his free
time, and yet he endured no public criticism for it. "Billy
[Martin] and I and our wives would sit around in our New York
apartment," Mantle wrote, "...in our bathing suits." Is that any
less disturbing than the way Rodman chooses to relax after a
hard night's work, at a lively Chicago nightspot, Crobar? "They
have a bondage rack," Rodman writes, "and men will stand there
writhing in pain while voluptuous women pour burning wax onto
their nipples...to the beat of earsplitting techno-house music
played by a lesbian deejay named Psychobitch." I ask you, Oprah,
why the selective persecution?
With this literary effort Rodman is attempting to do nothing
much more controversial than what John Wooden did in his
Practical Modern Basketball (1966): Offer a few rules of life.
"Keep courtesy and consideration of others foremost in your mind
at home and away," Wooden said. Similarly, Rodman offers one of
his rules to live by: "Don't f--- in a cemetery." Who won't
benefit from that nugget of wisdom?
Sports books often influence young people in ways that teachers
and clergy cannot. In Quarterbacking to Win (1964), Y.A. Tittle
advised kids: "If only I can instill the feeling in all you
youngsters, to strive to do better, in sports, in schoolwork,
and in your job when you are a grown man, then I will have
succeeded." Is that any different from the counsel Rodman gives
young people? "If you want to have public sex," Rodman advises,
"go have sex in your car.... Just...don't do it in the park
where everyone can see you." And people say we lack role models.
Athletes like to give tips, just as Stan Musial did in his Stan
Musial: The Man's Own Story (1964). He wrote: "I'd never advise
any boy to use the same bat I did, but I do recommend he pick up
a bat he can handle properly." Is that much different than this
instructive tidbit from Rodman: "I'd say I j--- o-- at least
twice a week"?
Certainly, nobody can blame Rodman for giving us a glimpse of
his hopes and dreams, as Hank Aaron did in his bombshell, Aaron
(1968): "There's no doubt about what I'd like to do in the
future," Aaron wrote in the book's surprising climax, "...I'd
like to stay in baseball...either as a hitting instructor or a
coach." Can we deny Rodman the same opportunity to write of his
own aspirations? "When I die," he says, "I want to be stripped
naked, frozen and placed in a see-through freezer." Maybe not
something you want to see in your grocer's dairy case, but
Besides, not all of Walk on the Wild Side is controversial.
Rodman takes a conciliatory tone toward NBA commissioner David
Stern. "I'd love to take [him] as my prisoner," he writes
graciously, "strip off all his clothes, rub lipstick and makeup
all over him, dress up like Frank [Sinatra] and sing to him."
Yet has Stern called to thank him?
Rodman seems to be taking the most flak for his revelation in
the book that he wants to legally change his name to Orgasm.
Again, this may seem shocking, but in time we won't give it a
second thought. Imagine this exchange after a big Bulls win.
Announcer: How's it feel, Orgasm?
Orgasm: Oh, it's the greatest feeling in the world!
Announcer: Great! Now over to Psychobitch!
In summation, I'd like to say that Rodman has written a book
that will have you turning pages faster than you ever have.
(Disinfectant not included.)
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of sports memoirs on shelf with whip and chain attached to Dennis Rodman's book]