10 May 2013

The Past, The Future, and Derrick Rose

By Shamus
Charlotte, NC

It’s an intriguing spot, NBA-wise, at the moment as all four of the second-round series involving the final eight teams have gotten to 1-1. Three of the four appear evenly-matched and perhaps destined to go six or seven games, while the Miami Heat’s “the-beast-has-been-woken” thrashing of the Chicago Bulls by 37 points in Game 2 on Wednesday perhaps suggests a shorter series will be playing out there.

That said, the Bulls are mighty tough at home, and so could well give the Heat some more trouble with their depleted line-up before all is said and done. And, of course, as long as that series continues, so, too, will the endless speculation-slash-psychobabble that has building of late regarding the possible return of 2010-11 NBA MVP Derrick Rose to the Bulls line-up.

Derrick Rose

I’ve no special insight regarding Rose’s situation to add to the cacophony, really. Following last year’s season-ending torn ACL in the first game of the playoffs, Rose was medically cleared to play back in January of this year, but has yet to do so. The most commonly repeated explanation regarding Rose’s situation is that he’s not “mentally ready” to come back, which automatically carries the discussion into an area most of us don’t have a lot of authority on which to speak.

While the story of a player coming back from injury is as ordinary as it gets in sports, one of a player not wanting to come back -- or perhaps fearing doing so -- is much less commonplace. Thus the extra scrutiny.

Just recently I happened to reread Roger Angell’s famous New Yorker piece from 1981 in which he attended a Yale-St. John’s baseball game with Smoky Joe Wood, titled “The Web of the Game.” It’s a neat piece of writing, lyrically summing up decades’ worth of baseball while profiling the star of the 1912 World Series, 91 years old at the time Angell met him.

Wood’s story involved his star shining as brightly as stars shone on a baseball field for a brief, dazzling period of time. In 1912 at age 22 the pitcher went 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA and won three games in the Series for the championship-winning Boston Red Sox. He’d suffer an injury the following year, however, and his star quickly dimmed and his career was cut short.

Smoky Joe Wood

“Well, maybe I got back to it too soon and maybe I didn’t,” Wood told Angell, referring to his attempt to comeback from the injury. “But the arm never felt right again. The shoulder went bad. I still went on pitching, but the fastball had lost that hop. I never threw a day after that when I wasn’t in pain.... You have to understand that in those days if you didn’t work you didn’t get paid. Now they lay out as long as they need to....”

Indeed, an even century after Wood’s injury, Rose is perhaps in a somewhat similar spot, although the context couldn’t be more different. In any case, it remains intriguing to observe what might happen next with Rose. And how perhaps he’ll be telling the story of his injury and comeback when later looking back on his career.

Shamus is the author of the Hard-Boiled Poker blog.

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