“It gets on my nerves that I just can’t go out. It’s just boundaries now. People are like, ‘You can’t go here, you can’t go there, you got to let that person know where you’re going.’ It’s just weird. I’m never alone. Ever.”
–Derrick Rose to GQ
The image we have constructed for him is one of a modest, driven superstar who, if he doesn’t have it all, has about 99 percent of it.
There’s no room in that image for isolation or, perhaps, a touch of loneliness. But it might be time to rethink our view of the Bulls guard, judging by the current issue of GQ. Rose is on the cover wearing a $2,095 suit and a $295 T-shirt. If we’re to believe the accompanying article, he’s all dressed up with nowhere to go by himself.
‘‘I always have someone with me,” he told the magazine. ‘‘I can have a hat on, glasses on, whatever. People still notice me. If I go outside without a hat on, I feel like I’m naked. .â€‰.â€‰. This life doesn’t fit my personality.”
You can already hear the chorus singing: We’d gladly give up our personal freedoms for a $95 million contract with the Bulls and a $260 million contract with Adidas. Where do we sign up?
But by any measure, it’s a strange life. Wonderfully strange, but strange.
‘‘Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take anything for granted,” he said. ‘‘But it seems like the better I play, the more attention I get. And I can’t get away from it. You play great, you get attention. But I hate attention. It is weird. I’m in a bind. The more you win, the more they come.”
Reading some of his comments is painful. A 23-year-old should not be feeling that boxed in, not with so many good things happening in his life. He has been given talents that few people possess. If only that were enough for the masses. But of course it isn’t. There are obligations that go with those skills. Fans want more of him. Reporters want to talk with him everywhere he goes. If he’s not signing this, he’s signing that.
On the other hand, no one forced him to sign a shoe contract that would make him even more ubiquitous and in demand.
This isn’t a cautionary tale about the emptiness of wealth. If anything, it’s about the pitfalls of being overprotected.
As it became apparent that Rose was a special talent as a child, his family’s noble goal was to shield him from the dangers of Englewood, his South Side neighborhood; from people wanting to make money off him; from just about everything. He lived in a cocoon and in many ways still does.
If he has trust issues, it’d be hard to blame him. Along the way, everybody seemed to want something.
But at some point, Rose has to realize that he – not his friends, not his family, not his agent, not his corporate sponsors – is in charge of his life. If he wants to go out alone, he should do it. If he wants time alone in his home, he should be able to have it.
But only he can do something about that. He can tell the people around him to leave. It sounds simple, but maybe it isn’t when you feel you’re lacking a vote in your own day-to-day activities.
There’s nothing new about life being lonely at the top. In 1989, John Elway complained to Sports Illustrated that he was living in a fishbowl in Denver ‘‘and I’m running out of water.” There was so much scrutiny of his life that he couldn’t go out, he said. One newspaper sent trick-or-treaters to his home on Halloween to see what kind of candy he was handing out. Elway hated that, even though other Denver celebrities received the same treatment.
He eventually made peace with his fame and realized the world wasn’t necessarily a bad place.
Rose is unusually generous with his time with the media, and after reading his recent comments, I wonder if it’s because he enjoys the give-and-take of an interview session with reporters instead of the steady hum of complete support he gets from his inner circle.
If anything, the GQ article painted a picture of a man who needs to get out and experience life on his own terms. He sounds awfully lonely for a guy who is never alone.
Maybe he needs to run away from home.