Who can blame
him for cashing
in on his
notoriety? And
who can blame
his sponsors for
milking it?

By Reggie Amigo

Like Kim Jong-un in a basketball game, Dennis Rodman on North Korean soil is
a child in a candy store.

Both are wrapped up in their little world, basking in the attention of a rapt
audience, never mind that it's largely one of contempt rather than admiration.

But love them or loathe them, they're probably the most closely watched BFF
these days.

In their odd relationship, they outwardly profess brotherly love for each other and
pure affection for the game. Nothing else matters.

Inwardly, they have their own agenda.

Kim, the thirtyish inheritor of a secretive, oppressive dynasty his grandfather built,
is only beginning to grasp the nettle of absolute power after taking over from his
late father, Kim Jong-il.

Yet, in short order, the younger Kim has managed to rattle his neighbors with his
nuclear toys, thumb his nose on his one and only benefactor (China), dispatch
his once-powerful uncle to the executioner and dangle trophy captives on the

He's loving it. The most brazen display of dictatorial power is somehow whited
out by the media glare. Murder and mayhem are invisible under the bright lights
of basketball.

Rodman calls it basketball diplomacy, and for want of a better description, we
shall leave it at that.

But let's not forget a few significant details about him.

Rodman is a retired NBA star living off his past glory. Little in the present makes
him a compelling commodity and still less suggests a future comparable to
those of the basketball greats of his time.

After an accounting of his considerable NBA career, all that's left to remember
him by are creepy body piercings, dark gold glasses beneath a signature
baseball cap and a large ego.

Sure, hordes of fans, Filipinos included, will jump at this characterization of their
idol, but that's just the nature of partisanship. One's man hero is another man's

But Rodman has something else very few people have -- a golden key to the
Hermit Kingdom.

That key unlocks one of history's worst-kept secrets and puts a long-suffering
people within a heartbeat of the free world.

For Rodman, it's the key to the bank vault.

Who can blame him for cashing in on his notoriety? And who can blame his
sponsors for milking it?

Although few will admit it, the rest of the world can profit as well by letting this BFF
drama play out. Let Kim have the spotlight, Rodman his halo and the sponsors
their money.

The longer North Korea stays open to basketball diplomacy, the more we get to
see what goes on behind its doors. The politicians have a word for it --
engagement -- but it's a policy that has been thrown like a light switch -- on one
moment, off the next.

In the universal language of sports, that word is a call to action, something that
sounds a lot like "play ball".

Source: Phillipine Daily Inquirer
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