From August 11, 2008: Signing your life away

On the John

Signing your life away

Originally completed on August 11, 2008

After four years in Chicago, Chris Duhon was off to New York.
After four years in Chicago, Chris Duhon was off to New York.

I am going to miss Chris Duhon.

Not that I’ve ever met the man, but that’s how it feels with the home team. It is indeed root-root!-ROOT!, and then Duhon signs with the Knicks, and they trade Chris Harris to Carolina and ship Rowand to the Phillies, and, well, you miss ‘em.

Part of this is strategic; you think the Bulls would be best served with Duhon running the second unit, and you prefer Harris’ smarts and hits to Danieal Manning’s speed, and you feel it’s bad karma to trade away your World Series-winning center fielder less than a month after winning the World Series.

But part, a large part, is about emotions. Duhon came to the Bulls as a second round pick. An afterthought. Hinrich the starting point guard, the rookie Gordon sure to be the starting 2. Meanwhile ol’ Duhon was asked by management to play in Europe, because with Hinrich, Gordon, Pargo, Piatkowski, Adrian Griffin, and, yes, Mike Wilks coming to camp, they could not guarantee Duhon a roster spot. Du said he would win a spot; by the tenth game of the season, he was the team’s starting point guard.

I loved what Duhon did for the Bulls. Loved his game, his passion, loved that we won nearly 59% of our contests when he started compared to only 48% when he did not. You can never actually know an athlete simply from watching him play. Rasheed Wallace is probably nicer than he seems on the court, and perhaps Grant Hill is more prickly than he lets on. I can’t miss Duhon the person; I never knew him. If I did, maybe I’d be glad he was leaving town. Maybe Du felt underappreciated and underused in the red and black. Maybe he celebrated, knowing he would be given the starting job he’d earned time and again in Chicago. If he is happier in New York, then I am happy for him, Chris Duhon, fellow human being.

For now though, all I can speak to is the basketball player, the guy who busted his ass for my team, who handled his continued demotion like a professional (until perhaps the very end).

Jerry Seinfeld once said that we’re only cheering for laundry. He may have a point. But the longer somebody occupies your preferred laundry, the more you feel connected to him, indebted to him, stuck with him, proud of him, happy for him, sick of him. You can appreciate guys on other teams, but at an emotional distance. They aren’t yours to have and to hold. The guys wearing your laundry though, they are yours, and pathetic as it may seem they hold your happiness in their hands, in their jump shots and touchdowns. You root for them when nobody else will, hold out hope when they give you none, feel grateful when they make you feel a part of something you had nothing to do with. It’s not so much rooting for laundry; it’s rooting for people who make your laundry successful.

But sometimes you can’t even do that. When the Bulls took on John Starks in the Kukoc trade, it was too much to ask. I’d already accepted and embraced Rodman, Bryan Cox, Albert Belle, but Starks? Starks! The pimple on the face of the game? The clotheslining, Knickerbocking nuisance? Watching Starks play four games on my team, watching him put that jersey on, watching him score for the Bulls, my Bulls, and worst of all: being expected to like it. To back him because of the shirt on his back. I couldn’t root against the Bulls, couldn’t root for him. Just went numb, a sports fan blackout.

You root for the guys you like, you root for the guys on your team, and when they overlap as they did with Duhon and Chris Harris, all the better. It’s why you’re sad when they leave, but it’s also why I am enjoying Jim Edmonds, a guy I loved watching in Anaheim and St. Louis, a guy I admired even while his Cardinals were beating my Cubs. When he was in St. Lou, I had to appreciate his game from afar. Now I’ve got rights.

Sadly, though, I’ll never have rights to Brett Favre, who would have looked absolutely fantastic in the navy and orange. To finally have rooting privileges to Favre after so many years of muted respect, biting my tongue at another Packers win…would’ve been sweet. Of course, we dodged the cream pie when he went to the Jets rather than Minnesota; can you imagine having to play both Favre and Green Bay twice a year?

So Favre has a new shade of green, and the Packers fans are spared the horror of seeing their man Brett come to town as either a Bear or a Viking. I suppose I can be happy for them: it would have been awful to see Sweetness or Singletary or any other Hall of Famer wearing that hideous green and gold. And now Chris Duhon is a New York Knick. So it goes. So it goes.

Copyright 2008, jm silverstein

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