Dennis Rodman is flying to Russia to save Brittney Griner.
Olympic athlete and WBNA basketball star Brittney Griner has experienced a living nightmare since she was arrested by Russian authorities at the Moscow airport in March. Charged with drug possession, Griner was recently tried, found guilty and sentenced to 9 years in prison.
While the Biden Administration has been working tirelessly to negotiate the release of Ms. Griner, who U.S. authorities insist is a political prisoner, as well as American Paul Whelan, the situation is fraught, complicated as it is by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Griner’s outlook may be improving, however, with the announcement over the weekend that NBA basketball legend Dennis Rodman intends to travel to Russia in an attempt to help her.
“I got permission to go to Russia and help that girl,” Rodman told NBC. “I’m trying to go this week.”
If Rodman succeeds in convincing Putin to release Griner, it won’t be Rodman’s first diplomatic success along those lines. Rodman has famously visited North Korea several times and considers Kim Jong Un a good friend.
In 2014, Rodman persuaded his friend Kim Jong to release a Christian missionary being held on conspiracy charges.
No one should be at all surprised that the once self-professed “Bad Boy of the NBA”, and author of a biography called “Bad As I Wanna Be,” is willing to go where angels would fear to tread.
Dennis Rodman hasn’t suffered the eventual fate of all archetypal Bad Boys, should they live long enough. Getting older, somehow, hasn’t softened his shock factor.
It isn’t that the bad boys change, exactly; in most cases, they remain as unrepentant, rebellious and contrarian as ever they were, sometimes more.
They still wear their hair however they want, conventions be damned; they still dress to shock. On the court, and off, center stage and backstage, they still say things most of us would never dream of saying, do things we would never even think to do. They often do so while holding court with a slew of other characters as predisposed to high drama as the penultimate bad boys are themselves.
Sometimes bad boys go in an odd direction; become scions of a certain obscure Hollywood religion, for instance. Too many of them eventually go to work for a family friendly outlet like Disney, trading in their leather pants and raunchy jokes for the lucrative charms of zany dad and funny grandpa roles.
James Dean died as he lived, fast and on a motorcycle. Jim Morrison joined the 27 club, along with such unforgettable archetypical Bad Boys as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.
Of the world’s still-living bad boy club, Dennis Rodman is perhaps one of the most distinguished members. He is still the same unforgettable heel, with the same devil-may-care attitude, but the things that make Rodman stand out today have changed since his heyday in the NBA.
Rodman was once unmistakable due to his brightly-dyed, wild hair-dos; but that once counter-culture style is all the rage these days. Everyone from 4-year olds to octogenarians are sporting not-found-in-nature shades.
Rodman’s plethora of tattoos, once so shocking, have suffered the same regrettable fate: Everyone has a sleeve of tattoos these days.
Dennis Rodman could once shock the world with his envelope-pushing fashion choices.
These days, anyone wanting to shock with fashion had better be prepared to push that envelope to new frontiers as yet unfathomed. Opulence costing the GDP of several small countries? Been done. Grunge? Heroine chic? Showing some skin? Done, done and done ad infinitum.
What is a Bad Boy like Dennis Rodman to do in order to keep credibility intact?
Once, he dominated the NBA as the ultimate, in-your-face, unrepentant, “I am not your hero,” Bad Boy. It didn’t hurt much that Rodman could also boast being the reigning rebound king of the league.
“Don’t miss your shot,” the coach of any Rodman-opposing team must have said at least once in the locker room pre-game; “Rodman’s open.”
That eagerness to exploit a mistake, a missed shot, a bad footfall- even by a teammate; it is this willingness to be where the other guy isn’t, this fundamentally basic contrarian nature which makes Dennis Rodman the ultimate, archetypal Bad Boy.
It isn’t about rebelliousness, or rather, it isn’t just about that. Dennis Rodman is a man of the people. He’s a Eugene Debs; the quintessential underdog who, by virtue of his unflinching and honest nature, must always take the part of other underdogs.
“I learned long ago that while there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free,” wrote bad boy Eugene Debs in his own defense while on trial for union organizing activities.
To be hated, vilified by society’s mandarins and doyennes for having the temerity to buck proscribed and circumscribed roles; that is something Rodman, like Debs before him, understands completely.
“The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior,” wrote another rebellious soul, Henry David Thoreau.
This attitude of badness confers an advantage over the traditional, diplomatic tactics when negotiating the release of a political prisoner.
Most people have to play by the rules; Dennis Rodman makes his own rules.
Bad boys like Rodman love rules; they actually thrive on rules. Rodman comes alive when he hears a rule. Give him an arbitrary edict, tell him he can’t do something, or that nothing can be done, or that someone is off-limits, and watch a master-craftsman work.
It isn’t that the most rebellious among us don’t think the rules apply to them; they know the rules are supposed to apply to everyone. Finding ways around those those rules, through them, past them, is what makes an antihero like Dennis Rodman tick.
To defy convention, to shock expectations, there is nothing they won’t dare.
Good luck and godspeed, Dennis Rodman.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)