Icarus Returns

Posted: April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized
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 By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty.  

 If you’re any kind of sports fan, and especially if you’re a Chicago sports fan, and most especially if you’re a Bulls fan, you’ve probably spent a minimum of 30 minutes reading a few sports columns, and/or listening to the tube, and wondering what could be going on with Mr. Derrick Rose–meaning, why isn’t he playing basketball?  After all, that’s his job;  that’s what he’s paid to do; that’s what he’s good at–more than good, that’s what he does better than anyone else in the greater Chicago area, does better than almost any other human being living anywhere on this great green globe.  Indeed if, as Aristotle maintained, human beings should do what they do best, surely D. Rose should be playing basketball.  What explains why he isn’t?

250px-Derrick_Rose_2 Of course one answer might be that he’s still recovering from last year’s knee injury.  This makes some sense save for the following:  he’s been working out religiously for several months; his doctors have officially stated he’s ready to play; and finally, he regularly reminds reporters of the enormous progress he’s made since his surgery subtly suggesting he might return any day.  But, almost in the same breath, he suddenly backtracks and insists he’s not quite ready to rejoin his team mates.

Rose’s fans have clearly become frustrated with him, twittering how they feel he’s gone soft, become rich and lost his love of the game.   Rose denies the charges, yet reiterates how he won’t be swayed by fans pressing  him to return before he feels ready.  Oddly enough, Iman Shumpert, who plays for the Knicks, suffered the same injury on the same day Rose did; however, unlike Rose, Shumpert returned to the Knicks several weeks ago, and says his play hasn’t been hampered in any way by the injury.

 Frankly, for the last month or so, I confess media’s coverage of Rose baffled me.  Were they hyping the return issue simply to sell a few extra papers?  Obviously, Rose would be back in time for the playoffs.  Clearly I was wrong.  My view now is that Rose will no more lead the Bulls’ playoff efforts than I’ll go bungee jumping off the Cubs new electronic scoreboard on Christmas eve.

 When I realized my mistake, I went back to the drawing board, looking for a new explanation of Rose’s behavior.   Happily, after much brain storming, and lots of discussions with my sports savvy brain trust, the real reason Rose hadn’t been playing hit me as I was emptying the dishwasher.  The answer was simple, straightforward, convincing, and had the added advantage it could be stated in a single fairly well known word which enjoyed a storied history, harkening  all the way back to the pristine beginnings of Western Civilization itself.

That one word, dear reader, is hybris (hubris)!  As most of you know, hybris is usually defined as overweening or excessive pride.  Hybris explains how heroes commit horrible blunders because they dangerously overestimate their powers while understating reality’s recalcitrance.  Hybris is behind Achilles’ sulking, and Oedipus’ decision to kill his father and marry his mother.  It’s also why Icarus forgets his father’s warning, and flies too close to the sun, perishing after the sun melts his wings which were made of wax.

 How does all this hybris stuff relate to D. Rose?  Simple:  like Icarus, and Achilles, Rose is suffering from a bad case of hybrisicarus This may sound farfetched since we’re so used to thinking of Mr. Rose as a down to earth, modest, quiet, considerate, well mannered, laid back guy–an everyman, like you and me.  When it rains, he stands under the open ended plexi glass bus shelter waiting for the Jeffrey Express, just like we do.  A blue collar guy for a blue collar town.

 A week ago, I believed this; I don’t any more.  Now I think it’s pure mumbo jumbo–nay, double mumbo jumbo!  How in the world could I have been gulled by such nonsense?  Well,  Mr. Rose seemed nice enough on the tube;  a host of Bulls players and coaches and coaches from other teams confirmed this account; and local and national media reports out did themselves endlessly repeating the Derrick Rose modesty story.  Clearly, this guy isn’t like Kobe or Michael.

 But I no longer believe the hype.  And the reason is that, in the cold light of day, it makes no sense.  Rose is a super star and plays like one, by which I mean, he often plays as if he thinks he can almost beat the opposing team single handed.  He’s so fast, and so strong, and soars so high, he can easily blow by two or three guys and still score.  But trying this over and over again in the playoffs–well, that’s hybris.  Ironically, in last year’s fatal playoff game, he did make it to the basket unscathed, but afterward, when he landed, he twisted his ankle and blew out his knee and hasn’t played since.

Here’s a second example of hybris: after his surgery, Rose wanted to devise a rehab plan where he could have it both ways meaning, he wouldn’t disappoint his fans, yet he wouldn’t commit to playing if he didn’t feel entirely comfortable with his recovery.

But he never went public with this admission which is what he should have done.  Instead, he thought if he showed everyone how hard he was working, his fans wouldn’t be upset if he skipped the season.  But he was wrong; again, hybris had led him astray.  His fans were furious.

Hybris led him astray one more time.  Where before his injury he played as if he was invincible, afterward he became a head case exaggerating his fragility.  His judgment had gotten out of whack, which is precisely what hybris will do to a star who flies too close to the sun.


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