"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 14 June 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

As Baud As They Want Him To Be



Like most media hounds, their

men, and their second cousins,

we've chosen to jump on the

bandwagon and make some noise

about Dennis "The Worm" Rodman,

a man who has dealt himself into

the Cultural Tarot (as The

Joker, natch) with wily aplomb.

In his ascent to media

superstar, he has invited

journalistic excesses that marry

the worst of sports-page

hyperbole and pomo semiotics.

And where else would this

unfortunate prose manifest

itself as fully but in The New

Yorker, where writer David

Remnick compares him to both

Michael Jackson and Jean-Jacques

Rousseau, calling him a

"gender-bender filled with

racial anxiety," a "frontiersman

of the soul."



Remnick's attempt to place

Rodman's bestselling

"autopathology" within the

lineage of the sports-hero

hagiography falls back on a

truism so worn - "television did

it" - that the assumptions made

are doubly suspect - its seems

are showing.



Still, Remnick's techno-tautology

led us, as we are prone to be

led, to our own idle speculation -

might one go so far as to say

that The Worm is the world's

first truly "wired" athlete? A

Hercules for the new hegemony,

an anxious posterboy for the

videogame twitcherati?

Unfortunately, David Halberstam,

the bard of Sports Illustrated,

has already bestowed that title

on Rodman's teammate, Michael

Jordan, The Best There Ever Was.



No offense to The Best, but, had

we been the ones handing out

trophies, we might not have been

so quick to surrender The Worm's

media meme to some aging power

that was.


We would have argued, for

example, that whereas The Best

pumps fresh air into the Nike

oversole, The Worm is a blast of

nitrous. We might have pointed

out that, while The Best is a

Teflon ideal of athleticism, one

who meets the press in a "crisp

white shirt and navy slacks,"

The Worm "knows rebounding like

Elmer's knows glue," who "would

play naked if he could." We

might have then found it

significant that whereas The

Best is "swift, deft, graceful,

and never rude," The Worm is "a

perpetual work in progress...

compelling, outrageous, amoral."



We could have further added that

The Worm represents pollution,

the blurring of boundaries. We

might have then said that The

Worm is a medium on which many

texts are written. Indeed, we

could have written reams on this

paradigm shift in gym shorts, on

Phil Jackson's Lakota clown.



We might have even pointed out

The Worm's symbolic place in the

New Economy, specializing as he

does in repurposing content. And

upon being told that The Young

Worm was "so starved for

attention he stuck quarters in

his ears," how could we not be

reminded of the

capital-hemorrhaging histories

of more than a few online



The Worm, we said to ourselves,

is a creature of liminality

("the t'aint," as one pundit put

it), both overpaid and

overrated. We looked at The Worm

and saw nothing but net.



The Worm's lack of the more

concrete accoutrements of the

digital age is, in the most

literal sense, a technicality.

One lesson we've learned from

both SEC reports and glossy mag

cover stories alike is the cash

money value in proclaiming

oneself small-w "wired," with or

without the evidence to prove




So what if The Worm has yet to

make public an email address or

even indulge in an AOL Love-in -

whether or not he's touched a

keyboard is as irrelevant as

whether or not he typed the

manuscript for his book. And

though reviewers may wonder

aloud if The Worm wrote it, the

fact that he probably hasn't

even read the thing would make

him the most wired of all.


We were going to say all these

things because it seemed obvious

that The Worm represented

something. Why else would both

high-concept essayists and

bottom-feeding columnists keep

telling us so much about him?



Then again, if it's true that The

Worm is "an embodiment of the

times," we wonder if it might be

The New York variety, in which

aging sports fans look at Rodman

and see, optimistically,

themselves. This

pierced-navel-gazing, however,

is cut short when exposed to the

cruel glare of something as

simple as Rodman himself.


Rodman's the first to admit that

he's no role model, and we'll

second that. What's emblematic

about The Worm, and the coverage

of him, isn't the way he

embodies the wired world, but

the way the wired world can

forcibly shoehorn a colorful

character into an allegorical

niche - sort of like the

probable shoehorning of the NBA

finals into a fifth game.


[Rod Board]

To call The Worm a symbol is to

be stuck like a Sonic in The

Worm's web of distraction. So we

reconsidered: what if The Worm's

every-changing polychrome dome,

gender fucking, tattoo-you

theatrix, felt chapeau, funky

slam dunks, and sake with Cindy

Crawford didn't signify a damn

thing, but represented nothing

more than this year's most

compelling reminder that girls

just wanna have fun?

courtesy of The Brothers OK