Roses Ain’t Free

by: Tom Rau

A die-hard Chicago Bulls fan searches for life after Derrick Rose.

I’m not sure there has been another athlete in Chicago sports history that is as beloved to the city of Chicago as the Bulls Derrick Rose is now. You probably think I’m crazy for not saying Michael Jordan, but I would argue that Michael Jordan wasn’t so much loved as he was worshipped in the way people worshipped the ancient gods; that is to say with at least one part fear. Michael Jordan wasn’t a man of the city, he was a God fighting a war for his own reasons, we were just lucky he was on our side. Derrick Rose is our champion, he was born in the streets of Chicago and fights for the people of Chicago. He is Theseus. His fight isn’t for his own reasons, to prove his own superiority over every other being in the world like Jordan, his fight is to go to the underworld and return the city of Chicago to its days of glory.

Only it didn’t work out like that. In Game 1 of the playoffs against a feisty but completely out-manned Philadelphia 76ers team, Derrick Rose tore his ACL during a completely innocuous drive to the hoop, and with one minute left in the game no less. The United Center went from completely insane to completely silent in the time it takes to blink. People who were there said the immediate silence of 23,000 people was in itself deafening and a haunting moment that will never be forgotten. Because it was more than just the people in the United Center. It was the whole city of Chicago, it was all of the Bulls fans spaced around the world. It was the sound of millions of people who love Derrick Rose having all of the air instantly sucked out of their body. The city of Chicago hasn’t been punched in the stomach this hard since the loss of NFL great Gale Sayers to a knee injury in 1968. But this is worse. Derrick Rose is OUR hero, born from our tears. And he was the one about to lead us back to the title. And then poof. He was gone.

Here’s the thing though, these Bulls are a team. And they’ve been playing basically half the year without their leader. And they have done pretty well, 18-9 with the number one defense in the league. But playing with the confidence that your leader will be back and playing with the fact that he is done are two completely different things as evidenced by the shellacking the Sixers put on the Bulls in game two. Are they done for? Three point specialist and half-vampire/half-lion Kyle Korver had this to say before game 2:

Bulls fans. Now is not the time to ask why or to get bitter. Now is the time to refocus and ask “How are we going to win this Championship?” We have the best Team in the league. This season has proven, we are a TEAM and it has taken us ALL to have the best record. Lets focus on whats ahead. This is an incredible opportunity for All of Us to step up and make it happen. We’re all gonna have to work harder and smarter. We are all gonna have to believe in ourselves. That we are more than the sum of our parts. We need YOU to believe with Us. We need You to believe for Us. We are going to keep going strong. One quarter, one game, one round at a time. Until its over. That’s how we’re gonna do it.

Inspiring words no doubt, but no words that now need to be directed inward. We the fans, we’ve seen what the Bulls can do without Derrick Rose. And that is simply to beat the best teams in the NBA. We believe in the concept of team. We believe because you, the 2012 Chicago Bulls showed us what can be done when you hustle more, try harder, and don’t give up on the guys standing next to you. You CAN win in the NBA without a superstar. You just have to play alot harder than everyone else. And maybe in the end you fall short, but what you don’t’ do is go home in round 1 to the young and immature Sixers squad. Instead, you punish them for what has happened to you. You do all the things you are still the best at, namely defense and rebounding. And you do those things twice as hard as you did them before. And when the Philadelphia 76ers are dead and gone, you do it to the Hawks, or to the Celtics. You keep rebounding, blocking shots, and forcing turnovers, until they tell you that you can’t go anymore because your legs are broken or you have a trophy in your arms. You do it because that’s what Derrick Rose did.

Right about now, the disbelief has faded, anger has subsided and were all wondering… why? Why. Why. Why Derrick, again? Derrick is more than an MVP to our team. He’s our friend, our brother he inspires us to be the very best we can be, just by who he is and how hard he plays.

Kyle Korver said that also, and all I have to say is this, you don’t have to convince us Kyle. We’re fucking there, we’ve seen what you can do. We believe you won’t roll over. But then in the second half of game two you did. So what the fuck Kyle?

I guess it’s that time. It’s not about the fans anymore. It’s time to look in the mirror. Look at the guy next to you in the locker room. Or just look at Derrick Rose and then ask yourself at what point do you quit? And the answer is an easy one. You don’t quit again until 23,000 people go completely silent. And when Derrick Rose stepped on the floor before game 2 to present the game ball it was far from silent in the United Center. It was goose bump inducing pandemonium.

There’s still a lot of noise left to be made in Chicago. And it’s not the fans that need to hear it.

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