Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. was 22 years old and in his third year in the major leagues when he won his first World Series as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. After the win, believing it would be the first of many, he was quoted as saying: “I think our World Series has found a home.” It would be 13 long years before he would return to the playoffs. Even though he played in more regular season games than any other player in the history of baseball, he would never play in a World Series game again.
This brings us to Derrick Rose. Allow me to recap. Ever since that fateful day last April when Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL, the entire city of Chicago has been breathlessly following his return. A carefully orchestrated string of videos produced by Rose’s sponsor Adidas fueled the fire of every Bulls fan, anxiously awaiting the end of the 8-12 month rehabilitation period his doctor promised. Another NBA player named Iman Shumpert tore his ACL on the same day as Rose, and he returned to games in early February. Bulls fans figured it would only be a matter of time before Rose followed suit. We were wrong. February turned to March, and then April. Rose returned to practice, and although his doctor has said that playing in games is the next step in the rehab process, still no games. It became apparent that Derrick wasn’t coming back this season, and most Bulls fans had resigned themselves to it.
And the understandable “common sense” reasoning went something like this: the Bulls aren’t very good this year. The Heat look unstoppable. Why risk reinjuring the knee when a return would mean being humiliated by the defending World Champions and the best basketball player in history not named Michael Jordan?
Then Monday night happened. Everyone on the planet penciled the Heat in for a blowout. Two starters in addition to Rose were out, and the Heat had lost just two games total since February 1st. No one, not even the players’ mothers, thought they had a chance to win a game in Miami. But the “next man up” Bulls didn’t get the “Heat in 4” memo and they stunned the Heat and the world by winning the game, taking a 1-0 series lead. Yes, the Bulls got blown out Wednesday night, but they took home court advantage away from the best team in basketball and made it a series to watch.
So what does this mean for Derrick? Does it change anything?
It is true that no one knows what Rose’s reattached ACL feels like except for Derrick Rose. No one can judge another person’s experience, and if Rose is hurt, he shouldn’t play. But everything, including Rose’s own statements, suggests that he is healthy enough to play, but is holding back because he doesn’t have any interest in putting himself in danger if it won’t lead to a championship.
And look, the Bulls don’t look good enough to win a championship this year. But this is what makes sports so much fun. You never know what will happen. What if the Bulls find a way to win 3 more games and advance to the next round? What if they make it to the Finals? What if they somehow win it all without their MVP.
Furthermore, what if Derrick waits till the fall of 2013 and he blows out his knee in the first game of the season? A devastating injury can happen any time, at virtually any moment of any game. Rose has the opportunity right now to help his team, and maybe, just maybe, to be a part of something special. We all hope and expect Derrick to play for his hometown team for another 10 years, and to amaze us time and time again. But we don’t know if that will happen. We do know that we have this moment.
So Derrick…seize the day. Not because you’re earning $16 million this year. Or because everyone else is playing through their pain. But because there are no promises in the world of sports, or in life. It’s a leap of faith, to be sure. Trusting that the knee won’t give out. That you won’t crumple to the ground again, like you did in agonizing fashion last April. But if you’re healthy, it’s worth the risk. Cause Cal can tell you that you never know when that chance will roll around again.