At the end of the first Men in Black movie, there’s an amusing scene where Will Smith’s character reveals that Dennis Rodman is actually an alien from the planet Solaxiant 9, and Linda Fiorentino’s character says, “Not much of a disguise.” Well, Rodman’s overlords have dispatched him on a new mission, a diplomatic one, to an equally alien culture. The man they called “The Worm” has slithered into Pyongyang with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters on a diplomatic outreach mission to unsuspecting North Koreans, using basketball’s popularity to build bridges between two peoples who know little else about each other. Said Globetrotter Buckets Blakes: “We use the basketball as a tool to build cultural ties, build bridges among countries. We’re all about happiness and joy and making people smile.”
When the people of the DPRK catch a glimpse of the tattooed, bejeweled, and bescarved Rodman, a shriek of horror is the more likely reaction. “He looks like a monster,” was one North Korean’s assessment on seeing a picture of Rodman in all his glory. On the surface, the whole thing screams “international incident.”
Unleashing Rodman as an ambassador of U.S. culture and values does seem like an odd choice; this experiment in hoops diplomacy may be the only contact with American citizens that many of these people will ever experience, and Rodman is the impression we want to leave them with?
On the other hand, for all his eccentricities (and that’s putting it kindly), Rodman is a pretty flawless representation of a uniquely American version of freedom, individualism, and self-expression. (Not to mention shameless self-promotion. And offensive rebounding.) Letting the North Koreans think we’re a nation of Rodmans seems like a pretty good deterrent against future saber-rattling. Worm, I say let your freak flag fly over Pyongyang.
— Rob Doster is senior editor for Athlon Sports.