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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch North Korean and U.S. players in an exhibition basketball game at an arena in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Associated Press)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch North Korean and U.S. players in an exhibition basketball game at an arena in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Associated Press)

Gazzolo Column: No comfort knowing Rodman on our side

Last Modified: Monday, March 04, 2013 6:06 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

If Dennis Rodman is the answer, what could possibly be the question?

I asked that once a few years back when the Lakers said Rodman would solve all their issues.

He didn’t.

Back then, the damage he could do late in his basketball career was little. He was basically harmless.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Rodman returned from a trip to North Korea and proclaimed the leader of that communist country — the man who has said he will take down America if he must — as a friend.

Granted, most friends of Rodman would never likely ever be a friend of mine.

The party animal who almost always seemed on the brink of self destruction could do little harm to anyone but himself. Often times, he got very close.

Now, with his words he is hardly a treat to any of us again. But, that still doesn’t make the former power forward who has been a part of five NBA championship teams any less talkative on a subject he knows little about.

Rodman was in North Korea as a guest of dictator Kim Jong Un, who took over the savage regime when his father died some 15 months ago.

The two were pictured laughing, watching basketball and apparently talking world politics.

Rodman is hardly speaking for any fraction of the United States government. Heck, he hardly ever speaks common sense about himself.

Yet there he was on Sunday, just a few days back from his trip, talking politics on one of the Sunday morning talk shows. Not sure who thought that was a good idea.

He called the North Korean leader “a friend” despite what he has done in the past. He fell far short of calling Kim Jong Un a friend of the nation Rodman calls home.

When pressed, Rodman sounded like a kid out of school. While he would not condone the actions of Kim or the government he is in charge of, he kept trying to tell us what a great guy the dictator is and how loved he is by the people he rules over with an iron fist, as if they have a choice.

Of course, Rodman is allowed to say such things in this country about somebody who has clearly been an enemy to it in the past.

Ironically, if he was here and from there he would have to keep his mouth shut.

I guess not all things communist are bad.

Rodman came back with a message. Kim Jong Un wants President Obama to call him. Maybe he passed Rodman a note saying as much during halftime of one of those games they watched.

If the North Korean leader wanted to show he was really interested in opening up lines of communications, he could always call first. He could put Rodman on a party line with the President.

Maybe the three of them could even Skype.

Just think, they could talk basketball, human rights, the safety of South Korea and even exchange nuclear secrets all without ever leaving the comforts of their couches.

The social media can save the world.

I am not for ever mixing politics and sports. It is one of the reasons why I think the Olympics have lost their luster.

Winning gold in the name of your country is nice, but too often countries use their athletes as ways of getting their points across.

Here, Kim is doing the same with Rodman.

Maybe they are friends. Maybe in some strange world the two men, who seem to have nothing in common, can get together over their love of basketball and make it work.

You would think Rodman, with rings in both ears, both nostrils and his lower lip, and bathed in tattoos, would be everything the North Korean top dog would hate.

Rodman is a self promoter, made millions for himself and wasted them on capitalist material items, along with more than a few party favorites.

Rodman could easily be the poster child for the ugly American the rest of the world hates. Then again, maybe we don’t know the rest of world as well as we thought.

Maybe we don’t know Rodman that well either. Maybe he is the man who can broker piece forever between the two nations.

If so, Rodman could win the Noble Prize for Peace.

He might even change his name, though I hear Metta World Peace is already taken.

Somehow I don’t find comfort, or sleep any better at night knowing Rodman is on our side.

Then again, we never know what side he is really ever on.

I do believe we know this much, when it comes to fixing messes in Asia, Rodman is not the answer.

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at

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