Dennis Rodman essentially is acting as the United States’ ambassador to North Korea.
That’s not a story from The Onion or SportsPickle. It actually happened.
Rodman, the former NBA star who is known for his tattoos, dyed hair and eccentric behavior such as wearing a wedding dress as much as his rebounding prowess, spent time this week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un bonding over basketball.
Rodman reportedly told Kim “you have a friend for life,” and Kim said he hopes The Worm’s visit will help ease tensions between the United States and North Korea, according to The Associated Press.
So don’t worry about North Korea’s nuclear tests, Rodman is here to save us.
This truly is one of the oddest stories of the year thus far. One of the world’s most isolated countries, which many people also think is one of the biggest threats to the United States, is welcoming one of America’s most eccentric athletes.
While it’s hard to believe this will have any significant effect on relations between the countries, it is kind of neat to think that sports actually could help end this mini cold war.
Even before Rodman’s visit, it was reported that Kim was a big fan of basketball. It’s not anything new for the North Korean leader to be into sports. Kim’s father, the late Kim Jong Il, was the world’s greatest athlete (at least according to North Korean media) as he bowled a perfect 300 game in his first match and shot a 38-under par with five holes-in-one during his first golf outing.
So America and North Korea have sports in common. Maybe that, and Rodman, will save us.
And sports aren’t just bringing together the United States (or at least Rodman) and North Korea; there’s talk that wrestling could bond the United States and Iran. Yes, Iran. The other key player of the deemed “Axis of Evil.”
After the International Olympic Committee voted to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympics, the United States and Iran (again, this is not from The Onion) started working together to save the sport.
That’s right … our best hope at coming to peace with Iran and North Korea could be through wrestling and basketball.
It’s not unprecedented for sports to have this type of effect. In ancient Greece, where the Olympics originated thousands of years ago, city-states agreed to cease wars so people could safely travel to Olympia for the games. After the games concluded, the fighting could resume.
To an extent the world’s bonding over sports has continued today. Just look at the modern Olympics, where thousands of athletes from countries all over the world, who would seem to have little in common outside sports, converge every four years to compete on common ground.
You could say to some extent baseball helped ease racial tensions in the United States with Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
Now sports obviously aren’t a cure-all. Racism still exists in our country. Nations who are friendly rivals in the Olympics still fight, just as Greek city-states warred between stoppages for the Olympic games.
But just maybe, just maybe, sports can provide some common ground to help us get past our differences, help us see that we have more in common than we think.
Who knows, maybe years from now our children will learn in history class about the time Dennis Rodman saved the world from nuclear war.
Kyle Shaner is the sports editor for the Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org