He's a Few Cells Short of Jail Cell

Dennis Rodman should not be suspended. For what he did to that basketball referee, Dennis Rodman does not need to be suspended. Absolutely, positively out of the question that, as retribution for having cracked his thick skull against that of an NBA official's, Dennis Rodman should be suspended.

He should be jailed.

When the game's biggest butt-head delivered that head-butt, using his 64-Crayola cranium to express disagreement with official Ted Bernhardt after being excused from a game Saturday night in Chicago, he did more than lose his cool. That wasn't a nudge; that was assault.

Aberrant behavior is nothing new from Dennis Rodman, the dual-personality Victor/Victoria of professional basketball whose act seems more performance art than sport. But this was a reprehensible low, even for him, and a lifetime ban from the league could be his for the taking, if nothing else works.

We have long known that Rodman is several sandwiches short of a picnic. What no one knows is how much farther beyond the bend he might go, because Dennis' dementia is incomprehensible, bordering on unfathomable. He is Sybil in sneakers. You aren't sure whether to fear him or fear for him.

Very rarely does an athlete come along who truly disturbs the public, the way this one does. Yet what Rodman exudes isn't meanness or menace, as Sonny Liston did or Mike Tyson does; his is the bone-chilling aura of lunacy.

"Suspend me!" Rodman dared the NBA's highest authorities, after his 19th nervous breakdown or whatever this latest episode was. "Rod Thorn, David Stern . . . suspend me! You guys are so big, suspend me!"

Then came that gaze, the one that could unnerve Hannibal Lecter.

"Ain't I been good?" Rodman purred.

Aberrant behavior like his, we witness infrequently in our wide world of sports, perhaps none to this extent since Jimmy Piersall scaled a backstop. Television wrestlers fake such behavior. What troubles us about Rodman is that he seems neither mischievous nor ill-mannered, traits common to any profession, but unable to sustain any sort of temperament. He's up, he's down, he's up . . . there's never a welcome dull moment.

Even playing for a team such as Chicago's, with teammates who embrace him, fans who value him and enjoyable victory upon victory, brings Rodman no peace. One wonders what could keep this worm from turning, what could calm his rage, or if such a thing--non-pharmaceutical-- exists.

He goes too far.

Disputing a call, he stuffs his hands down his pants. Drawing a technical foul for that gesture, he rails that he is misunderstood. He says Michael Jordan would never be penalized for stuffing his hands down his pants, forgetting the obvious, that Jordan would never stuff his hands down his pants.

Yapping in the referee's face, Rodman nodded his head toward Bernhardt's and things went bump in the night. Officials have been bumped, thumped, pushed and poked by athletes who can't keep their hands to themselves, and accidentally spritzed by some who can't keep their big mouths shut, and disqualification is automatic. It is never condoned, but it is, at least, understood.

A head-butt, though, is no push, no light brush with the law. To reach out and rap a ref, that's aggression. To ram one with the bone in your head, bonehead, that's aggravated assault, and you're lucky somebody doesn't drag your tattooed behind out of the gymnasium and toss it into Cook County Jail.

Dennis had better wise up.

He can get away with a lot, continue to be independent and unique. But he can't get away with everything. There is a limit, and he is close, perilously close.

Nobody knows what goes on inside that dye-jobbed head of his.

But there's something we do know.

That cuckoo inside Rodman's clock had better stop popping out.

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