When we last encountered former basketball player and purveyor of shocks Dennis Rodman, he had just published his first children's book, a delightful tale of an idiosyncratic bull who teaches kids everywhere the importance of being true to themselves. For Rodman, it was another story in a string of unexpected life events including but not limited to coaching a topless women's basketball team and falling way behind on child support payments.
Clearly, Rodman is a man with few worlds left to conquer. So, like a true citizen of the world, he's heading to North Korea as part of a new documentary series. From the Associated Press:
Flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman is heading to North Korea with the VICE media company — tattoos, piercings, bad-boy reputation and all.
The American known as "The Worm" is set to arrive Tuesday in Pyongyang, becoming an unlikely ambassador for sports diplomacy at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
Rodman, three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, a VICE correspondent and a production crew from the company are visiting North Korea to shoot footage for a new TV show set to air on HBO in early April, VICE told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview before the group's departure from Beijing. [...]
VICE said the Americans hope to engage in a little "basketball diplomacy" in North Korea by running a basketball camp for children and playing pickup games with locals — and by competing alongside North Korea's top athletes for a game Rodman said he hopes leader Kim Jong Un will attend.
"Is sending the Harlem Globetrotters and Dennis Rodman to the DPRK strange? In a word, yes," said Shane Smith, the VICE founder who is host of the upcoming series. "But finding common ground on the basketball court is a beautiful thing."
Rodman is undoubtedly an odd choice to visit an American enemy that tested a nuclear bomb two weeks ago, but choosing him to head up a supposed diplomatic tour is also very much in line with the irreverent VICE brand. They will put together an odd pairing to get attention, and Rodman does that job. Watching him and a few Globetrotters play against North Korean basketball stars is going to be goofy, but it should make for good television.
However, it'd be wrong to say it's only a stunt. Smith is correct that finding common ground through sports can be a powerful thing — it's the basis for many organizations that promote peace throughout the world. And, in a more general sense, VICE got this HBO series in part because the original "VICE Guide to North Korea" is essential viewing, a firsthand account of the "hermit kingdom" and the official regime's attempts to present the best possible (but nonetheless extremely creepy) version of their country to outsiders.
In fact, it's likely that this project will go down as one of the most worthwhile things Rodman has been part of in years. He might not solve any diplomatic crises, but he will help teach a new audience about a nation that people rarely get to see.
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