Tuesday, November 28, 2006 Updated: November 29, 10:14 AM ET
A molehill of an issue
By Scoop Jackson Page 2
Has it really come to this?
A team that is expected to be one of the elite teams in its conference and possibly battle for a trip to the NBA Finals opens the season at 4-9, and when it finally wins on the road after losing six in a row, we're sitting here talking about headbands.
So when Chicago Bulls coach Scott Skiles decided in the one game the Bulls had a chance to win -- one in which his $60 million man had a chance to re-establish himself as the player the team spent $60 million to sign -- that he'd sit Ben Wallace down twice to prove a point or to exercise his power (which he has the right to do), it basically gives public notice to where the team's priorities are and what's more important in the team's direction.
Get a team its defensive swagger back or bench a star player for wearing a headband. Find the defensive chemistry that wins games and stops you from losing large leads in the second half of games or bench a star player for wearing a headband. Develop a consistent offensive rotation so that each player knows what his exact role is from game to game or bench a star player for wearing a headband.
The choice is theirs.
And the Chicago Bulls choose to be more concerned about professional images and subliminal messages sent.
The headband rule began before Wallace came to the Bulls. Apparently the execs and hierarchy didn't like the way Eddie Robinson and Eddy Curry were rocking theirs. Too black, too wrong.
So general manager John Paxson (not Skiles) instituted (mandated, whatever word is most appropriate here) a team policy, similar to George Steinbrenner's facial hair and grooming policy with the Yankees, that when playing for the Chicago Bulls you cannot wear headbands. And upon being hired by Paxson, Skiles inherited the rule and it became his responsibility to protect it.
But why is Wallace pictured in the team's media guide wearing a headband? Why has the organization created marketing material that allowed the players to wear headbands?
Why is there this standard double?
But I'll digress.
True, BW might have crossed the line or been insubordinate Saturday night, but let's be very real here: This has nothing to do with rules. Headbandgate (as it is now being called) has everything to do with an exercise of power in the middle of a storm that no one inside the Bulls organization has an answer for.
I say that because I truly believe had the Bulls won every game as opposed to losing every game on their road trip going into Saturday's game against the Knicks, this would not be an issue.
If the Bulls were 9-4 instead of 4-9, above the Pistons instead of tied with the Bucks in the Central Division standings, the issue of Wallace and the team's headband policy would have been squashed, if it ever even surfaced.
But losing has a way of making a molehill Rushmore.
This is no different.
But since it is out -- since Wallace said after shootaround Tuesday according to reports, "If you know the rules and break them, you expect to be punished. I can't try to put myself above the team or anybody else and wear a headband like I did. I'm man enough to take the punishment. But I'm not sorry." -- let's put this entire Gloria Monty-inspired soap opera into perspective.
The Bulls and Wallace have issues so much bigger than this to deal with that it's insane this is being given this much attention, an A-List topic on "Quite Frankly." The grievance that the players' union already has with the League over its issue with Jermaine O'Neal wearing a wristband too high up on his arm (he was fined $5,000), doesn't deserve attention either, but is another mini-Rushmore issue.
See, what Wallace should do, since he's on this defiant trip, is tell Paxson, "OK, I'll abide by the headband rule if you stop letting (or giving away, as the Bulls did during the home opener to welcome him) fans wear those back-to-slavery Buckwheat wigs during games."
Think that'll happen?
Never. Because, like honestly dealing with why the team is losing, the Bulls really don't want to deal with real issues of professional image and subliminal messages being sent.
Scoop Jackson is a national columnist for Page 2 and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. He appears regularly on "Quite Frankly" and other ESPN shows. He resides in Chicago. Sound off to Scoop and Page 2 here.