Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
This afternoon, my family was taking refuge from Typhoon Nanadol in the Alley Cats Pizza Parlor across from Taipei Main Station. This particular Alley Cats is in the northeast corner of K-Mall AKA the Taipei Digital Mart, a scuzzy labyrinth of cell phone shops and booths. We had originally planned to feed all of our old bread to the ducks in 2-28 Park (my daughter's idea), but were, like pretty much anyone in Taiwan with outdoor plans, rained out.
I was in the midst of tweet photo-ing a pic of the papery pizza being passed off as a meal (for NT$480 a plate too) http://lockerz.com/s/133592055 in this establishment to Doug, a Canadian food connoisseur I have the pleasure of knowing, when my wife started pointing at a commotion going on behind my back. "It's so exaggerated," she complained. "Why does that guy need all those bodyguards to buy a cell phone?"
"It's a media stunt," I guessed, putting the final touches on my tweet photo comment to Doug. "Watch. The evening news will be making a big deal out of this too. It's probably a buy-two-get-one-free deal that the 'media' deems newsworthy."
"He's got four or five security guards. I think he must be a diplomat," she said, ignoring my observation.
"That's funny. Since when do diplomats in Taiwan have bodyguards?" I asked, turning. The first thing I noticed was indeed four or five men with earpieces. They were all in suits, hands thrust in pockets, heads down, brows furrowed, trying to appear intimidating. Then I saw Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, last year's MVP of the NBA, bargaining at a Far-East Telephone booth for a cell phone.
"That's not a diplomat," I exclaimed. "That's Derrick Rose, last year's MVP!"
"What's the MVP?" she wanted to know. "Is it comparable to the NBA?" My wife is actually pretty familiar with the NBA. We used to go to NBA games when we lived in Cleveland. She knows names such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki. I wasn't explaining anymore though. I was already over at the phone booth, taking pictures on my iPhone and picking the bodyguard I was standing next to's brain. He told me that Rose doesn't like people getting too close; that's why he was personally getting the security-guard overtime bucks. Then my wife brought my camera over and I took the shots above and below.
I've seen American athletes on show in Taiwan before -- Dwight Howard and Frank Thomas, to be precise. Neither seemed to have need of bodyguards. I ran into Dwight Howard playing on the basketball court inside the Eslite (誠品) Bookstore Mall in Ximending (西門町). He was not only bodyguard free, but even mingled in the crowd, hugging people for photo-ops and yucking it up. Howard is a pretty big boy though. Plus this kind of affable hands-on approach suited his larger-than-life personality. I saw The Big Hurt in Kiss Disco. Seated at a table across the room, he was introduced to the crowd by Huang Xiao-hu (黃小虎), the singer performing that night.
I guess it shouldn't strike me as too weird that Derrick Rose had bodyguards in tow. Sponsors and handlers have been pulling their hair out ever since he entered the NBA as he regularly ducks interviews and has trouble performing in advertisements. His shyness has been making it hard for them to cash in. He's only 22 though. He'll probably come around and become every bit the shill for big corporations that the last great Chicago Bull, Michael Jordan, was. And I'm sure he isn't in Taiwan strictly as a tourist right now, during Typhoon Nanadol.