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When Wallace turned out to be his lone major pickup, while the likes of Garnett and Gasol are turning their new teams into title contenders, it's the kind of blunder that sets back a franchise for years. Do note that Paxson was encouraged to sign Wallace by owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who too often is influenced by friends and, in this case, pushed the Big Ben envelope based on his long relationship with Wallace's agent, Arn Tellem. At 72, Reinsdorf might want to think about selling his team to someone who knows that the ball is orange, round and pebbled. - Jay Mariotti
Once upon a time, a pint sized misguided dwarf professed his undying love, gratitude and devotion for a Chicago bound Ben Wallace. Endless yarns were spun regarding the newest Bull's rippling chest muscles and ever so impressive body fat percentage. The back page of the Chicago Sun-Times was temporarily transformed from habitual ranting and raving over Ozzie Guillen's potty mouth with swooning Shakespearean passages that would've caused even the cheesiest and most sexually depraved gay romance novelist to embarrassingly blush.
Big Ben equaled Big Love in the forlorn vivacious eyes of Jay Mariotti. All that was good, exciting and oh so damn right deliciously masochistic and masculine of the Chicago Bulls' future began with Ben Wallace's tempting afro and ended with the former Detroit bad boy's rock hard ass.
Jay was in love with this man's man from the Pistons.
And like all great romances, this unilateral sadistic affair has sadly and quite tragically ended.
Like a spurned Scotty J. having his advances rejected by the ever so cool and hip Dirk Diggler, Jay seems quite pissed over Ben Wallace's impotent career as a Bull. And no different than a confused teenager being driven without a date to the Senior Prom by his sickened father, the back page pundit is lashing out at everyone involved in bringing Wallace to Chicago.
Hindsight is awfully comfortable and convenient while sitting in the bunker Laz-Y-Boy and watching the air hiss out of the beloved inflatable vinyl Ben, isn't it Jay?
Today's column* reeks the stench of a bitter "Dear
John Ben" letter. And in typical Mariotti flip flop fashion, Paxson's decision to sign Wallace is second guessed and criticized along with a haranguing over Jerry Reinsdorf's age.
Last spring, the Bulls swept the Miami Heat and gave the Detroit Pistons a few headaches in the playoffs. Considering the team's extended post season drought, such an accomplishment should not be now trivialized with slights. Nor should Wallace's contributions towards the achievement. The Bulls were headed in the right direction. The future was bright. Or so we thought.
This season has been an uncontested disaster. And Paxson has begun the process of restructuring the team by trading Wallace to Cleveland. Life will continue to move forward. And the future of the team is not necessarily a perpetual black hole as prognosticated by Mariotti.
On Saturday night, the bunker's silence will be deafening to the folks of Vernon Hills.
Maybe new White Sox arrival Nick Swisher can help fill the void in Jay's heart left behind by Wallace.
Vinyl Ben, rest in peace.