Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Death of Celebrity...

Even on the evening of his induction into the Hall of Fame, one moment stands out as truly bizarre in what was the quintessence of bad sportsmanship. He mentions Pat Riley and a situation with a hotel suite in Hawaii where Riley was staying but Jordan had reservations. Jordan mentions how Riley was forced to leave by hotel management, and on his way out Pat slips a note under his door saying, "We will meet again". Jordan waited this long to tell the world that even amongst dueling egos, he wins every time, even if it's over something as insignificant as a spat over a suite (as if there was just one in the whole hotel).

But it was Riley's competitive drive that forced the issue that day, and Jordan at least respected that if nothing else. Here is a quote from an interview with Michael in GQ magazine-

Interviewer-"You had a reputation as a guy who'd chastise, ridicule, and ride his teammates. Were you purposefully a demanding teammate?"

Jordan-"That was leadership. I was the only guy there from 1984. I was there when there were 6,000 people in the stands. So I took pride in making sure every guy understood what it took to get us to this point, and by no means am I going to allow you to come in and change what we'd begun-the transformation of a city that's never had a championship.

I used my criticism, my aggressive language, my aggressive behavior, to make you conform. Some people, like Sam Smith [author of "The Jordan Rules"], looked at this in a whole different frame of mind. At first I was offended. Then I realized, people don't understand our journey.

I bet if you ask anyone now on those teams, they have a greater appreciation for we achieved as opposed to the what method we went by to achieve what we achieved."

Interviewer-"But what was the relentless riding of your teammates about, especially once you've won a few championships? Was it you trying to guard against complacency?"

Jordan-"Absolutely. I never took a day off. If I took a day off, then Scottie was going to take a day off. And the Horace. The next thing you know, the whole scope of what were trying to do is being weakened. I never took a shortcut. and I never wanted anyone else to take a shortcut. If that meant someone interprets me as a tyrant, I'm pretty sure they're appreciative now."

Fair enough. But what occurred to me when I listened to this speech (and I did so more than once) was this competitive drive overlapped into his private life and personal relationships, to the point where he took the unprecedented step of marching all of these people into a packed auditorium just to hear this caustic harangue.

It is clear to me that success, world-wide adulation and untold millions of dollars was never going to be enough to quell the anger, the unfettered hatred this man feels towards pretty much everyone who's had the misfortune of floating anywhere near his trajectory. These people, who dared get too close to the fire, were meant to be consumed by it.

This speech was Jordan's "Fahrenheit 451". After he got done torching the NBA record books as a player, he took that same flame to anyone that ever meant anything to him. And the sad part is not one person stood up and walked out in disgust. They squirmed in their seats and nervously laughed at his pointed barbs, happy to have even been mentioned in his speech. The way they were individually stripped and raped was borderline obscene, but the manner in which they obsequiously endured this humiliation, to then honor him with a standing ovation was even worse.

If being in the presence of celebrity means that one has to endure emasculation and loss of dignity and pride, no thanks-I'll keep watching these guys on TV and hope that no one I know ever turns into such a disgusting human being.

Thanks for the memories, Mike-and thank you for articulating so clearly why people like you have no business being role models for our youth.

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