Not-so-idle thoughts while wondering if SRO crowds (standing room only) are a thing of the past, given the social distancing guidelines that could be the new normal:
Did you ever think a last dance could last 10 episodes? I think Michael Jordan at least deserves a mirrored ball.
Better yet, think ESPN is second guessing the decision to schedule “The Last Dance” as a double-feature across five weeks rather than spread it out across 10 Sundays? Or for that matter, a 20 episode docu-drama series of 30-minute shows.
After watching all 10 episodes, I came away with the feeling that if this had been a movie, Dennis Rodman would’ve gotten co-star, or at least feature, billing.
Also that he must’ve been a great player because no team would put up with such a PIA otherwise.
Naturally, when The Dance was over the big debate was revived about whether or not Jordan and the Bulls could’ve won a seventh title (in nine years) had the team been held together. General manager Jerry Krause was the most popular piñata in the scenario that took place, even though owner Jerry Reinsdorf was at least an equal-opportunity villain. But an even bigger question was overlooked — both then and now.
Would the Bulls have won eight straight NBA titles had it not been for Jordan’s attempt to switch careers mid-stream and sign with the Chicago White Sox? And taken a step further, what would have happened had Major League Baseball been able to resume on time the following year?
After missing the 1993-94 NBA season while playing for the White Sox Double-A minor-league team (managed by Terry Francona), Jordan was fully committed to at least a second season in baseball. It wasn’t until the baseball strike, which had wiped out the 1994 World Series, introduced the possibility of MLB employing non-union players and then delaying the 1995 season that Jordan abandoned his baseball dream and returned to the Bulls for the final weeks of the 1994-95 season.
Following their first “three-peat” from 1991-93, the Bulls were a playoff team twice during Jordan’s absence. It hardly seems a stretch to say they would’ve been prohibitive favorites to win both years. In which case, the second “three-peat” would’ve given the Bulls eight straight which, in turn, would’ve matched the Boston Celtics’ NBA record run from 1959-1966.
So, instead of wondering about a possible championship, the Bulls might’ve been thinking about breaking the Celtics’ all-time NBA record. I know — wudda, shudda, cudda — but it’s hard not to wonder. Suppose Jordan had resisted the urge to try baseball, which he said was his “first true love?” Suppose those “three-peats” hadn’t been bookends to a challenge that seemed ill-advised from the start?
We’ll never know, but we can always wonder — would the Bulls have made a run at the longest championship run in professional sports history?
I have to admit there was one aspect of personal prejudice I was happy to see prominently mentioned in one of The Dance’s early episodes. It had more to do with Jordan’s loyalty to his brand, or rather the brand of Nike, his other team, the one still paying him the big bucks.
That loyalty was so strong that at one point it seemed to jeopardize Jordan’s participation in the 1992 Olympics because Reebok, at the time perhaps Nike’s biggest competitor, was the official sponsor. It seemed ridiculous that the logo of an apparel company might be more important than the USA name on the uniform.
I never understood why Nike didn’t take the high road and defuse the potentially damaging issue rather than let it fester. As it turned out Jordan displayed his loyalty to Nike by covering up the Reebok logo during the gold medal ceremony.
Personally I thought it was a petty gesture, one that could have and in my mind should have been avoided. My personal protest has been to avoid buying or wearing any Nike product, a practice that has no end date. It hasn’t affected the price stock or a pair of Air Jordans, but even in small doses revenge has a sweet taste.
If it took Major League Baseball 67 pages for a guideline to reopening the game, you have to wonder how all this is going to work. It’ll take more than three weeks of spring training — just to break the old traditional habits.
MLB hasn’t been able to rid itself of chewing tobacco, so it’ll be interesting to see how they can legislate spitting sunflower seeds. And somehow the idea of reserve players practicing social distancing in the stands is hard to fathom.
As the Orioles found out five years ago, no spectators in the stands is going to make for a very dull product. It’ll be a welcome return to the television, even in a virtual setting, but believe me, folks, this is going to take some getting used to.
Special birthday greetings this month to a pair of Baltimore treasures — Brooks Robinson, who turned 83 on the 18th, and Vince Bagli, who will be 93 on the 29th. A pair of aces to cherish.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles