Monday, February 10, 2003

MJ: Between the sex scandals, his relentless demand for hero worship and the repeated, dismal comeback efforts, it's hard to be an unabashed fan of MJ anymore. Sure, he revolutionized his industry in the 1980s -- defining the term "crossover" success -- and made the way for so many to follow in his footsteps, but past is past, weirdness is weirdness, and this is 2003.

Yes, it's time for Michael Jordan to leave us alone.

I felt pretty nauseous watching the NBA All-Star Game from our hotel room Sunday night. After all, this is Jordan's third alleged retirement, so the claim that this one is the real one feel about as reliable as a check from Evan Wallace Marriot. I hope it's true, because as this game demonstrated, he just doesn't have it anymore the way he used to.

What made it worse was the whole notion of Michael Jordan as a "hero", as Mariah Carey lip-synched. Jordan's no hero; he's a basketball player. Ain't nothing heroic about that, by itself. There's no heroism in doing underwear advertisements.

If you're looking for a hero in the NBA, look to Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo (or, as we like to call him, "Deke"), who has tirelessly dedicated his time and his money towards improving public health in his native Zaire.

But don't look to a guy who's spending his NBA earnings on his former mistresses and illegal gambling. That's just a guy who used to be a great basketball player, but not any longer.

As far as the other MJ is concerned, I'm as grossed out as you are. Jen and I watched the documentary Thursday night, and I'm not sure what was worse: what Jackson was saying, or the fact that he kept saying it, all against his best interests. Give interviewer Martin Bashir credit: he skillfully extended the rope, and Jackson knew exactly how to fasten it around his neck.

It's not just the deviance (sexual, perhaps, and otherwise), and it's not just the denial (about the deviance, about the plastic surgery), and it's not just that messed-up story about his daughter Paris's placenta that's the real bother here. I mean, it is, but that's not it. It's that there's no one who can say "no" to him -- his money, his fame and his self-imposed sense of isolation put him beyond any of the pressures we might feel to conform our behavior to some reasonable standard. He is, indeed, a law unto himself, and that's really uncomfortable to consider.

With both MJs, ultimately, the lesson is the same: admire the product, remember the past, but ignore the man today. Fame is like fire; it needs oxygen to survive. The less attention we give, the less they will receive in the future. It's true -- we can make a better day. Just you and me.

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