DEFENDING JORDAN, COVID CREATIVITY, THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER, SHULA STORIES & BROADCAST BILLY

May 28, 2020

There is no debating he was the MVP during his playing days.

These days you can’t dispute the fact Michael Jordan has been the MVPP (Most Valuable Pandemic Player) of sports coverage the past two months.

With no March Madness, Major League Baseball, NBA or NHL, leave it to Air Jordan to once again deliver the highlights.  ESPN’s docuseries “The Last Dance”  also served as the sporting world’s  “Lone Dance” as it’s spotlight of Jordan’s  final running with the Bulls was basically our sole sports entertainment during COVID-19.

Jordan was in our face during his career but since then has been more of an enigma. Sure he’s still active as owner of the Charlotte Hornets but rarely does interviews and for the most part chooses to be out of the spotlight. Even when he played, we didn’t really get to know Jordan as he retired before social media became the rage which is why this ten part series was so compelling.

So finally Jordan bares his soul and what happens?

Many bury him for it. I’m here to defend him on a number of fronts.

HE’S A BULLY? Many didn’t like the notion that Jordan would get into fights with his teammates and often talk trash to them, do they think this is some anomaly? Reggie Miller, one of Jordan’s biggest rivals in the nineties told Dan Patrick recently that this kind of behavior happened “every week” during his playing days with the Indiana Pacers. Basketball pre camera phones and social media was different and Jordan was just a part of that culture–hardly the only one.

Sure his teammates said he was tough to be around but if you really listen they all saw the good outweigh the bad with Jordan. He made them better, wealthier and in the end, champions. 

I remember covering Jordan when he played minor league baseball in Birmingham and interviewing him after a game. I was waiting by his locker and he said he would talk with me after taking a shower. When he left, two of his teammates poured a full beer in his chair and couldn’t wait for his reaction when he returned?  When he came back, he just laughed. Clearly Jordan endeared himself to his teammates during those days, most prima donnas would never act that way.

HE DOESN’T TAKE A STANCE? Jordan was criticized before this docuseries and subsequently after for not supporting minority political candidates and for not speaking out on important issues. I could care less and frankly don’t consume myself with athletes’ opinions on politics. They entertain me with their play—that’s enough.

HE HOLDS GRUDGES ? The best athletes are often the most competitive using every single slight to their advantage. I have no problem with Jordan sometimes “manufacturing” grudges to make him play better. For example, an average player like LeBradford Smith had a career game against Jordan one night and Jordan made up a story that Smith tried to show him up after the game when he merely said “nice game.” Whatever works for him? I have no problem with it, it’s what made him the GOAT.

HE’S ARROGANT: There is a fine line between cocky and confident and I feel Jordan is the latter. My favorite part of the docuseries was when Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton said even though his Sonics lost to the Bulls in the NBA Finals there was a point in the series where he figured Jordan out defensively. Great job by “Last Dance” director Jason Hehir of having us watch Jordan’s first reaction to Payton’s statements where he simply laughed and then solemnly said he was never worried about Payton. I loved it!

Jordan never backed down from anyone, played through a number of injuries his whole career, hated to lose at every turn and ultimately backed it up every time—that’s why he’s the best athlete our country has ever seen. That’s more than enough for me.

Thanks to him and the “Last Dance” for a quality sports fix in these crazy times—I will miss looking forward to Sunday’s while we wait for the real stuff to return. 

Defending Jordan, the first layup in many shots we take in another jog around the Naborhood.

COVID CREATIVITY: The last few months have been tough on many but it’s great to see the entertainment industry deliver several silver linings where all have helped give back in different ways.

In the music world former Beach Boy Mike Love collaborated with actor and Beach Boys fanatic John Stamos to write and record the song “This Too Shall Pass” where all proceeds go to COVID-19 response funds which aid food banks across the country. Stamos said he suggested to Love to create a remake of a song like “Sweet Caroline” but Love wanted to craft an original song with a pandemic theme people could relate to.

You had actor John Krasinski launch his “Some Good News” segments which spotlighted all the great things people were doing during the pandemic. It was both funny where he brought in his former “Office” castmates to conduct a virtual wedding but the core was showcasing all the good during a bad time for our country.

Krasinski’s series was so successful networks lined up to bid for the rights to it where he eventually sold it to ViacomCBS. It’s amazing the impact his series made in only eight episodes where he will stay play a role with it moving forward but admitted the plan all along was to just do eight as he had other commitments. Eight was enough to make a huge impact.

You have actors and musicians playing a role and those athletes have also gotten creative. The timing was perfect for Match 2, Champions for Charity’s timing was perfect. Yes, right when Jordan’s doc stepped off center stage, golf’s own fab foursome of Tiger, Tommy, Peyton and Phil Mickelson endured rain and lots of trash talk to raise an incredible 20 million dollar for the COVID-19 response fund. Event planners originally had only predicted it would raise 10 million…

I give so much credit to Manning and especially Brady who is trying to get ready for all the uncertainties of this NFL season to put himself out there for such a cause. He easily could have said no but it showed a lot about him that he didn’t.

I saw some on social media say “Tom Brady finally showing he has a personality.” I will always maintain he is one of the most misunderstood athletes as many dislike him out of jealousy merely because of his success. The guy laughed at himself for splitting his pants and responded to announcer Charles Barkley’s jabs with the shot of the day—gotta love it.

The success of this event should lead to more—next up give me this fab foursome:

Michael Jordan, Steve Spurrier, Justin Thomas and Sergio Garcia—-that would be a helluva sequel!

THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER: And then there was….one! Just when you thought ole reliable, Blockbuster video was no more, leave it to the Corona Craziness to keep the once dominating franchise alive. 2020 is ironically the 20th anniversary of Blockbuster but after recent closings in Perth, Australia and Alaska of all places– the last one standing was in Bend, Oregon ?!

There you see General Manager Sandi Harding who says business may be down during the pandemic but they are still working curb side pick up handing out videos in ziploc bags—kickin it old school!

Harding says with the local DVD distributor closed, she is giving the people want they want even though she sometimes has to restock the shelves by going to a nearby Target or Wal-Mart? “I’ll only get five or 10 from each one,” Harding says. ” They don’t like me very much if I come in and just wipe out their shelves, so I try to be conscientious of that, and make sure that I leave movies for their regular customers as well.”

A big draw at this last Blockbuster is the merchandise and it’s become a popular tourist destination where you often see people take selfies in front of it. With the rise of Netflix and On-Demand movies, Blockbusters have takin a beating over the last decade.

Recently COVID-19 has hurt businesses everywhere including the movie industry where traditional heavyweight AMC was amazingly close to filing for bankruptcy closing its 600 locations and furloughing 26,000 workers.

One Blockbuster is still standing though—-impressive!

SHULA SALUTE: As you know in this blog, I don’t like using the word “never” often but it may apply to the winningest coach of all time, Don Shula who passed away this month. One day we may see a coach lead a perfect season (Shula is still alone in the clubhouse) but will be see a coach amass 328 wins? For perspective Bill Belichick is 55 victories  behind Shule–does the hoodie have five more good years without Brady? We’ll see.

Shula’s story is amazing where his first coaching job was a high school position in Canton, Ohio. Fitting as he would return to Canton years later as arguably the easiest first ballot Hall of Fame inductee in history.

I’ve heard all kinds of Shula stories all the years, from players of how tough he was and from media members on how he would snap at an instant. My favorite stories show a different side though as a former co-worker told me when he used to work with the Dolphins, he asked Shula to sign a football on a flight home. When he handed the pen to Shula, it immediately exploded all over his shirt, Shula just laughed it off.

My favorite Shula story was during the 80’s when Miami Vice was the hottest show in TV, its star, another Don, Don Johnson came out to practice to meet the Miami Head Coach but when he was introduced to Shula, coach thought he was a member of the Miami Police department and thanked him for his service.

Shula—always locked in—- gotta love it, we may “never” see another like him.

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT….. Speaking of Belichick, like many of you, I’ve had time to clear out my DVR over the past few months where I finally caught up with the NFL Network’s breakdown of the 100th anniversary all time team. You had host Rich Eisen, veteran broadcaster Chris Collinsworth and you had Belichick.  I’ve always maintained many public figures (especially head coaches) aren’t who they portray themselves to the media in many ways where you can’t judge them off of their press conference personas.

Belichick may be the best example of this as his analysis in these NFL Network broadcasts were so good, I would go so far as to remarkably say he has a great future in TV after coaching? Who ever would have thought that? 

His father was a coach at the Naval Academy where he grew up around the game and you can tell as he’s an unbelievable walking and talking encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to the NFL’s rich history.

Beyond that, he’s unbelievably articulate breaking down players whether it was Sammy Baugh or Deion Sanders. Belichick is the greatest NFL Coach of All Time (yes even better than Shula) what he’s done in the modern era with the salary cap to consistently win is without peer)—-but his analysis of the NFL over the past 100 years was equally impressive.

You never know these coaches sometimes., they have all kinds of layers.

EXTRA POINT: Great so see the space program bouncing back. I grew up on the “Space Coast” of Florida where a lot of people have been hurting for awhile—-they deserve good news and frankly our country needs it too–especially in these times.

UNTIL NEXT BLOG,

Mike Nabors

@mikenabors

PHOTO CREDITS: Gillian Flaccus/AP/Shutterstock, ESPN.COM,KTLO, Getty Images, Associated Press, WENY News, UPI.com & NFL Network

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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