When It Comes to Fantasies, He’s in a League of His Own
America, it’s time to break the news to Michael Jordan.
It’s time to tell him all about “The Michael Show” and how it’s all been a fantasy, a script designed solely for our viewing pleasure and emotional release. He must be told everything: that “Phil Jackson” is not a basketball coach who practices Zen and that “Dennis Rodman” is really Harold Webster, a delightful character actor and family man from Minneapolis.
We’ve enjoyed “The Michael Show” long enough. The ratings remain sky-high, and it looks as if the show could go on forever. But it’s time to let the man live his own life.
Having seen most of the “Michael” episodes, I was prepared to continue watching indefinitely. Then I saw “The Truman Show,” the most popular movie in America, and realized how happy the fictional Truman Burbank was to escape a make-believe life. Michael deserves that too.
Only problem is, who’s going to tell him? My guess is that Michael, just like Jim Carrey as Truman, won’t be too happy when he finds out.
I’d suggest someone with a soothing voice. Perhaps Katie Couric, who could explain how, just as with “Truman,” “The Michael Show” was meant to inspire and entertain . . .
“When did it start?” Jordan asks Couric on the “Today” show set.
“When you were a freshman at North Carolina. Remember hitting the game-winning shot in 1982 to win the NCAA title?”
“Sure. Fifteen seconds left. We won 63-62.”
“Michael, in real life freshmen don’t hit shots for the national title.”
“I thought I was special.”
“You were, you were! That’s why we picked you. You were the perfect specimen, had the perfect temperament, the perfect presence. We saw someone people would idolize.”
“Did I do anything on my own?”
“You did everything. Let’s just say, we helped you out. I’ve lost track, but we’ve got you down for something like 25 game-winners in your career. Did it ever occur to you that that’s a little high? Do you find it at all strange that in your career you’ve hit shots to win both an NCAA title and an NBA championship? And how about those 63 points in a playoff game in ’86? We had you do it against the Celtics, so people would take notice.”
“Larry Bird is an actor?”
“Ah! The ‘Hick From French Lick.’ One of the juiciest roles.”
“And everybody knows I’m not really real?”
“Afraid so, Michael. But, remember, it’s not that you’re fake. It’s just that we’ve had to cook up a few scenarios to play around with, add and subtract a few characters, just to keep the audience interested.”
“You may remember a slight gambling problem we introduced in 1993. We weren’t sure about that, but you had been too goody-goody until then. We needed a little conflict. The public ate it up.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“Sorry, but remember how we wrote you out of that. We went right into the baseball episodes. The guy who dreamed that up became a millionaire many times over. You and the Bulls had won three straight titles, and people were bored. That was ’93 and we almost pulled the plug there, but the gambling/baseball story line worked beautifully. Showed you as fallible, while also setting the stage for the comeback. And when you did come back, wow, numbers through the roof.”
“So, the 55 points against the Knicks in the Garden in ’95? . . .”
“Nice touch, eh? That was your fifth game back. You’ll remember you hit a game-winner against Atlanta in your fourth game, but we wanted to save the biggest splash for New York. We weren’t about to waste your 55 in a game against someone like Golden State. The whole idea was to have you come through in the best settings, under the most pressure.”
“Wait a minute. Are you telling you gave me the flu before Game 5 against the Jazz in ’97?”
“Michael, you don’t seem to understand how hard it’s been to dream up new things for you. Yes, they wrote in the flu episode, but don’t forget you scored 38 points that night and most people said it was the most courageous game you ever played.”
“Is everything about me fiction?”
“Just the sports, Mike. America wants sports heroes. They want people to come through, but no one can come through all the time. So, we picked you to do just that. In some ways, you ought to feel honored. Or, maybe you didn’t notice that statue of yourself outside the arena in Chicago.”
“And it’s over now?”
“They’re creatively drained. The story line had you wearing out in ’97, but they brought you back this year. But all the producers could think of for the championship was to have you score 45 points and hit the shot with five seconds left. They knew the well had run dry. Let me tell you, they had plenty of trouble convincing the Karl Malone character to tank it the first couple games.”
“I’m stunned. I never suspected a thing, but I guess it’s better that I know. Except, now I’m curious. Was I coming back next season or not?”
“Not sure. They had a focus group trying to decide.”
Dana Parsons’ column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by calling (714) 966-7821 or by writing to him at the Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org