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I will readily acknowledge that I was a competitive moron when I was young. And then, when I got into my teens, I was less so. I have some theories as to why things played out that way for me and how it factored into being a fan.
I picked up that moniker at camp and it definitely fit, for a while. It wasn't just that I was goofily competitive, it was that I got way too upset when my team lost games that simply did not qualify as important in any way, shape or form.
We've discussed the sort of "water polo" we played at Camp Echo in Fremont, Michigan, before. There was a goal at either end of the shallowest portion of the swimming area and teams of five or six would compete to score the most in a given time period with pretty much no holds barred.
So when I overdid it at times and my team wasn't winning and the staff member who was overseeing a given game instructed me to take a break, I would sit there on the beach (the camp trucked in a whole lotta sand to transform what was otherwise a standard freshwater lakeshore) crying my eyes out.
One part of the Last Dance that I wish was longer (probably the only part - it is kind of incredible how long this mega-series is, even in these extraordinary times. I wouldn't want to be a part of adding more than a minute or two to it) is the early examination of the sibling relationships in Michael Jordan's childhood home.
That dynamic, as it does in so many such origin stories of hyper-competitive people, contributed a ton to the future basketball star's unquenchable desire to win at everything.
In the portions of interviews that did air, Jordan's brothers made it clear that the third son of James and Deloris Jordan didn't have it easy growing up in Wilmington, N.C. When older brother Larry competed with Michael in whatever (especially basketball of course) he never took it easy on him. That meant the little brother suffered loss after loss for a long time.
And when Michael went to his dad to complain about it, James Jordan wasn't sympathetic. When he had heard enough from his youngest son after he complained again about Larry, James Jordan said he would advise Michael to either get over it or to take his case to his mother. It may have been borderline sexist but James Jordan was obviously implying that Jordan's complaints were weak and therefore only a mom would be willing to listen to them.
There has been some backlash this week to the idea that Michael Jordan had the success that he had primarily because of his relentless drive for excellence. A variety of sources have argued that Jordan was as good as he was primarily because of athleticism and talent. As someone who quickly turns down the sound when commentators start talking about one professional team wanting a given win more than another - something that isn't actually a factor at least 90 percent of the time - I believe that complaint has some merit.
As usual, the answer lies somewhere in between, i.e., Jordan was able to lift his team to championships six times in eight years because of a combination of his talent and his determination. And with that in mind, you would think that Jordan's inability to lift his team to even consistent competitiveness as an owner would have driven him crazy by now and would have him on the verge of selling the Hornets.
If I could ask Jordan one question in the aftermath of the first eight episodes of The Last Dance, it would be if he would cut Jerry Krause more slack if he had a chance to do everything over again knowing what he knows now. Because surely even Michael Jordan would be humbled at least a bit by the fact that he has been such a failure as an NBA executive. Surely he would be more appreciative of the amazing work that Krause did as general manager of Jordan's championship teams with that sort of hindsight, wouldn't he?
I actually wouldn't bet on it. Saying that sort of thing would be a kind of admitting defeat. And Jordan almost certainly wouldn't do it.
A similar sort of foolish pride on the part of Jordan's primary teammate led to the most pathetic line so far in the entire mega-series. That was when Scottie Pippen almost unbelievably said that if he had it to do over again, he would do the same thing in regards to his infamous decision to quit on his team in the 1994 playoffs.
That was when Pippen became offended that Phil Jackson drew up a play with Toni Kukoc taking the last shot in a conference semifinal game against the Knicks and refused to throw the inbounds pass. In fact, he refused to get up off the bench. That single play is one of the reasons Pippen doesn't get the respect that he at least partially deserves as one of the 30 greatest players in NBA history.
But enough about the championship Bulls, what about me? The main question here is if an athlete is happier when he competes maniacally practically every day. If he is able to do that, he's almost certainly pile up more wins.
When I got to middle school and then more so in high school, I didn't lose it when my soccer, basketball or baseball teams lost. Maybe that was just the standard maturation process but I also think I made an at least partially conscious choice to dial it down. Meanwhile I was still crazy for victories from the professional teams that I rooted for.
Do we think Michael Jordan is as happy as he can be in the aftermath of all of his championships and given the fact that most people still think he is the Basketball GOAT (greatest of all time of course)? Or would he be happier if he had found a way to dial it down at least a little during his playing career?
It is clear that he has some regrets about his competitiveness, and what must be described as his immaturity. Hell, the only time I can remember so far when he decided to abruptly stop one of the interviews he did for the Dance was when he became emotional while trying to justify mistreating teammates. Jordan would never, ever, ever admit it, but you wonder if he had it to do it over again if he would have come back to basketball for the second threepeat.
There's a pretty good chance he would have been happier overall if he'd been able to stick with baseball, getting the 1,000 at-bats that Terry Francona believed he needed to be good enough to hit respectably in the majors.
Not that Jordan would ever admit it.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
Adelyn Vigil sometimes dreams of volleyball. Texas Republicans are standing in her way.Continue reading "'Just Let Me Play Sports'" »
Posted on Oct 11, 2021