Saturday, September 30, 2006

My MJ Fetish

Just finished reading an article at The Chicago Sports Review about a significant occurance in the time/space continuum that is sports and entertainment: Michael Jordan's turn as host of Saturday Night Live, and it got me reminiscing.

The article goes on to state that the congealing of four of the most socially and culturally significant African-Americans of the time -- Jessie Jackson , Spike Lee, Public Enemy and the aforementioned MJ -- on the SNL set was the height of the athlete as the major power broker in the cultural circus of politics, cinema, music and athletics. The four men taking part in that SNL on September 28, 1991, represented the peak of their respective professions for African-Americans, and yet MJ somehow transcended the racial aspect SNL unseemingly chose to portray.

From the mid '80s to thru the early '90s, I was what you would call a wannabe. (People like I acted are now called wiggers. You figure it out.) I bounced to the beat of Run-DMC, LL Cool J and A Tribe Called Quest. My favorite television shows were "The Arsenio Hall Show", "In Living Color" and "Yo! MTV Raps". My favorite actor at the time was Eddie Murphy. I lived and breathed African-American culture, was heavy into the house music dance scene and spoke the urban parlance of the day all in an attempt to be more "black". That I lived in an urban community like Chicago made it all the more easy to assimilate into the culture without much fear of prejudicial reprecussions.

And the reason I give the biographical info is to state the reason for my infatuation: Michael Jordan.

Unless you lived with your head in the ground in Chicago in the last two decades, you couldn't help but notice the spectacle that is MJ. Forget the Nike Air Jordan stuff. Take away the colorful commercials, the ads, the ubiquitous pitchman stuff, and you still have the greatest single basketball talent the world has ever seen. And that just doesn't go unnoticed by a city starved for sporting success after the '85 Chicago Bears.

Fast forward to today and the reading of the aforementioned article about MJ's SNL appearance. I remember the show vividly and not because you can find SNL rerunned into the ground on E!. The night it originally aired I taped it on my VCR (for those who don't know, that's the machine we used to watch movies and record t.v. shows before there were DVDs and TiVo) and saved the tape for posterity. And now I can look back and laugh at my obsession with MJ, and obession that led me to get the Nike Air Jordan symbol tattooed to my chest.

Here's the original picture/ posture that the symbol is based on.

But what a crazy obsession it was. I remember waiting for the new Air Jordans to come out each year, begging my parents to buy them for me. And when I grew older and learned the value of a dollar, and the price of shoes reached that of a small car payment, I stopped buying them (Air Jordan XII's were the last). My obsession included covering the walls and ceiling of my boyhood room with every newspaper clipping, poster, and empty Air Jordan shoebox I could find. My obsession made me turn on my childhood love of baseball and proclaim hoops as the greatest game on earth. I spent hour upon hour at Rice Park and the Oak Lawn Pavillion perfecting my skills to the extent that I awoke earlier on off days from high school just so I could play hoops with my buddies at the Pavillion from the moment it opened -- 6AM -- til the moment they closed open gym -- usually between 4 and 5 PM.

One of the meanest pranks my friends ever played on me was telling me MJ was shot and killed. At the time we were at a teen dance club (Rock A-B's), and I raced over to the car to scour news radio for the dire details. I spent an hour in the car before my friends let my sobbing ass in on the joke. Bastards. And I remember the phone call from a friend the day MJ retired for the first time. I thought the same joke was being played on me, but to my heart's dismay I was wrong. Yes, I cried again.

But the obsession has faded somewhat in the adult years. Gambling habits and marital infidelities have diminished the infallible MJ I once worshipped. His playing stint with the Washington Wizards taught me a valuable lesson about disappointment and loss, and his reticence for the spotlight and neutrality in more weighty issues have given me pause for liking Michael Jordan the man as opposed to MJ the athlete.

The article did bring me back, though, and I found myself recalling the good old days of Chicago Bulls and MJ dominance.

Maybe this new group of Bulls can ween me off my reliance for the Dynasty teams as the White Sox 2005 World Series Champs helped.

Otherwise I may never be able to scratch off this tattoo over my heart.


Blogger Jeeves said...

I still remember shedding a tear when MJ retired the first time.

5:25 PM, September 30, 2006  
Blogger Soxually Repressed said...

Chee, where to start? Oh, how about you grow up in a lily-white collar suburb of Chicago. Rice Park and O.L. Pavillion are both located in (especially at the time) lily-white suburbs.

Plus, back in those days (yes, we are officially old enough to have "back in the day" now), tons of kids our age were into the culture i.e. the movies, music, and clothes, etc. As edgy as it then seemed, rap was less hostlie for the most part. Public Enemy and EPMD were balanced out by Young M.C. and Kid'N'Play. M.C. Hammer was considered sort of hardcore. In short (not Too Short), it wasn't so amazing to be involved in that culture. I was. Now, if you were a teen today, you would so be a wannabe (cue Offspring). So don't be quite so hard on yourself.

But I digress... At least you have it on VHS. We know SOMEBODY that has it on BETAMAX.

Oh, and baseball is still the most pure and original of the major American sports.

1:56 PM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

'm not saying hoops are perfect but baseball is...

pure as in steroids
original as in based on cricket

and mc hammer was as hardcore as my skin is black

9:04 AM, October 02, 2006  
Blogger Soxually Repressed said...

Baseball, the physical fielding existence, yes, most pure. Actually, more based on rounders, even though more people are familiar with cricket. Most other major sports are end-to-end, goal-to-goal oriented. Not so with baseball.
Steroids have infected many sports, notably, football long ago.
When Hammer put out "Turn this Mutha Out", kids might not have said "Wow, scary black man," but many of their parents did. All I'm saying.

4:24 PM, October 02, 2006  

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