Basking in the glory of MJ

Opinion: John Rice

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

Worship services are among the many casualties of coronavirus. We can't attend but still watch online. Millions of us are attending remote worship services on Sunday nights, centering on the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have been a religion for me since the franchise was founded. Now The Last Dance allows us to bask in their most glorious years.

I also study my "bible," a 672-page biography titled, Michael Jordan, The Life by Roland Lazenby. What strikes me most is Jordan's solid upbringing. James and Deloris Jordan had a rocky relationship, but they instilled self-discipline, moral values and a fierce drive in their five children. Homework had to be finished before they could play sports. Bedtime was 8 p.m. No one could leave the house without permission.

This last rule was enacted after 2-year-old Michael wandered into the street. Michael tested his parents to the limit. As a toddler, he stepped on a live wire and was almost electrocuted. At the age of 4, he narrowly missed cutting his toe off with an axe. He also had a near-drowning experience in a pool. 

These mishaps aside, MJ excelled at Little League before developing his basketball skills. His parents made it a point to attend his games, or any other event involving their kids. They were ideal parents for youth sports. They never complained to coaches or referees. 

MJ's middle school basketball coach once asked James to tell Michael to shoot more. James said he wasn't comfortable giving his son advice about basketball. When he finally did, Michael scored a preposterous 40 points in a 24-minute game. When I watch MJ as an adult, I see many of the bedrock values instilled by his parents.  

We don't watch The Last Dance, though, to pick up parenting tips. We're simply re-living the thrills of the greatest era in sports we've ever witnessed. Like I said, my worship of the Bulls goes back to Chet Walker's head fake. I stuck with the Bulls through thick and mostly thin. When Jordan came along, my kids became instant converts.

One year, I rushed to Chicago Stadium to buy tickets the first day they went on sale. I wanted two tickets for my son Joe's birthday. The best I could do was score two "obstructed view" seats in the upper deck. It was the hardest secret I ever kept but I didn't say a word about the tickets for five months. Finally, on game night I placed the tickets under Joe's dinner plate. When he cleared the table, he was speechless. The Bulls handily beat the Milwaukee Bucks that night and Jordan scored his usual 30 points.

During the Jordan era, my friends and I worshipped the Bulls on a nightly basis. We taped the games and met up later to watch them. We prided ourselves on not knowing anything about the game until tipoff. Watching the Bulls was our entire social life. After MJ left for good, we were among a handful of Bulls fans still watching. 

We didn't expect them to win games; all we asked was that the Bulls score 20 points per quarter. Once they only scored 49 for the entire game! Whether the team was good or bad, we always had a great time attending Bulls games. This season, we sat behind the basket and distracted opposing players with our clappers. 

Now we're wandering through a sports desert and The Last Dance is our lush oasis on Sunday nights. To paraphrase a Simon & Garfunkel song, "Where have you gone, Michael Jordan? A nations turns its lonely eyes to you."  

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

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