No Time To Be An Airhead

January 18, 1999

Michael Jordan has people who wax his wheels and shine his shoes
and buff his brass. He has people who fashion his clothes and
tend his toes and powder his nose. He has three guys to watch
his back and three his front and one just to let him win at
Scrabble. Too bad he doesn't have anybody to tell him when he's
being a jerk.

Last June he won his sixth NBA title with a steal and a jumper
in the last 41 seconds. Afterward he said he'd think a little
and then let everybody know if he was going to retire. That was
seven months ago.

Seven months ago! Carmen Electra has been married and annulled
11 times since then! Your new Pentium 4000X PowerLap will be
obsolete in less time! The Malaysian red-eared sloth gestates,
delivers and expires in less than seven months! Thank God,
Jordan's not working the ER.

Nurse: Dr. Jordan! This kid's in big trouble! What should we do?

Jordan: Ummm, well, let me run that by Charles and get back to
you.

It's not as if this was Sophie's Choice. It was either a) play
the game of your life, hold the pose and retire in eye-aching
glory, or b) come back for a sawed-off season full of puffy
daddies stumbling around for teams Scotch-taped together at a
chaotic two-week yard sale. We'll give you all the time you
need. Is 10 seconds enough?

Not that anybody was eager to hear. Just the NBA, NBC, the
Chicago Bulls, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, 198 other free
agents, Dow Jones, America, the world and Radio Free Neptune.

You say, Wait a minute! Michael was just holding off to bolster
the players' position during negotiations to end the lockout!

Some bolstering. The players crumbled like Roquefort.

Not long ago Jordan said he'd announce his decision when the
lockout ended. It ended. Jordan was playing golf in the Bahamas.
The next day Jordan was still playing golf in the Bahamas. The
next day nobody seemed to know where he was. The Bulls said they
weren't lifting a hoof until they heard from Jordan. The league
froze. A whole line of free agents bumped into the back of one
another. For Jordan it must've been some wonderful ego trip: the
world waiting for you on one crammed corner, rain dripping off
guys' hats as each of them lifted his watch to his ear to see if
the damn thing was still ticking. "Scottie's been trying to
reach him," Jimmy Sexton, Pippen's agent, said three days after
the agreement was reached. "Nobody knows where he is."

Can you believe that? Here was Pippen, without whom Jordan's
fingers go naked, ready to finally step forward and cash his
first big lotto ticket (Pippen made $30 million less than Jordan
in salary alone last season), and Jordan left him cooling in the
lobby.

And you are...?

It's not just Pippen. The Bulls have four signed players. Four!
Currently the second Luv-a-Bull from the right is scheduled to
start at power forward. Club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf didn't
know whether to reload or rebuild. "I'm going to talk to Michael
directly," he said, "or through somebody."

That's nice. The guy who's paid you $63 million over the last
two seasons has to talk to you through your valet? Jordan has
talked to Daffy Duck more than Reinsdorf in the last six months.

And what about poor Tim Floyd, Chicago's
coach-in-perpetual-waiting? He's still director of basketball
operations, "just in case Michael wants to name his own coach,"
said one Bulls executive. In this way Jordan is able to jerk
around his owner, his best teammate and his coach! It's Sock
Puppet Theater!

Meanwhile, NBC, which has airbrushed every Jordan zit into a
dimple for 10 years, was forced to arrange, in effect, two
schedules, one with the Bulls in practically every network game
and one without. The NBA had to prepare two marketing
campaigns--The NBA: I Love This Game! and Will Perdue Fever:
Catch It! Slumping Nike didn't know whether to lace Jordan's
line of shoes or the vat of Kool-Aid.

It's our fault, really. When everybody from Boulder to Beijing
treats you as if you're the most wonderful creature since
Siddhartha, maybe you forget that the world is not your personal
spittoon.

Hey, Mike, you sure this is the game you love?

(Get back to us in seven months.)

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA [Rick Reilly]

Not long ago Jordan said he'd announce his decision when the
lockout ended. It's not as if this was Sophie's Choice.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)