Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Michael Jordan Is My Homeboy

When I was a senior in high school, I began writing for the newspaper in my hometown. I covered mostly small potatoes – high school and community college sports. The work was by no means glamorous, but for a budding reporter with no experience whatsoever, it was the perfect start. I took it seriously and believed sincerely at the time that my writing was as good as it was ever going to be – although when I look back at some of my old clips, I can barely get through the first paragraph without cringing at the klutzy, amateurish prose.

The paper couldn’t pay me for the work I did but on occasion offered to score me a press pass so I could cover professional sporting events in Los Angeles. Naturally, I was thrilled with that arrangement. My good fortune enabled me to come in close contact with many of the city’s larger-than-life sports heroes of the late 1980s – Bo Jackson, Marcus Allen, Orel Hershiser, Tommy Lasorda, Wayne Gretzky. Each time I got near one of these athletes, I became hopelessly paralyzed by their star power. I could almost never muster the gonads to ask even a single question because I was so star-struck and in awe. I merely stuck my little tape recorder out and waited for the athletes to answer the other reporters’ questions.

In 1989, I begged my editor to let me cover a Los Angeles Clippers game against the Chicago Bulls, an opportunity that would give me a chance to talk to my hero, Michael Jordan. He agreed and on a rainy night in February I drove my shit brown Ford Granada to the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The Bulls won the game handily, with Jordan torching the Clippers all night long. But a Clippers player named Ron Harper came up with a strong effort in defeat, scoring 36 points. In the Clippers locker room after the game, Harper was predictably asked if his big night was somehow motivated by playing against the likes of Jordan. He coyly paid homage to Jordan’s greatness but said he plays hard every night. I saw my lead in his answer. I was going to ask Jordan if he got excited to play against Ron Harper.

As I walked through the underground tunnel that led from the Clippers locker room to the visiting team’s locker room, I chastised myself. If I had an opportunity to speak to Michael Jordan and blew it, I would never be able to live with myself. This was the seminal moment of my life – as a reporter, as a man. I had to come through for myself.

A throng of 15 reporters stood waiting at Jordan’s locker. He emerged fully dressed – a stark contrast from the habit of most professional athletes, who walk around butt naked, scratching their balls and flicking their teammates in the bare ass with their towels. When Jordan appeared, my palms began to sweat. My heart raced. I became light-headed and feared for a moment that I was about to shit my clothes in the presence of the greatest athlete in the history of sport.

The beat writers from LA and Chicago began to question Jordan about the game and his play as if he was just another schmendrick off the street. Did they not know who they were speaking to? I didn’t even hear his answers. I was fighting nerves and paralysis and the overwhelming urge to ask him to autograph my forehead in permanent ink.

Finally there was an uncomfortable silence – a common occurrence when reporters have asked an athlete every possible question about every fathomable element of a game – and it appeared that the opportunity was about to vanish. I pounced.

“Um, Michael,” I said, my voice quivering, “Ron Harper said he tends to get a little more, you know, pumped up when he plays against you. Do you get pumped up to play against him, too?”

Silence. The heads of the seasoned reporters from the LA Times and Chicago Tribune swiveled in my direction, perhaps wondering who let the towel boy in here to do interviews? My eyes stayed on Jordan’s, praying to God and Ronald McDonald and John Wooden and Buddha and whoever else would listen that Jordan wouldn’t laugh me out of the building. He sat there, clearly seeing that he held my life in his hands, and then he answered:

“Well, Ron and I have played against each other many times and I don’t think my game changes that much,” Michael Jordan said. To me!

I smiled.

He answered! I did it! I spoke to No. 23! And he spoke back! In your face, bitches!

When I returned to the newspaper office the next day, my editor sat me down. Seems someone read my name off my press pass and complained that my questions were too sophomoric. I wasn’t allowed to cover anymore Clippers game after that, which was fine with me because the Clippers SUCK! and a serious journalist like me, who had interviewed MICHAEL MOTHERFUCKING JORDAN!, was more interested in the Lakers anyway.


At 1:22 PM, Blogger honestyrain said...

wow. you are a rock star. that is tres cool. i've never interviewed anyone. hey, maybe i can interview the guy who interviewed michael jordan.... my first question...

can i come live in your no snow california garage?

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember that Ford. Hey watch the Clipper bashing...they play hard each night, and are buying into Dunleavy's techniques....true they have gone on a skid since starting strong, but I think they have a shot at that #8 spot in the west....them or the Lakers that is.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Harry said...

Now see, I hate basketball almost as much as I hate barney (no caps for that fat lizard), but I do enjoy hearing about such subjects from someone that has something interesting to say.

What next? Opera? Ophra? Okra? (No, wait...I like okra)

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, whose "shit brown Ford Granada" was that? Did you not borrow said gigante cruise-mobile from your ever loving big sis? Where's the love? Where's the gratitude?

At 8:10 AM, Blogger Mrs.Strizzay said...

I would totally ask Micheal if he would be my sugar daddy. Please Micheal!!!


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