13 Jan 1999: Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls during a press conference to anounce Jordans retirement at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Marcus Musings: ‘The Last Dance’ last thoughts and a positive sign for fall sports

With a day to reflect on the documentary about Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls — and hopefully a day closer to a return to normal life as we continue to wade through the coronavirus pandemic — let’s have another thought dump…. 

  • Ending a “The Last Dance” documentary about something that happened 22 years ago with a Pearl Jam song called “Present Tense” initially seemed odd, but maybe it makes sense. On its face that’s super ironic, right? But maybe that’s what the filmmakers were going for? I guess the point of that song, which was a rare good moment on the first of many terrible Pearl Jam albums released since, is to live in the moment, and that is what we’re told was a key to Jordan’s success. 
  • In the years since, “Trust the process” has become the default mode for most successful athletes and coaches. I never remember hearing it much then. Jordan did not have that zen that some successful athletes give off now. He was more one to attack the moment, though he did grow to become the master of running the show without stealing it, at least until it was time to do so. 
  • Jordan did play with a certain confidence. He carried a certain air that told you he felt things were going to work out for him, and then they did. Hard work, sacrifice and learning from failure were all major factors in his success. So there was a certain amount of trust the process on him even if it was raw. A rough draft perhaps? 
  • I guess that song makes sense because that was what made Jordan great, and this was not supposed to be an attempt to look at where those Bulls fit into today. Jordan had to sign off on it, so we knew it wouldn’t be a journalistic tour de force and that’s fine. Though necessary, of course, journalism tends to suck the fun out of things — sometimes without much payoff, especially if we’re taking about something non-serious like sports — anyway. 
  • Ending on what made Jordan great (and I liked finishing with that quote from the rookie Jordan about his goal to put the franchise into the Lakers/Celtics/76ers territory) obviously makes sense because the whole point of the documentary was to remind us why we were captivated by him and those teams while also giving us a few insights into them from clips of the time and interviews of the present. And that it did for sure. 
  • Watching those Bulls teams was fun, and so was reliving those days, especially now. I made a point of enjoying it rather then trying to find every flaw or anticipating flaws others would want to bring up (so avoiding Twitter was essential, of course). I need to take that into more coverage of games and events in the present and future as well. 
  • I knew the Pacers were good but I forgot about Chris Mullen and Jalen Rose being on that team. They were REALLY good! I also might have under appreciated Reggie Miller since he was “just a 3-point shooter,” which means something different now than it did then. 
  • As a 15-year-old Bulls fan I remember thinking that Pacers series was one that was largely decided by when the refs decided to call fouls. This was a common feeling with the NBA playoffs then even in series I wasn’t rooting for one of the teams. Google Lakers-Kings and Lakers-Blazers. 
  • Regarding the Jazz, “The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays” line from Scottie Pippen was left out entirely, which was borderline criminal. 
  • I had kind of forgotten the Flu Game was a game 5 and the series was tied so the stakes were extra high. Those Bulls showed their mortality more than we might remember since the whole being undefeated in the finals became such a part of the mystique. 
  • As referenced earlier, the author of the Jordan book “Rare Air” brought interesting perspective on Jordan’s great strength being his ability to be present. That is quite an insight. 
  • Maybe oddly or maybe not, that also made me think of Joe Burrow. I’m not saying he’s the next NFL answer to Jordan, but watching Jordan strut around on the court after that line made me think of Burrow at the NFL Scouting Combine in February explaining he was so good last year at LSU because of his confidence and that came from his hard work and preparation. Burrow also has a chip from past failures, fwiw, but that’s true of almost everyone, right? 
LSU quarterback who transferred from Ohio State and won the Heisman Trophy and the national championship is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the draft by the Bengals in April
  • I’m surprised Jordan was so adamant he wanted to come back to try to win a seventh title, but I’m not surprised he finds it maddening he went out at his peak. That’s why he came back and played for the Wizards, he felt he had something left. 
  • I want to keep the Jordan-LeBron stuff out of this as much as possible, but it is worth mentioning the final emphasis on what Jordan did for the Bulls as a franchise is also why LeBron’s ring chasing has been so disappointing. Jordan (and those before him) established a certain process, and it was entertaining and informative watching them go through it. It always felt like LeBron was trying to cheat the system by teaming up with not one but two superstars wherever it happened to be convenient. 
  • Regarding the return to normal, the president of the Inter-University Council told the Dayton Daily News, “…we are definitely planning on being open and having students on campus.” What is the IUC? The association that represents Ohio’s 14 public universities, including Wright State, Cincinnati and Ohio State. Lots has been written about what colleges will do this fall after ending the spring in distance learning mode, and the California State system has already announced it will not have in-person classes. I realize for the immediate future we have to reconsider the wisdom of any “nonessential” travel or gatherings, and education is tricky because it deals with the lives of young people… but I feel like in-person learning pretty much is essential for multiple reasons. 
  • First of all, I believe a significant percentage of the value of college is getting out of one’s house and being able to interact daily with a new set of people, some of whom might have a lot in common with you and some of whom likely don’t. Second of all, it’s easy to see a lot of students — especially incoming freshmen — conclude they would rather do something else than learn online, and who knows how many of them colleges will ever get back if and when things return to normal? That would make a bad financial situation worse for colleges, who are likely to be motivated to do everything they can to get students (a.k.a. paying customers) back as soon as possible. 
  • Why is a representative of Ohio’s public colleges saying they expect to have students on campus this fall important from a sports perspective? Because I still can’t see college athletics happening with closed campuses. Partially open? Maybe. I realize college athletes already are on campus at times there are few other students, and I realize there are already a lot of differences between athletes and non-athlete students so you can justify other differences. But it would just be a terrible look for colleges to push forward with athletes on campus if it is “not safe” for the general population, and there is no doubt optics matter to college presidents and other powerbrokers. 
  • The timing of a shift to more online learning (and I doubt that MORE is bad, but ALL most likely is) is of course ironic in this little corner of the world where the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry still manages to worm its way into daily discussions quite frequently. That’s because after the Buckeyes’ most recent humiliation of the Wolverines, the founder of a once-interesting Michigan blog threw all online students under the bus in his attempt to discredit Ohio State as an athletics program and a university because quarterback Justin Fields took mostly online courses last fall after transferring from Georgia. How do you like me now

“Marcus Musings” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions on various stories permeating the sports world and (hopefully) have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to marcus.hartman@coxin.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook. 

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About the Author

Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman has been a digital sports columnist and reporter at Cox Media Group Ohio since 2016. 
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