So This Is Retirement?: Jordan hangs out in a PC room stairwell.
Yesterday I wandered up a random set of stairs because sometimes random sets of stairs need to be wondered upon, and lo and behold what did I find staring back at me on the second floor landing but a life-sized replica of Michael Jordan. Actually, there’s no way of knowing for sure if was truly Michael Jordan because the number was inverted and the name replaced on the jersey, but let’s just call this one a hunch.
Once I got over the initial shock of seeing his slightly terrifying visage frozen forever in shiny plastic, I couldn’t help but feel the slightest bit of sadness tugging at me. After all, Michael Jordan used to be one of my boyhood heroes. I used to go down to the nearby school yard and pretend we were playing on the same team, even calling out fake play-by-play just like Marv Albert. I never actually pretended to be Jordan himself (that would have done him a great disservice) but rather the guy that was partly responsible for his great games and massive success; more like a Pippen than his Royal Airness. I would make ghost-passes to myself pretending to set up ghost give-and-go’s or fundamentally sound ghost pick-and-rolls. When I missed, fake Jordan got the board, when fake Jordan missed I was there for the put-back. It’s what little boys do, and I did it exceedingly well. Sometimes when I was all tuckered out after a few hours of shooting I would just sit on the steps near the rusty hoop with the chain netting and imagine what I would say in the post-game interview. “My shot was a bit off, but thankfully Mike was there to bail me out,” I would think to myself. “He really knows how to take over a game.” I was always gracious, but I knew he’d say the same about me. In reality, time spent down at the schoolyard was really less basketball than it was a highly choreographed form of daydreaming.
And now here we are some 15-odd years later, standing face to face outside a forgettable PC room in a dusty stairwell in a backwater town in South Korea. We’re surrounded by beaten up old sofas, junk boxes and other assorted garbage; it’s like we’re stuck in the middle of some permanent garage sale. Unflattering florescent lights buzz away in the background. My one-time hero has become someone else’s afterthought. I used to to imagine what it would be like to meet this man – to shake his hand, to play some one on one – but I gotta say, I never pictured it like this.