Charles P. Pierce doesn’t like capitalism very much
Pierce — who writes for the Boston Globe Magazine, Esquire. and appears regularly on National Public Radio, has a truly bizarre Slate essay that takes aim at Michael Jordan. What, exactly, has Jordan done to incur Pierce’s wrath? He’s expanding his business empire: Michael Jordan, a once-famous basketball personage, announced last week that he had ...
Pierce -- who writes for the Boston Globe Magazine, Esquire. and appears regularly on National Public Radio, has a truly bizarre Slate essay that takes aim at Michael Jordan. What, exactly, has Jordan done to incur Pierce's wrath? He's expanding his business empire:
Pierce — who writes for the Boston Globe Magazine, Esquire. and appears regularly on National Public Radio, has a truly bizarre Slate essay that takes aim at Michael Jordan. What, exactly, has Jordan done to incur Pierce’s wrath? He’s expanding his business empire:
Michael Jordan, a once-famous basketball personage, announced last week that he had teamed up with a Chicago development firm to build a brand-new casino resort about a half-block east of Caesars Palace, just off the Strip, in Las Vegas. There is no place in America demonstrably more homogenized or more corporatized than Vegas. Logos have swarmed in from every point on the compass. Las Vegas now differs from, say, Charlotte only in that it has casinos instead of Gaps and Banana Republics, except that it has those, too. This is Michael Jordan’s kind of sin. This is Michael Jordan’s kind of town. The last couple of months have been a triumph of banality, even by Jordan’s standards, which always have been considerable. He’s lent his name to a motorcycle racing team; Michael Jordan Motorsports began testing at Daytona on Jan. 3. He’s turned up at his son’s basketball games, complete with an entourage to shoo away the curious. He appeared on My Wife and Kids, a truly godawful ABC sitcom on which his fellow guest stars included Al Sharpton and Wayne Newton, who at least share a similar taste in pompadours and amulets. And now, he will bring to Las Vegas yet another banging, clanging neon corral, with a fitness center, a spa, and a rooftop nightclub. The surprise is not that Michael Jordan has become such an unremarkable, boring old suit. The surprise is that we ever saw him any other way. Michael Jordan was a great player. He also was a great salesman. And that was all he ever was, and that seems to be all that he ever will be. There’s nothing wrong with that. He made some great plays and some pretty good commercials. Has anyone so completely dominated his sport and left so small a mark upon it? From the very beginning of his professional career, and long before he’d won anything at all, Michael Jordan and his handlers worked so diligently at developing the brand that it ultimately became impossible to remember where the logo left off and the person began. He talked like a man raised by focus groups. He created a person without edges, smooth and sleek and without any places for anyone to get a grip on him. He was roundly, perfectly manufactured, and he was cosseted, always, by his creators and his caretakers, against the nicks and dings that happen to any other public person. He held himself aloof from the emerging hip-hop culture that became—for good and ill—the predominant culture of the NBA. Remember, he once warned us, Republicans buy shoes, too. He always sold himself to people older than he was.
How dare Jordan cater to old fans!!! I’m genuinely baffled by Pierce’s claim in the piece that “there’s nothing wrong” with Jordan just being a great player and great salesman — because the entire essay is devoted to saying that those things are somewhow wrong. Furthermore, even on this plane of analysis, Pierce tries to diminish Jordan’s effect as a pitchman, when in fact his effect overshadowed every other athlete up to his time (click here for the whole story). The fact that Jordan was perhaps the first African-American sports figure to be able to achieve such a high-demand status within the corporate world goes unremarked by Pierce as well. As for Jordan’s business ventures since his retirement, I’ll let these words from Magic Johnson speak for themselves:
When I was an NBA player, I was always dreaming of business plans. As a black man you have to. Minorities make money, but we don’t generate wealth. But a business generates wealth—it is power, it is something that you can pass on to the next generation. That is what is needed in the black community. We can pass on problems—it’s about time we passed on wealth.
Side note: I’m personally very, very grateful to Magic — thanks to his Urban Coffee Opportunities program, the Hyde Park neighborhood has more places to get a decent cup of coffee. Click here for another blog response to the Pierce essay.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
More from Foreign Policy
Can Russia Get Used to Being China’s Little Brother?
The power dynamic between Beijing and Moscow has switched dramatically.
Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World
It’s become more important than Washington’s official alliances today.
It’s a New Great Game. Again.
Across Central Asia, Russia’s brand is tainted by Ukraine, China’s got challenges, and Washington senses another opening.
Iraqi Kurdistan’s House of Cards Is Collapsing
The region once seemed a bright spot in the disorder unleashed by U.S. regime change. Today, things look bleak.