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Why has Jordan been grounded during Olympic effort?
By Chuck Goudie | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/21/2009 12:29 AM | Updated: 9/21/200 8:23 AM

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It didn't have the dastardly sound of "you lie!" nor did it result in a public spanking, but Michelle Obama used the word "pathetic" the other day when referring to the president.

Maybe you heard her say it during the Chicago 2016 Olympic Hunt at the White House. Her husband Barack was indeed looking awkward at the time, using a toy sword to fake joust with a world class fencer.

"Pathetic" the Missus called it. But this isn't about who can get away with calling the president names. That is for Congress and talk-radio to legislate. When I heard Mrs. Obama invoke the word "pathetic" at a Chicago 2016 Olympic event, I actually hoped she was referring to Michael Jordan.

Pathetic is the only word to describe Mr. Jordan's role in the intensive effort to land The Games in Chicago. Jordan has been borderline unresponsive to Chicago Olympic officials, according to one keen observer who has been tracking the mission since it began a few years ago.

Even as the Chicago 2016 committee has cleared hurdle after hurdle without Jordan's active participation, officials have been dumbfounded as to why Chicago's sports ambassador par excellence is stiffing them.

Except for one uninspired videotaping by Mr. Air Jordan, he has been off-the-air when it comes to the 2016 Olympics. Talk about hang-time; Jordan has left Chicago Olympic backers hanging to the end.

Unlike the Obama's, Oprah or the other O'Chicagoans who have been enlisted to back the 2016 campaign, for some reason The Greatest Basketball Player of All Time is on the bench. Whether President Obama ends up attending the final, early October push in Copenhagen, Jordan certainly has more Olympic entitlement than any other Chicagoan including Obama.

Even though he was born in Brooklyn, raised in North Carolina and now apparently lives in Miami with his muchacha-girlfriend, Jordan is known around the world as a Chicagoan. To millions of people Jordan has bumped off Al Capone as the face of Chicago because of his thrilling years with the Bulls and the teams' six NBA World Championships.

Jordan played on two spectacular United States Olympic basketball teams; 1984 in Los Angeles and 1992 in Barcelona. He has two Gold Medals to prove it and a 16-0 lifetime record. The questions about Michael Jordan's reluctance to extend a hand began in April, when the Olympic evaluation committee visited Chicago. The members' last stop during the crucial trip to Chicago was the United Center-known as "the house that Michael built."

But the builder himself wasn't there and Jordan's absence was impossible to miss ­- or explain. At a dinner for Olympic evaluators during that trip, world TV maven Oprah Winfrey appeared live and in person. Jordan was shown in a video message. But the real message was: what could have been more important to Jordan than being there? Olympic organizers were asking the same question at last month's Olympic Hall of Fame induction in Chicago.

Not only was it the final Chicago fundraiser before the 2016 decision, Jordan and his 1992 "Dream Team" mates were among those being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Three thousand, six-hundred people attended the event. Jordan wasn't one of them. Maybe he was exhausted after hanging out with former NBA star Charles Oakley on Rush St. the night before.

The pair was seen dining at Gibsons. I know that Jordan is a civilian and prefers to spend time playing golf and gambling. Last weekend he was at a celebrity golf and poker event in Minnesota.

I know that he has no responsibility to serve or give back anything to the Olympic movement or to the city that was just a backdrop for his empire-building. So what if he won't attend the Copenhagen announcement a week from Friday? If President Obama can threaten to stay home to tend to the health care legislation then why can't Jordan stay behind to rest up for the President's Cup golf tournament?

Jordan committed a year and a half ago to be an assistant team captain for Fred Couples, Tiger Woods and the Americans when they challenge an international field for the President's Cup. Tournament week begins in San Francisco a few days after the Olympic announcement in Copenhagen. So there would be jet lag and all.

"I heard I have no choice because I'm part of it. Yes I plan on coming," Jordan said a year ago when asked about the President's Cup. "I can't wait" he told a reporter in July when asked again. Could be the Chicago 2016 Olympic organizers are better off without Jordan anyway? His last public appearance was an ungracious, discourteous and impolite acceptance speech at the NBA Hall of Fame a few weeks ago. And he still has a voracious appetite for gambling.

Do the U.S. Olympic folks, already beat up over performance-enhancing drugs and the Michael Phelps bong incident, actually want to entertain questions about whether Jordan wagers on the javelin toss? During that recent NBA Hall of Fame trip, Jordan reportedly didn't need a hotel room.

He just pulled an all-nighter in the casino. Nothing wrong with that. He can do whatever he wants. But considering all this, if Chicago gets the games then somebody ought to put the Jordan statue in storage for a few weeks during the summer of 2016.

• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by e-mail at chuckgoudie@gmail.com and followed at twitter.com/ChuckGoudie.