- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

Michael Jordan is too old and creaky to enlist in the armed services, so he has elected to lift the spirits on Fun Street.
The best basketball player there ever was is back, not wiser, obviously, if the purpose is to replicate who he was.
This promises to be mini-Jordan, or Jordan Lite, less imposing and dominant, more susceptible to the vagaries of his 38 years. His body issued a number of warnings during the summer by way of back spasms, two broken ribs and tendinitis in the knee.
Jordan is more than three years removed from his last official foray in short pants. His was a storybook exit, excluding the push off on Bryon Russell before he hit the game-winning shot against the Jazz.
Ahmad Rashad could have cried at the time. Men wanted to have Jordan's next baby. The irony was lost on feminists, too busy with trying to interpret the meaning of Monica's beret and Madonna's highway cones.
That was a very long time ago, and a very different country, consumed as it was by the absurd, trivial and banal.
Jordan made his announcement by fax, perhaps an indication of where he thinks he fits in the big picture. Or perhaps it is a habit. His last comeback announcement, in 1995, was made by fax as well.
His latest comeback is not the happening it might have been before Sept. 11, 2001. Now it is virtually anticlimatic, with Osama bin Laden and his kind still breathing and America engulfed in so much uncertainty.
Jordan's inclination to tease the public, inadvertent or not, became exhausting as well. No one likes a basketball tease. No one likes Barbara Lee, either, except the likeminded in Berkeley, Calif. There, they chant, "One, two, three, four, we don't want your racist war."
Can we deport these people to Kabul, Afghanistan, where the Taliban would be happy to house these people before providing a bullet to the back of their brains?
So concludes the business of Jordan's return being one-tenth of one percent. He is usually better with numbers than that, No. 23 in the scorebook and No. .001 in Washington's heart.
Welcome back anyway, your airness, assuming you left your upper-case Airness in Chicago. It is pretty much you against the rest of the NBA, no Zen about it, taking into account the barely significant others in uniform: the recent high school graduate, the Christian, one of Jerry's kids and Richard Hamilton, no relation to Leonard.
No word yet on if the team warrants a prediction of a playoff berth from Jordan. Not that you can bet on his psychic ability. Jordan missed his last prediction by only about a zillion games. The team went 19-63 last season after Rod Strickland, Jordan's pet project, came down with a bad case of the hiccups.
The real test for Jordan comes in March, long after the novelty of his return has been replaced by a series of hard truths. March is about when NBA geezers, especially guards, start to lose their legs. The Jazzmen, led as they are by John Stockton and Karl Malone, have spent the last three springs dealing with this unyielding fact.
The physical toll probably goes double for Jordan, given the load he is liable to carry amid the unspoken threat from coach Doug Collins to leak tears.
Yet the team is bound to be stronger and more intriguing, which is no small development following a generation's worth of missteps. The last time the franchise won a playoff series was in 1982, in a best-of-three format that no longer exists.
Jordan's motto is: If you can't help them from the front office, you join them on the floor. That is preferable to the alternative.
His 20-month tenure as the team's director of basketball operations has been unremarkable, spent mostly to lower the payroll and his golf handicap.
Jordan claims on one occasion to have tossed a few items in disgust at a television set tuned to the Wizards. The reaction, however understandable, did not help the team or the television set.
If it matters, Dennis Rodman is still available, and still going by his birth name after vowing to legally change it to Orgasm. The chuckle factor is not unimportant in his case, his relief more comic than genuine after 40 birthday parties.
Jordan's relief effort is agreeable to a city that misses the NBA.

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