- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

Round up the wee ones. Gather up the blasting caps. Hand out the hard hats.

The time is ripe. Ripe for Michael Jordan Demolition Night.

Let’s not mince words: His Airness hangs over the current Washington-Chicago playoff series like the Ghost of Christmas Past — that is, if said Ghost was an older brother who gave you a brand new basketball on Christmas morning, then kicked it over the backyard fence.

For the Bulls, Jordan is a legend, a bronzed demigod outside United Center, a cruel reminder of what will never be again. For the Wizards, he’s a cruel reminder of what never was in the first place: no playoffs, no winning seasons, no revitalized public schools blossoming through sheer proximity to Jordan’s magnificent presence.

What did Mr. Jordan accomplish by coming to Washington? He traded Juwan Howard and his $105billion — oops, million — contract. He advanced the art of telecommuting. As a player, he put fannies in seats. And that’s about it. The Wizards continued to stink. Our children remained troubled.

Still, give Jordan credit: he managed to sell a lot of jerseys. Too many, in fact, and by that we mean more than two (Jordan’s own, and the one Mariah Carey came thisclose to flopping out of at the 2003 All-Star Game). Simply put, Jordan Wizards jerseys — or, heaven forbid, No.23 Bullets throwback jerseys — are abominations before David Stern and man, quite possibly more repellent than Arizona Cardinals gear reading E. SMITH.

Yet peep at the crowd at MCI Center, and you’ll see dozens of Jordan jerseys, many of them presumably snapped up from the 60-percent-off, all-sales-final rack. Children, teenagers, parents. All of them living in the past.

Again, let’s not mince words: These jerseys need to be blown up. Posthaste.

Enter Jordan Demolition Night. Decades ago, the Chicago White Sox held one of the most inspired sports promotions since 10-Cent Beer Night, inviting patrons to bring their unwanted disco records to old Comiskey Park. The albums were piled up in center field, then blasted to smithereens. Disco Demolition Night. A bloody riot ensued, but no matter. The general idea was sound, embracing the present by erasing past embarrassments. With the help of dynamite.

Which is why we’re proposing a redux.

Not to belabor a point, but Washington’s Jordan era is not worth remembering, let alone wearing on one’s back. Unless you’re Abe Pollin’s accountant. Jordan was a transcendent talent. For Nike (er, and the Bulls). With the Wizards, he made Kwame Brown a No.1 pick, mostly because he beat Chicago’s Tyson Chandler in a game of one-on-one. Jannero Pargo would spank Shaquille O’Neal in a game of H-O-R-S-E; which would you rather have on your team? Jordan also gave tacit approval to a Rip Hamilton-Jerry Stackhouse swap that produced (a) one NBA title for Detroit, and (b) one sore-necked rental property manager for Atlantic Beach, N.C.

Recently, it came to light Jordan would hold up the Wizards’ team bus by as many as 90 minutes while attempting to break even in high-stakes shooting contests against Hamilton; thank goodness Jordan killed time by attempting to bank it in off the scoreboard, instead of pondering other brilliant personnel moves.

Inarguably, this is the sort of fan-scarring trauma that can only be resolved through years of expensive therapy. That or relatively inexpensive low-grade explosives.

It’s easy endorse the latter. How would Jordan Demolition Night work in practice? Easy.

First, have Amnesty International volunteers monitor the collection of Jordan jerseys from fans at MCI Center; next, dump the jerseys on center court, atop a fistful of C-4. Invite Karla Knafel to sing the national anthem. Dim the lights. Let former Wizard Christian Laettner use a burning blunt to light a long fuse; alternately, have Susan O’Malley, Brown and that guy from the City Paper who had his date stolen by Jordan join hands and press down on a blasting plunger.

Voila! Washington’s new basketball era is officially codified, and in a matter keeping with today’s preference for stadium pyrotechnics.

Oh, and Ty Nesby can coordinate security.

Of course, some nattering nabobs are bound to object. Distasteful. Disrespectful. Wildly insufficient, given that Jordan hand-picked Leonard Hamilton out of a Kangol cap. Others may note the safety risk involved. This much is true. But ask yourself: Would Jordan Demolition Night really produce more smoky haze than the current pregame fireworks? Does MCI Center’s sprinkler system even work? And more to the point, is detonating a pile of offensive laundry any more dangerous than clinging to another sorry chapter of the Wizards’ ignominious past?

You know the answer.

For the first time in forever, the Wizards are good. Really good. Young, too, with a nondysfunctional front office and a promising group of nonknucklehead players. The team’s All-Star backcourt can do more than shoot one-legged fadeaway jumpers. Also, Laettner is no longer on the roster.

Do you want to celebrate a guy like Jordan who didn’t bother to change his Illinois license plates? Or do you want to embrace the likes of Gilbert Arenas, a player who hits buzzer-beating shots that actually matter, nearly adopts a hard-luck child in the local community and promises to buy everyone at MCI Center a beer?

You still know the answer. Think about the brew.

Think, too, of the children, the impressionable naifs who were supposed to rise above crummy schools and broken homes as soon as Jordan moved into his condo at the Ritz-Carlton. Whose jersey should the little ones wear? An Antawn Jamison jersey illustrates that nice guys finish first. A Juan Dixon jersey proves the importance of perseverance. A Larry Hughes jersey shows that actions speak louder than bluster. An Arenas jersey demonstrates the value of hard work.

A Jordan jersey teaches kids to bolt from the MCI Center parking garage at the first sign of trouble, then expect the likes of Charlotte Bobcats owner Bob Johnson to give you a discounted piece of his team because you are, in fact, Michael Jordan.

(This, by the way, is why Jordan made a lot of money, and people like Pollin and Phil Knight made a lot more money off Jordan).

Needless to say, Jordan Demolition Night is bound to run into a few snags. Fans will be tempted to toss Rod Strickland, Chris Webber and even XXL Ike Austin jerseys into the cathartic pile, undercutting the intended symbolism. More pressingly, blasting jerseys at center court probably violates a few dozen city ordinances.

Then again, this is Washington — go ahead and break the law, then hire a topnotch PR firm to spin the ensuring fallout, while some K Street lobbyists work to have said law squashed as part of an incomprehensible tax relief bill.

If things go well enough, a Kwame Brown Demolition Night could be next.

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