- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The rush to accessorize Washington’s clothing with a black armband has been greatly overstated after the departure of Michael Jordan.

No eulogy is necessary. No condolence cards, either.

Despite all the weepy sentiments, Washington has not rolled up its sidewalks and called it a civic life.

Washington is the nation’s capital, after all, ever resilient to real and imagined calamity.

The abrupt dismissal of a sports icon, however newsworthy, fits into the latter category. It will be a footnote, if that, years from now.

The city, in the 20 months since the awfulness of September 11, has demonstrated a remarkable ability to go about its scheduled business, concrete barriers notwithstanding.

The region has managed to push ahead in the clutches of heightened terror alerts, the evilness of sniper attacks and the mother of all snowstorms. We probably can handle the parting of Madison Avenue’s leading pitchman.

King Jordan was seemingly on layover in Washington anyway, if his smoke signals are to be interpreted, living out of a downtown hotel while exploring offers coming his way.

His angry objection was calibrated to meet the cold, calculating manner of the pink slip.

If Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin made a mistake in terminating the relationship, it was with his heavy-handed manner. He already is paying a huge public relations price for that. That price is certain to climb next winter, when the MCI Center will be marked by empty seats on game nights.

If Mr. Pollin were not apparently tone-deaf to the public’s desires, he would have played this little game out with the basketball narcissist. He would have made an offer that his royal one would have had no choice but to refuse after reflecting on it with his latest business guru, Robert Johnson, the Black Entertainment Television magnate who paid $300 million to join the NBA by way of Charlotte, N.C.

In this scenario, Mr. Pollin would have had the necessary cover to deny that he somehow mistreated His Highness.

That is a good one. If anyone mistreated anyone, it was the interloper from Chicago, who ignored a fundamental business rule that he imposes on his own inner circle: Be ever respectful of the one who controls the operation’s cash flow.

The icon has made lots of money for lots of souls, and those who feed at his trough learn very quickly to practice strict fidelity to the one who fills it. If not, their inclusion in the inner circle is in jeopardy. Hard work goes with the loyalty oath. The revisionists exclude this detail from their regrets.

If you recall, King Jordan woke up one day in Chicago and decided he wanted to be a basketball executive. It sounded like a good idea at the time, even if his addiction to high-stakes action does not lend itself to the mundane assignments that clutter an executive’s desk.

Whatever interest King Jordan has pursued with a vengeance, be it basketball, golf, baseball or gambling, the one constant was immediate gratification. That element hardly punctuates the life of a basketball executive. It is a life predicated mostly on patience and luck.

You make a big trade. You hope it works. You go watch a prospect in the middle of nowhere. You hope the prospect is available when it is your turn to draft. Even if the prospect is available and you make the choice, you then have to wait as long as a couple of years to see if you are a genius or a dummy.

King Jordan showed no passion in this regard while he was an executive with the Wizards. He did play a lot of golf. He did have his gut instincts with players. He did have his endorsement empire to consider.

Washington pretty much ignored all this, because being an executive is mostly boring work.

Other than when King Jordan broke par in golf, there was not a lot to celebrate with his activities in the front office.

Mr. Pollin took mental notes along the way, monitored the level of alienation in the locker room and front office, and heard King Jordan discuss his “other options” before responding the way lots of businessmen might have.

Mr. Pollin exposed the myth, no easy undertaking in the city of hot air.

Huh? What? How could he?

There is this to buffer the sense of outrage: One city’s loss is sometimes another city’s gain.

How about those Washington Expos? Ah, yes. Baseball.


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