- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009


“I was going to go up and over and land on the other side of the fence if I had to, to try to make the catch.” — San Francisco Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand on his ninth-inning catch that saved Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter Friday night


Michael Jordan — not Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Alex Ovechkin or that mixed martial arts guy — is the favorite athlete of children ages 8 to 14 according to a poll conducted in April for Sports Illustrated Kids magazine.

Let us reflect.


What is this, 1989? 1999? Who’s their favorite baseball player, Grover Cleveland Alexander? Michael Jordan is president and part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, a corporate suit. He is 46. He has not been a professional athlete since 2003. He hasn’t even been Michael Jordan since 1998, when the Chicago Bulls won their sixth championship.

That’s when the real M.J. (not the fake M.J. who played for the Washington Wizards) retired. The oldest of the surveyed kids was 3. Others hadn’t been born. Some of their parents had yet to make out. And he was past his prime even then. Barring a case of super childhood memory or scary prenatal awareness, no one who named Jordan as their favorite saw him play at his peak or has any recollection of it.

It’s mind-boggling that the idea, the ghost of Michael Jordan supersedes the achievements of today’s flesh-and-blood stars, highlights available 24/7 and standing ready to Tweet. You don’t see Jordan that much now, although Gatorade is unveiling a new commercial that will only reinforce his appeal.

On its most basic level, this speaks to the ultimate power of Michael. He’s actually bigger than we thought. Sorry, Dwight Howard. Mike is the real basketball Superman, once able to leap defenders in a single bound, now able to remain embedded in the consciousness of youngsters who never saw him play.

Maybe Jordan is so popular with kids because he has been largely out of sight, not in spite of it, glorified to the point of myth and legend. And to young minds, myth and legend (hello, Harry Potter) resonate more than current events.

Kids, and everyone else, are inundated with so much information and so many words of praise that it all kind of runs together. TigerKobeLeBronRoger, all of them “great.” Greatness might not be commonplace, but it is highly accessible these days, and real. To the young, Michael Jordan is a fairy tale. Or Superman.

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