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Riding the Coattails of His Royal Airness

Tony Kornheiser
By Tony Kornheiser
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, Jan. 20, 2000; Page D1

Faced with the biggest announcement in Washington sports in the last 20 years, staring up at the podium at the big catch himself, Michael Jordan, ruminating about all this could mean to a city starved for a glamorous sports hero, all I could think of was – what's in it for me?

Anthony Irwin Kornheiser.

Oh, sure Michael Jordan is going to run the basketball show for the Wizards. He's going to sweep into town, eat at the great restaurants and play all the great golf courses – maybe even catch a game here or there. (Though can you believe the first game he picked, the Wizards and Mavericks! What a dog. I wouldn't be surprised if he left at halftime and beat it to Cole for the Maryland game.) And that's fine for Jordan. But what about me? How can I attach myself to him? How can I get myself next to him, now that Ahmad Rashad has been surgically removed?

This is my town.

Okay, mine and Wilbon's.

Now I have to share it with this guy. This interloper. Seriously, how many bald guys can one city support?

I mean, it would mean something if Jordan actually were going to play for the Wizards. But all he committed to was to practice with them – although it was pretty cool when he discussed how he'd evaluate the team's talent by going onto the court with them: "The best evaluation I can ever give is to look into a player's eyes and see how scared he may be."

Oh, I'm feeling ya, Mike, I'm feeling ya. Don't hate the playa, hate the game. Boo-yeah! Forgive me, I suddenly morphed into Stuart Scott. Give me a second. Okay, good.

(Practicing is fine, but if it were up to me, I'd have Jordan take pregame warmups with the team at home games, then put on a suit and stand in the lobby and take pictures with the fans. Make every night Michael Jordan Night. It worked for Reinsdorf, didn't it?)

My point is that even though Jordan will be commuting from Chicago, he'll be in Washington for a while. He said, "I will be here for as much time as it takes to turn this team around."

With the Wizards that could be until Y3K.

Here's my vision: I will hang with my dawg MJ! (Wilbon gave me that. He's so hip.)

I always wanted to be a hang-around guy. Like Jilly was with Frank – except I don't wear a pinkie ring. I want to be part of Mike's posse. Mike will need a local posse while he's here. It's not like he's gonna hang around with Abe! Can you see the Abester wearing Hilfiger?

It's gonna be great. Me and Mike will play golf together and buy clothes together. It will be just like hanging out with Wilbon – except Jordan won't go on and on about Northwestern.

Mike's gonna need someone to do the small things: hand out samples of his cologne, sign people up for 5-cent Sundays, help with the salary cap, fire Gar Heard. I can do that. And in return I won't ask much. Once in a while I might like to call a pal from the limo and say, "Hey, I got MJ here. You wanna talk to him?" Or Mike could show up at my son's birthday party and sign some stuff for the kids. He wouldn't have to do it for nothing. I'd throw him a $20 and give him lunch.

I could maybe drive Mike's car. (Yes, I'm gonna be a star.) I've got to do better than the guy who drove Jordan yesterday, when he was 55 minutes late to his own news conference. What a start that was. (The Curse O' Les Boulez. It's got him already!) Jordan was supposed to be there at 4 o'clock. Suddenly, at 4:15 the room got quiet, as if Jordan were about to make his entrance. But it was a false alarm. I think people saw Lorenzo Williams and didn't want to wake him. We all sat there twiddling our thumbs for another 40 minutes. Jordan was so late Abe had to pay the security overtime. It was beginning to feel like a Grateful Dead concert.

(The Wizards, bless them, distributed a bio from an old Chicago Bulls press guide, I guess in case anybody didn't know who Jordan was. It listed his accomplishments, including, "Named NBA Player of the month for December." Oh, right, that Michael Jordan!)

Then they came out: Abe, Mike, Ted Leonsis and Anthony Williams, the D.C. mayor, who was up there for the face time. Williams spoke first and welcomed everybody like he was doing a warm-up act. He actually said of Abe, "Give him a big hand, he's a great man." I wonder if he does bar-mitzvahs.

Leonsis and Pollin spoke briefly and graciously about each other. I took some notes, but who cares what they said? All eyes were on Jordan, in his black suit, white shirt and silver tie. (I'd like to meet his tailor. Ah-woooo, Werewolves of London!) Jordan has faced 1,000 of these news conferences before. But never has he looked so regal, so handsome, so electric and at the same time so beatific; so very in command. If you called Central Casting and requested someone to play the role of a saving angel for a downtrodden basketball team, this is what he would look like.

"I'm looking forward to turning this thing around," Jordan said confidently.

Then we found out Jordan has bought a piece of the Caps too! So I figure some nights maybe he'll stick around and work on the power play. C'mon, it's the same building.

Oh, I almost forgot! This was great. Jordan spoke about his agent, David Falk, the Bird of Prey, and how some people have suggested that Falk really will be running the Wizards. "David works for me, instead of me working for him," Jordan said. Then Jordan smiled and acknowledged, "David can certainly be a pain in the ass." I felt like MJ was reading my mind. Sweet!

This hasn't been much of sports town lately. Folks in New York look down on us because we don't have baseball. Folks in L.A. look down on us because we don't have stars. But look what we've got now. We've got Michael Jordan, the biggest star on the planet, running the Wizards. Sure, nobody knows how Jordan will do – not even Jordan – but if you were going to take a flyer on anybody in the world, it would be Michael Jordan.

We've got young men with new money running the Caps and the Redskins in Ted Leonsis, Jon Ledecky and Dan Snyder. (The Danny must be insanely jealous Leonsis got Jordan; he's probably negotiating right this minute with John Elway to be his GM.) These are men who think big and take chances. While everybody else is standing around the water cooler wondering what's next, they're out finding it. They're not driving their father's Oldsmobile.

You look at what the Redskins did this year, the way they got better, and the way the fans came back to them. You look at the excitement Michael Jordan brings to the city, the promise, the hope. You feel the energy. It hasn't felt this way in years.

We've got juice.

We're in turnaround.

Have your people call mine.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company
 

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