For millions, the just concluded ESPN series “The Last Dance” has been an eye-opening experience, a pass into a locker room like you couldn’t imagine.
The 10 chapters, spread over five weeks, were supposed to open a window into one of the successful runs in American sports history, the six NBA championships of the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s.
And those episodes should have provided a peek into the soul of one of the most significant figures in international popular culture over the last 40 years, that of Michael Jordan.
Given those parameters, consider “The Last Dance” a half-success, as with remarkable behind-the-scenes footage—most of which had never been seen—wythe audience got to see what made the Bulls tick.
One by one, we caught significant glimpses at the people who were the important players in the Chicago dynasty, from the craven team owner Jerry Reinsdorf to the enigmatic coach Phil Jackson to the moody sidekick Scottie Pippen.
There were looks at the flamboyant Dennis Rodman, as well as the supporting cast, like guards John Paxson and Steve Kerr, who each made big shots during the run.
And then there were featured turns for folks like the security detail that watched over the Bulls and the opponents who served as the necessary foils for the ensuing drama.
What you didn’t get was the hoped-for look into Jordan’s psyche. Oh, the demigod deigned to grace the film with his presence, sitting in for questions and reactions, but rarely if ever did he go beyond the surface, to bare his soul, to provide explanations.
For instance, Jordan never copped to why he treated the now-deceased general manager Jerry Krause with such contempt and disdain, nicknaming the overweight man Crumbs, as in what could often be found on his shirts and lapels after a meal.
We saw Jordan’s pettiness on full display throughout the 10 parts, as he humiliated, harassed and, in one case, punched a teammate.
The haughtiness was never probed or explained except for Jordan to say that it was the price of doing business, the necessary breaking of eggs, as it were, to make an omelet.
So much of Jordan’s life was left out of “The Last Dance” so as to render it incomplete. The film glanced over allegations that he gambled inordinate sums of money and let him carry out grudges against challengers and those he considered enemies.
Indeed, Jordan, who laughed mockingly at comments from opponents, came across as a rich bully more interested in settling perceived scores than providing a context.
And that wasn’t by accident. Jordan was given editorial control of the piece by ESPN and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who was in charge of the league’s entertainment division when the footage was shot more than 25 years ago.
Of course, it’s possible that we expected more from the film and by extension from Michael Jordan than we should have.
Gods rarely explain their actions and there have been few athletes in recent years more god-like than Jordan. Think not? Just ask him. Assuming he’ll tell you.
And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games…whenever they return.