Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan #13 - Adjoined Article

Note: We recommend that you print this article and distribute it to your students.

The Bitter Chill in Chicago: Any Future Without Jordan
Reprinted from Canadian Press (http://www.recorder.ca/cp) article by P. Belluck January 13, 1999

You can have all those muscular metaphors, those Big Shoulders, that City on the Make. They were nice in their time, but their time has long passed. Face it -- Chicago is the city of Michael Jordan.

Ask any longtime Chicagoan what it has been like. When Eppie Lederer, alias Ann Landers, used to travel overseas and mention she was from Chicago, she would get a response that made her cringe. "They'd go, 'Oh, Al Capone,' and make like they were putting their finger to a gun," Ms. Lederer said. "I was ashamed, embarrassed. Who wants to come from a city that's known for the worst gangster of all time, where they shot people like dogs?" His Airness changed all that.

These days, when Ms. Lederer discloses her Chicago pedigree, people use their trigger fingers to fake a turnaround jump shot. "Now they say, 'Oh, Michael Jordan,' " she said. Now that Jordan has stepped down as basketball's supreme deity, the Capone-Jordan transformation story was told so often in Chicago recently that it took on the aura of the myth. But that, of course, is not really the point.

The point is that Michael Jordan has given Chicago much more than the chance to be home to perhaps the best basketball player ever. He has saved this city's Second City complex, put substance behind its bravado, and even, some people say, allowed Chicago to slip free of the dusty harness of history and create a new sense of itself.

As No. 23 announced his retirement from the Bulls on Wednesday, Chicago, chilled and submerged under nearly two feet of snow, seemed to be steadying itself for a collective eulogy. "It's all over now," sniffed a headline in The Chicago Sun-Times. "MJ Gone," mourned The Chicago Tribune.

"As a person, as a role model for children and for morality, we will never be able to replace Michael Jordan," said Bev Mandolini, 48, a housewife eating lunch at Michael Jordan's, the player's downtown burger-and-crab cake restaurant.

At a nearby table, Brian Orlow, a 25-year-old accountant, was in denial. "I still don't believe this is for real," Orlow said. "I think even if he announces his retirement, the playoffs will roll around, the Bulls will lose to the Knicks, and Michael's competitive juices will start flowing and he'll decide he doesn't want to sit around and smoke cigars all day long."

To understand the devotion Chicago feels for Jordan, one has to understand how much this city cares about competing, about proving itself in every arena, especially in sports. The losing streaks in this town are legendary: the Bears (who have been on the fritz since winning the Super Bowl in 1986); the Blackhawks (whose last Stanley Cup victory was 1961); the White Sox (who have not won a World Series since 1917), and the Cubs (who have gone 90 years without winning a World Series, Sammy Sosa notwithstanding). The only glimmer of hope has been the Chicago Fire, the soccer team, which won the national championship last year, but, alas, too many people here still seem to have trouble getting jazzed up about soccer.

But it is more than just the sweet wine of victory. It's that Jordan charm, that ebullient charisma. "He's become a cult in the city," said the author Saul Bellow, who is from Chicago. "I think he's really a great figure," Bellow continued. "He's a beautiful athlete. He's an exceptional person. He conducts himself like a real gentleman, one of the few gentlemen professional sports has produced. There's no skulduggery. There's no underhandedness."

Chicago, of course, has benefited financially from the Jordan phenomenon. And not just from his enterprises, a golf store and two restaurants. His image has been a magnet for tourists and basketball fans. Bellow has faith in the resilience of Chicagoans. "They'll begin to say, 'Those were the good old days and there's never been anybody like Michael before or after,' " he predicted. " 'The march of history continues. Let's turn our attention to the commodity trade."

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