First of all, I learned that if I had been in Chicago between 1991 and 1998, given the Bulls’ incredible list of monstrous suckers that, thanks to MJ’s infinite talent and overwhelming physical power, managed to win 6 NBA titles, I probably would have taken a couple of them home too.
I mean: Bill Cartwright, Will Perdue, Bill Wennington, Luc Longley…
If I think that number two and three of the team were Pippen (in italian “pippe” means “suckers”) and Rodman (a great square-handed blacksmith like I’ve seen so many in the amateurs tournaments I used to play) and that the other two in the quintet were there just to fill the spaces… I think I would have made a blast myself too.
I don’t even dare to imagine how those other 5 who were needed to just warm the bench were chosen.
The second lesson concerns the American way of treating the concepts of “respect” and “model” in sport.
Michael Jordan is not afraid to admit his “vices”, his “immodesty”, his “bullying” and his “hatred” of certain opponents.
He liked to gamble.
Apart from the parents, not a single word is spent or a single image dedicated throughout the show for his wife, children or siblings and their alledged role in his success.
He spurred the most unlikely teammates (and he was just spoilt for choice) with trash talk and heavy insults.
Isiah Thomas pisses him off because he’s an asshole. Even if he has a great smile and looks like a sweet child.
And the reason is a premature exit from the field of the entire Pistons team in a conference final without congratulating the legitimate winners first that also cost Thomas the call to the Olympics with the Dream Team.
Because sport is certainly made of competitiveness and will to prevail over the opponent. Passion and intensity, sometimes even violence and hatred, are on the field but nobody leaves it without paying the right tribute to his verdict.
In the documentary there are not even those phony and hagiographic fairy tales as the footage broadcasted by Napoli TV with the football champion, notoriously addicted to coke and sex, who holds his wife by the hand and drinks orange juice while telling the story of Robin Hood.
In fact, it lays bare the myths artfully created by the media to make sense of challenges that actually make no sense: in those times even Clyde Drexler and Kobe Bryant were just good enough to tie his shoes.
American culture then shows itself at the antipodes of my own, and especially for the last but not least message of the documentary.
I can’t stand the “we are all equal” and “one is worth one” of my egalitarian, catholic-communist culture.
I believe instead that in sport as in life categories do exist. Everyone’s goal is to work hard to get out of the scene better than he entered it. Without breaking the balls with “the system”, “the money”, “the power”… Destiny is in our hands. Will is power.
Chicago was a franchise of losers before Michael Jordan, won three titles in a row exclusively thanks to him, went back to being a losers team after his first retirement, won three titles again thanks to his return, and vanished forever into darkness of oblivion after the last dance.
M.J. played baseball!!!! (that has the same intensity as a walk in the park with my grandmother) a year and a half, between the first and the second three titles.
And when he came back, he slaughtered them all again, holding the cigar in his mouth in the locker room as naturally as he held it on the field while scoring 50-60-70 points to his opponents.
He’s miraculously blessed people in basketball the same way someone else made the cripples walk and restored sight to the blind, 2000 years before him.
And he shows himself for what he is: a great sportsman, with virtues and defects, vices and virtues without claiming to be also beatified.
Because in American Calvinist culture, heaven is obtained on earth. Using one’s talent well. Not being perfect. There is no need to be holy, to turn the other cheek or to remain humbly last in order to become first one day or aspire to the kingdom of heaven.
You earn merit and respect in the field.
This is the greatest lesson I learned from “The last dance”.