“Last Dance”: Documentary Shortened Social Distance Between Sports Fans

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

I sat slouched on my couch this past Sunday with a few shots of Hennessy still percolating in my belly and two kittens frolicking about my feet awaiting “The Last Dance” to return from what would be the last commercial break of the series, and couldn’t help but to acknowledge the void that would soon re-emerge in my life by the end of the evening.

ESPN’s 10-part documentary series was more than just a trip down memory lane, it was a much-needed breather from this three-months-long-and-counting worldwide crisis that has toppled our everyday lives and forced us to question if a resurrection of our previous way of life is even possible.

“The Last Dance” bridged the gap between those of us who are old enough to remember how dominant those Chicago Bulls teams were and others who, apart from high-definition-less clips, could only take our word for it.

For my girlfriend and I, the show served as the impetus for a series of regularly scheduled double dates (of the shelter-in-place nature) with our neighbors, who also happen to be our good friends. Honestly, “The Last Dance” became the highlight of our now otherwise monotonous and unorthodox weeks.

The four of us excitedly tuned into every hour-long episode as did millions of other people, some of whom even brought out various Bulls regalia to dress themselves to the nines — or rather, in the (Air Jordan) 9s.

Yes, the series was peppered with stories of rampant drug use and Dennis Rodman’s various wild in-season hijinks was enough to furrow many brows and curl most lips but, at its core, The Last Dance” was never intended to be a salacious prime-time tell-all chock-ful of juicy details and shocking revelations, that’s not what it was made for. And yet I was still captivated, particularly by how Michael Jordan spoke about the cost of winning and leadership in episode seven as his eyes began to simultaneously well up with tears, which triggered his call for a break in filming.

‘The Last Dance’ to air reruns on ABC starting this week (Chicago Tribune)

To see Jordan — forever an unapologetic competitor — struggle to fend off his tears was as shocking as it was endearing.

This is where The Grio contributor, Jason Johnson, missed the mark in his reflection of the series, showing a shallowness in both his criticism of, and expectations for the cultural event.

While expectedly well-written, and sprinkled with clever jabs targeted at the series’ protagonist, Johnson’s editorial essentially juxtaposes Jordan’s unwillingness to involve himself in the socio-political issues that existed during the upswing and peak of his superstardom with the outspoken nature of some of today’s most prolific athletes.

But, applying modern standards of behavior to a by-gone era makes as much sense as one’s expectation of Jordan to divulge intimate details of his family life within the confines of a documentary chronicling his basketball career, or for that documentary to not resemble a marathon of highlights of the player most people — his contemporaries included — consider to be the greatest of all-time.

Throughout “The Last Dance,” Johnson, presumably, wanted Jordan to speak to this idea of his responsibility as both an African-American and undoubtedly the highest profile athlete of his era to be as vocal off-the-court about issues affecting minorities and their communities at-large as he was electrifying on it.

What Jordan offered instead was a reiteration of basketball, for better or worse, being his one and only concern. Johnson may think my opinion is too lax, naive or narrow-minded. But that’s him. Because his aim is off.

Drew Stevens is a writer based in Chicago; Follow WARR Media (We Are Regal Radio) on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

One response to ““Last Dance”: Documentary Shortened Social Distance Between Sports Fans

  1. Pingback: 2020 Year in Review: Sports, Society and Chicago All Tested Uniquely In Last 12 Months | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

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