O'Donnell: Jordan and 'The Last Dance' starting to take some hits

  • Director Jason Hehir conducts a behind-the-scenes interview with Michael Jordan for "The Last Dance."

    Director Jason Hehir conducts a behind-the-scenes interview with Michael Jordan for "The Last Dance." Courtesy of Jason Hehir

Updated 5/2/2020 9:09 AM

"THE LAST DANCE" HITS the midpoint of its five-week run on ESPN Sunday night.

Episodes 5 and 6 will veer into the segment of Michael Jordan's championship years when the media -- and some of his own decisions -- chipped away at his image as a perfect hero.


Now some more contemporary chime-ins have also begun to diminish the perception of "TLD" as a one-way trip to the stars.

For one, the series will not be eligible for an Academy Award, according to Dawn Hudson, CEO of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

She told The Hollywood Reporter: "If you meet our requirements for being a movie -- you have been scheduled for a theatrical release, which the ESPN series is not, and you are presented in one sitting, which the ESPN series is not -- then you are eligible for the Oscars.

"But that doesn't apply to this series, even though it's terrific content."

Strike two came from Ken Burns, the darling of period fiddle music and letters-from-Bull Run on PBS.

Burns told The Wall Street Journal that he hasn't watched "The Last Dance" and thinks the presence of Jordan's Jump 23 as one of five production entities invalidates it as any sort of real journalism or credible history.

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"If you are there influencing the very fact of it getting made, it means that certain aspects

that you don't necessarily want in aren't going to be in, period," Burns said.

"And that's not the way you do good journalism ... and it's certainly not the way you do good history, my business."

Finally, there is the growing list of errors of fact and excessive use of "director's license" by auteur Jason Hehir to keep the narrative engaging.

Those miscues range from the "truth" behind Jordan's alleged trip to Las Vegas to bring Dennis Rodman back to the team -- it didn't happen -- to such microchips as the ascending structure of Jordan's minutes limitation when he returned from a broken foot in March 1986.

Hehir supporters are claiming spotlighting such deception and oversights are the work of dated media unhappy over being left out of "TLD."

More plausible is that Jordan would not be participating in an imaging venture that was going to diminish any important Air points of his public legacy.


And, Hehir had an enormous task to complete, replete with deadlines and commitments and a whole lot of big-league associates to answer to.

People who want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth aren't going to get it in "The Last Dance."

But for a masked society looking for any form of temporary distraction, "TLD" remains a nicely done, utterly meaningless slab of infotainment.

Even if Michael Jordan will apparently never get to accept an Oscar for his help in winning "The Civil War."

THE RETIREMENT OF DAN BAUMANN as chairman emeritus of the board of Paddock Publications recalls the days when he, Doug Ray and Bob Frisk were the overseers of The Daily Herald's bold expansion into covering professional sports.

The supremely visioned Baumann was also a young frontliner back when The Herald was engaged in a battle royale with Field Enterprises' Arlington Day for Northwest suburban dominance.

The Day was a remarkably talented garrison, helmed by publisher John Stanton. As managing editor of Field's old Chicago Daily News, Stanton championed the rise of a street-wise "tavern kid" named Mike Royko.

But after a four-year "war," Baumann, the Paddock family and colleagues prevailed.

Paddock Publications bought The Day in June 1970.

STREET-BEATIN': While his domestic status reboots, Jay Cutler could be back in play as a network analyst when NFL coverage resumes. Fox remains primary suitor, although any offer would likely be below the No. 2-team slot initially discussed. ...

Management at Churchill Downs said live racing will begin without spectators May 16. Impact on Arlington Park will be virtually zero; the local oval remains without the approval of Gov. J.B. Pritzker to open, racing department staff and a 2020 contract with the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. ...

Jay Mariotti is dropping hints that the new wave of Michael-mania could prompt him to accelerate the foundationing an unauthorized biography of Jerry Reinsdorf. (Bernie Sanders chronicling Mitch McConnell would have less dissonant energy.) ...

Jordan Spieth "lost" a hole-in-one at a charity event in Texas when his ball landed in and popped out of a cup fitted with special COVID-dictated safety spacer. (He said he's still counting it; Tony Romo was a playing partner.) ...

Chet Coppock would have celebrated his 72nd birthday Thursday. Longtime chum John Coyne -- president of American Taxi -- distributed an extremely touching tribute to a circle comprised primarily of old New Trier pals. ...

The American division of the William Hill sportsbook is reporting an inordinate amount of action on fresh Russian Ping-Pong. (Doctoring those matches would be elemental net play for Vlad Putin Inc.) ...

And this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's breakout gonzo reporting, "The Kentucky Derby is Depraved and Decadent," a 7,000-word piece written for the cultish Scanlan's Monthly. "Holy (bleep), I thought," Thompson later said. "If I can write like this and get away with it, why should I keep trying to write like The New York Times?"

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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