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EVERYBODY’S A DREAMER and everybody’s a star.
And 35 years ago this weekend at Chicago Stadium, the dreams and the stars all teasingly aligned when Michael Jordan made his regular-season debut as a Bull.
The Bulls beat the Washington Bullets 109-93.
Statistically, Orlando Woolridge led the cascade with 28 points.
Quintin Dailey added 25 as sixth man.
Coach Kevin Loughery looked bright.
Jordan’s numbers were that of an apprentice in acceleration: 5-of-16 shooting, 16 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocked shots.
But the tone he set was so different for an organization that had been swallowing its talented.
The most honest presumption at the time was that Jordan was a great young player but that he, too, like many of his teammates, would eventually be washed to sea by the group’s global-class party culture.
Forget about merely the drugs, the weed, the cocktails and the women;
One rotation player was still shaking a three-packs-a-day cigarettes murph.
But Jordan proved to be of a notably different kind of will, along with a few other Bulls.
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As far as national attention, the debut was as hyped as a midnight takeoff at a private airport.
Unless you were among the 13,913 at the Stadium, or in the D.C. area watching a regional telecast with Jim Brinston and Wes Unseld on WDCA-TV, you didn’t see the game.
Jim Durham worked it solo on Chicago’s WIND-AM (560).
By other corporate priorities, the two TV crews of the Bulls — Milo Hamilton and John Mengelt on WGN-Channel 9 and Bill Hazen with Johnny Kerr on SportsChannel — sat it out.
ESPN was still too small potatoes.
Turner was a superstation, but its primary sports offerings were the Braves and the NBA Hawks.
The next morning, The Daily Herald carried a lede to a game story that since has been incorporated by other writers — including Kerr — in multiple books; the great Frank Deford called it one of the most prescient deadline “tops” that he had ever read:
“They should have hung a halo atop Chicago Stadium Friday night because this was no basketball game. It was a revival meeting. Step aside Elmer Gantry. Shut down Billy Sunday.
“The Bulls have been saved.”
And they were.
STREET-BEATIN’: Here’s a novel idea for the fanboy fringe dominating Bears media: Limit dissections of the previous game played to three days — through midday Wednesday — and then begin breaking down the current trending of the next opponent. The propensity to hammer the last game over and over is insipid, braying herd and devolves into irrelevancy. … Matt Nagy and his miscues are down to 3½-point favorites over the visiting Chargers (from an opening 5½). According to classic Larry Merchant theorem (“The National Football Lottery,” q.v.), that means they should cover, even if Leonard Floyd and Roquan Smith have to rise from the catacombs to help get it done (Fox, Sunday, noon, Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman), … Informed analysis continues to undertow that Theo Epstein was using more pliable national and local baseball media to sabotage Joe Maddon since midway through the 2018 season. (Theo’s full agenda may one day seep out; in the meantime, the search for answers around the Cubs is kind of like having both Allen Dulles and John McCloy on the Warren Commission.). … Despite all of the good things being written about David Ross, why does he continue to remind of Robert De Niro’s doomed catcher in “Bang The Drum Slowly?”… Speaking of “doomed” and “catcher,” the first victim whacked by Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker” is Carl Lundstedt (Libertyville High, Class of ’10), the nephew of former Cubs catcher Tom Lundstedt. The young actor (“Cloak and Dagger,” “Manifest”) is the son of Karin and Paul Lundstedt and the fiancee of Tony-nominated Broadway starlet Denée Benton. … Naperville’s very own Candace Parker was excellent filling in for Shaquille O’Neal alongside Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” O’Neal was mourning the passing of sister Ayesha Harrison-Jex, age 40. … Great week to be a sports fan in Houston: The arrogant Astros open the World Series by imploding, assistant GM Brandon Taubman gets poleaxed for an unconscionable rant related to domestic violence and the “upgraded” Rockets blow a 16-point lead and lose their home opener to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. (Next it could be Daryl Morey facing off against Chinese gunboats off the shores of Galveston.). … Bob Ibach, the former PR chief of the Cubs, had a great “in” for choice seats at Games 3 and 4 of the WS at Nationals Park: Son Kevin Ibach of Geneva is director of pro scouting for the Tampa Bay Rays. (Bob the father cut his fingernails in the sports journalism biz reporting on Ted Williams’s Senators for The Washington Post.). … And if “Baby Shark” has been getting it done for Gerardo Parra and the Nationals, why not a more soothing, twinkly anthem for Mitch Trubisky and mates, maybe a classic rah-roar souffléd into “Calm Down, Chicago Bears?”
• Jim O’Donnell’s Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at [email protected]