I3 Jun 1997: Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls celebrates with teammates Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr #25 after winning game six of the NBA Final against the Utah Jazz at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Jazz 90-86.. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Marcus Musings: The Last Dance, the Reds chances and what’s next for the Bengals

The Last Dance is almost over, and the state of Ohio will soon again be a place we can get our hair cut and eat out. Meanwhile, a show about something that happened 20-plus years ago continues to dominate sports and we can look ahead to what fans of Cincinnati’s pro teams might have in store if sports return by the end of the year… 

  • We’ve also seen how the more things change, the more they stay the same: The national media had a tendency to embarrass itself then as much as it does now. 
  • The speculation over James Jordan’s murder being related to his son’s gambling is one of those things you shouldn’t write even if you actually have a fair amount of evidence it’s true (as far as I know, there was none). This is a principle that seems to be lost now more than ever. The consequences of being wrong here are pretty high — in terms of hurting reputations and feelings, not to mention sullying your own name among people who expect more from our industry — and the value is really nothing. What public service would be served by reporting it even if it were true? As a warning to celebrities not to gamble? 
  • I suppose the same could be said about the “secret suspension.” Some rumors spread because they sound true, but in my experience a lot of stories that don’t seem to make sense still turn out to be true so believability isn’t always a great indicator either way. If Michael Jordan were secretly suspended by the NBA for gambling, either that would have been confirmed by now or it never would have even been hinted at because it never would have leaked. 
  • By the way, the idea he just ran out of motivation and needed a new challenge makes a hell of a lot of sense, too. 
7 Feb 1994: CHICAGO WHITE SOX OUTFIELDER MICHAEL JORDAN SPEAKS AT A WHITE SOX PRESS CONFERENCE.
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
  • I used to think Jordan was petty and dumb for not talking to Sports Illustrated after the, “Bag it, Michael” cover, but now that I’ve seen more of how shabbily we treat a lot of great athletes then and now, I understand it a lot more. Sometimes I’m surprised anyone talks to us once they’ve made it, although many only “talk” in the most literal sense. Their lips move and sounds come out, but that’s about the extent of it. 
  • I also think Jordan saying he wouldn’t have had an issue with SI dragging him if they had taken the time to get a sense of what he was doing and why is probably a lot more meaningful than a lot of people realize. Here’s Michael Jordan, a stone-cold killer on the basketball court who would stop at nothing to be the best in that sport, playing baseball because… well, he wanted to play baseball. If he had a different goal on the diamond, then his lack of success takes on a different feel. Also “The Real Reason Michael Jordan Is Playing Baseball” would have been a hell of a lot better story than, “Guy hitting .200 sucks at baseball.” And when you’re SI, aren’t you supposed to be doing that? 
  • OK, on to non-Bulls topics: 
  • Is baseball coming back this summer? Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told me last week he could see it happening in both corners of our fair state, and reports indicate we might be only a month away from “Spring Training 2.0.” With Rob Manfred at the controls there is always reason to far the worst, of course. His league has already drastically shortened the draft for reasons that aren’t quite clear to people on the players’ side. Just like his ill-conceived plan to shrink the minor leagues, this seems like a short-sighted strategy that will shrink the fanbase in the long term more than it will financial losses in the short term. 
  • The good news here is baseball has done a terrible job or promoting how many more jobs it offers young athletes compared to other sports so many won’t know what they’re missing. 
  • On the bright side, this could be an extra good year for an extra two teams to make the playoffs as far as the Cincinnati Reds are concerned. Their active winter seems like a lifetime ago, but if we start talking about actual baseball soon we’ll want to remember the Queen City’s team could actually be, like, good after making multiple moves to beef up the offense. That said, they aren’t likely to be great, so winning the division is a much bigger ask than just being in the mix. 
  • As far as the city’s NFL team, the Bengals are also in a rebuild that is perhaps longer term than it needed to be, but adding a potential franchise quarterback is a good way to jump forward in the process. 
  • The regular beat writers made a lot of excuses for Zac Taylor in his disastrous first season as head coach, but of course if the fire of 2019 leads to fertile fields for the foreseeable future, it might all work out in the end. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know I have been a big Taylor skeptic since the day he was hired, but I am willing to buy that a lot of things out of his control worked against him last year from getting a late start on evaluating the roster to A.J. Green and Jonah Williams getting hurt. I also don’t think Taylor came close to maximizing what he had or making the best of the situation, but that’s in the past now. 
  • The schedule is manageable-ish, especially in the second half, so there is an opportunity to show a lot of improvement even if they are still destined for fourth place in the division. 
  • I hate when we create news by prematurely putting someone on the hot seat, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. There are likely to be bumps in the road because that’s how it goes, the roster has some holes and some of the good players are older so new holes will be opening up sooner or later. A strength is never far from being a weakness in the NFL. Also the coach may not know what he’s doing. 
  • When teams lose, you have to look at all possible reasons why, and when the coach has a very thin resume, that’s hard to shake. 
  • Of course Taylor’s job was safe in December because Mike Brown is not the type to fire a coach after one year whether he deserves it or not. Unless they win only two or fewer games again, let’s assume Taylor will be back in 2021 as well. Then things could get interesting because when that season is over they’ll be almost halfway through Burrow’s rookie contract, meaning they need to make sure he has a reason to want to stay in Cincinnati and the window to win before his salary balloons and wipes out what could be spent on two or more good starters will be close to closing.

“Marcus Musings” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions on various stories permeating the sports world and (hopefully) have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to marcus.hartman@coxin.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook.   

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About the Author

Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman has been a digital sports columnist and reporter at Cox Media Group Ohio since 2016. 
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