Sometimes you watch a movie, enjoy it, and then — as it sinks into your brain — start to wonder. You wonder about many things.
Such was my delayed response to the wildly entertaining film “Water,” which I saw in the theater on Saturday night.
Air is about signing Nike NBA rookie Michael Jordan for a shoe contract in 1984, thus changing the world of marketing and sports celebrity-dom for all time.
But ”Air” is also about something one might not even fully realize: the glorification of the pursuit of the god of profit at the expense of morality.
It's a tune in sync for our current winner-takes-all world, a place where we barely hide the fact that we don't care at all about the losers in any situation. Only the winners and how much money they make matters.
think about it.
Can you remember much – anything? — second place at the Indy 500, 100 meters at the Olympics, Boston Marathon, Wimbledon, Super Bowl?
Why do we think so much about Padres stars Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts? Not that they had World Series success (although Bogaerts helped the Red Sox win two). No, that's because they have a $970 million contract between them.
The Masters ends on Sunday, and printed right next to the finishing order—perhaps even more important than the place—is how much money each person gets.
Reflecting, I find myself amazed that “Air” director Ben Affleck (co-starring with pal Matt Damon) so skillfully was able to turn the Nike company into the symbolically and sympathetically struggling main character that all drama loves. It makes viewers forget that Nike was actually a huge company founded in the mid-1960s that went public in 1980 — when it already had 50% share of the U.S. sports shoe market — and just wanted to expand. basketball business by the time Jordan came along.
Luke Skywalker rushes into an almost mythical battle against an evil empire that claims (played well by rival shoe companies Adidas and Converse) to be Sonny Vaccaro's basketball guide, played by Damon. When Sonny wins in the end by dramatically signing Jordan, after the movie's necessary moment of desperation, we all win.
That's how this little man-against-Goliath sports melodrama always goes. That's what we want. That's what we need. They smile in our faces, bounce in our (Air Jordan?) steps.
But what about a foreigner who will be making Jordan shoes in a sweatshop? Or is Nike increasing profits by avoiding offshore banking? Or the impressionable young shoppers of Jordan products who are driven to shop and sometimes resort to violence as a result?
What about Vaccaro, Nike and agent David Falk – and the Jordan family, in the way they are portrayed – barely caring about the social justice ramifications of making MJ an icon just for profit?
That's America for you. modern America. Actually, America in the first place. But in “Air,” there's no make-up, no upholstery, no pretense that anything but money and power matters. And that's not uncommon. It haunts.
When I think of Vaccaro's character, it occurs to me that he is similar, in some ways, to the Bulls' general manager, Jerry Krause.
Hated by Jordan and, therefore, by Jordan's broad and adoring public – my friend's enemy is my enemy – Krause is a wry and unsympathetic little man who remains a genius at finding great players and who contributed greatly to the Bulls' six NBA championships, the conquest that elevated Jordan to god-like status.
How much more layered, complicated, and ultimately satisfying to make a film about a small man like Krause, to contrast his psychological and physical problems with the tall, lithe, domineering Jordan, and his vast charisma, to show redemption for that. type of person, a real David with a slingshot?
After all, Krause had come out of nowhere and helped engineer the Bulls' biggest ever win. Vaccaro has Phil Knight's money behind him, and what Nike is doing may not change things as much as we think. Even with Adidas or Converse, Jordan is still likely to be something epic.
As Jordan once told me when I mentioned that Krause was very proud to have drafted Earl Monroe No. 1. 2 for the Baltimore Bullets in 1967: ” Yeah, as if he didn't take him to No. 1 in 1967. go at No. 3?”
Krause's story won't be sweet or neat, but it will be riveting and real. And maybe it will help us understand the true workings of sports and heroes.