In case you haven’t heard, Nike’s at it again, reappropriating 9/11 for their own crass commercial purposes as Michael Jordan gets inducted into the Hall of Fame. Wait, I’m sorry, we’re told that is a wildly untrue statement and that Nike had nothing to do with the date of induction. We regret the error. Anyway, MJ is being inducted today; presumably, the day belongs to him.
But while Jordan grabs the headlines, there are other people being inducted today, most notably John Stockton and David Robinson, two titans of the era in their own right. And while their inductions are generally of the off-without-a-hitch variety, there’s also Peter Vecsey, a NEW YORK POST reporter who’s being inducted for lord knows why. And that’s the real highlight here, folks, because by all accounts, last night, he delivered the worst induction speech of all time.
There are a few good recaps of the speech out there, but none as good as Jeff Pearlman’s, delivered with slack-jawed wonderment for his own JEFFPEARLMAN.COM:
Throughout his 32-year career covering hoops, Vecsey boasts an unparalleled record of alienation. This is just a guess, but I’d say 90-95 percent of players dislike him. I’d say 97-99 percent of coaches and owners dislike him. And, among his peers in the media … uh, well … yeah. Not a good track record. The problem, to be blunt, is this: Vecsey has never come off as a particularly nice person. His writing is snide and dismissive; his tone that of a know-it-all third grader. He’s extremely combative, and (this is a guess, admittedly) would rather try and throw punches than engage in an actual intellectual discourse. That Vecsey writes for the Post is appropriate: He and the newspaper deserve one another.
Okay, so we’re off to a hostile start, but nothing about what Pearlman said is inaccurate; when was the last time you thought to yourself, “Wow, Peter Vecsey really taught me something about the sport today”? Right, exactly. But we’re getting off track. The speech, the speech. Oh, the speech.
And then, Vecsey took the stage.
He seemed to have no notes. No thoughts. No … nothing. He began not by expressing his appreciation, but by rattling off all the shunned players he believed belonged in the Hall. From there, he just … babbled. About this. About that. He seemed to be drunk, but I don’t think he was. The man was just, well, lost. He used language one doesn’t use in a Hall speech. He called out people’s names (”Calvin Murphy! Tiny Archibald!”), and you could literally see the men squirming in their seats. I was sitting about 10 feet from David Stern, who—throughout the ceaseless banter—dismissively shook his head while checking his Blackberry. Jordan, the star of the weekend, walked out. Just left, and never returned.
The best part came, oh, 30 minutes in, when Vecsey took a breather between points. As if on cue, the entire room started to applaud—a very clear, very audible get-the-f^%$-off-the-stage command. Suddenly, music piped in from above—yet another get-the-f^%$-off-the-stage command. Oddly, Vecsey really paid it no mind. It was as if he had a booger dangling from his nose, and everyone in the room was acutely aware of its existence—save for Peter Vecsey. He kept talking until, I believe, his mic was turned off (either that, or he got the clue).
In case you hadn’t caught it, let’s repeat for emphasis: Michael Jordan walked out on the speech. If you can’t keep Michael Jordan’s attention in the Basketball Hall of Fame the day before his induction, you have failed so badly at life that you should just saw your head off because your brain is unforgivably bad at helping you do things.
In fact, Pearlman’s recap reminded us of the “reviews” in SNL’s fake commercial for “Robert Goulet’s ‘Red Ships of Spain’.” Observe:
Diane Carbinal, “Cincinnati Dispatch”, writes: “It’s the most upsetting experience I’ve ever had in a theater. The only time the audience applauded was when I whipped a battery at the actors.”
James Gund of “American Theater Magazine” writes: “True story: I fell asleep during the production, and when I woke up was so convinced that I was still dreaming, I got up onstage and walked around. The odd thing is the show is such an ugly mess that no one seemed to notice or care.”
But it’s not all bad news. Everybody slept off the horror. Jordan’s speech was today; thankfully, he came back for it. He didn’t start it with telling Vecsey to go fornicate himself, though it would have been awesome if he did. No, his speech was vintage Jordan in his own way: impossibly cool and confident, but somehow not boastful. To boot:
“Don’t be too in a rush to try to find the next Michael Jordan,” he said Friday morning, before his official enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “There’s not gonna be another one.”
Dick move? No no; his point was that there’s only one of him, not that he’s the last greatest player. To boot:
“You didn’t have to find me, and you won’t have to find that next person.”
Context: it’s good for you, and it’s good for America. That’s the sort of stuff we mean when we say confident but not boastful. And he’s right. You don’t have to “find” greatness. You can look for seeds of it, hence the coverage of LeBron James when he was in high school, but even if nobody knew who James was when he was drafted first overall, you know now. Same with the careers of all of the titans of the league. They’ll make themselves known.
But really, wow, Peter Vecsey. It was always our contention that there was less of a difference between Best Ever and Worst Ever than people think; they’re both great superlatives, after all. But seeing Vecsey and Jordan in the same Hall of Fame class and delivering their own speeches, we’re really rethinking that whole “celebration of the worst crap imaginable” approach we had.