Michael Jordan embodied the American value of winning at all costs

An interview with Todd Boyd, featured in ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” included this answer regarding evaluating Michael Jordan’s competitive fire:

I would say it’s American, that’s what I would say. I wouldn’t characterize it as positive or negative, it’s American. I think what Michael represented was an especially American desire to win at all costs, to dominate.

Sports have the ability to both reflect America and lead to social change. Jordan’s example could serve both. He was wildly successful in American terms on and off the court as a winner and earning oodles of money. He helped usher in a new era of global superstars, taking a third-place American sport (behind football and baseball) to global heights, and a lasting brand built around shoes. He is still successful today as an NBA owner.

It can be easy to chalk up his success to his legendary work ethic and a quest to become better when others who had similar skills or athletic gifts took it easier. But, it would also be helpful to place Jordan in his context. He came along at the right time for multiple reasons: he built on the NBA stars of the 1980s, he was around at the spread of hip-hop (also discussed in the interview), he succeeded during an era of capitalist growth (“the end of history” and the demise of communism), and technology helped spread his play and brand (even down to the crying Jordan meme of recent years).

All of this means that Boyd’s answer is two-fold: Jordan exemplifies America (work hard and you will get ahead!) and what it considers success (become a winner and global icon!). Is this what Americans want to promote for their children or in schools or in politics? That is a much bigger debate.

When a billboard with a basketball player slowed down Chicago traffic

Along one of the most congested stretches of highway in the United States, a mural of NBA player Dennis Rodman led to even more traffic in early 1996:

In March 1996, men’s clothier Bigsby & Kruthers painted an image of Rodman on the side of a building just off the Kennedy Expressway. The 32-foot-high mural stared eastbound traffic in the eye, causing gapers delays in both directions that snarled traffic as badly as road construction.

An operations manager for a traffic-data company said the larger-than-life image added 20 to 30 minutes to morning commutes on the Kennedy and the Edens Expressway. And that was before Rodman’s hair was even on it.

“The 75-foot-wide advertisement included a color image of Michael Jordan looking down on traffic,” a March 26, 1996, Tribune story read. “But it’s the oversize Rodman who has taken the rush out of rush hour. His power glower is punctuated with three earrings and a nose ring; his arms are crossed, and his natty suit has the sleeves ripped out to reveal his collection of tattoos. He is even leaning forward, as if he just might want to butt heads.”

Standing just before the North Avenue exit, the painting was wider and taller than billboard laws normally would have allowed. But because the building was being used as a Bigsby & Kruthers warehouse, the advertising was not limited in size.

While most of the mural was black and white, the hair was in color — and changed as Rodman’s dye did, only adding to the traffic headaches.

Alas, the mural didn’t last. Bigsby & Kruthers covered it up a little more than two weeks after it first appeared in response to the concern of traffic officials.

A few quick thoughts:

  1. Cities have regular spots that come up on traffic reports and the Kennedy is typically on the list in Chicago (“from O’Hare to downtown”). These spots can be on the list for a variety of reasons: a chokepoint for traffic, an odd curve or different road design (such as narrowing of lanes), and/or regular accidents. Billboards probably are not common contributors to this.
  2. At the same time, certain billboards or advertisements can be become part of the urban highway experience. As commuters travel regular routes, they get used to seeing particular signs. New signs can also garner attention if they are a significant change or unusual. The other sports one that comes to mind from the Chicago region involved a series of Brian Urlacher balding treatment billboards along I-294 that popped up several years ago. I’m not sure if it caused any delays but it certainly caught people’s eyes as one of the city’s most recognizable recent sports stars suddenly had hair.
  3. The particular Rodman billboard came as part of a perfect storm. Take a regularly congested stretch of highway plus an incredible basketball team that set the record that year for most wins in a season plus a truly unique player on the billboard (and not one who fit the typical Chicago image). The billboard did not last long but it left a mark.

Building stadiums and arenas – but not for sports

Concerts are lucrative, lucrative enough to construct buildings with 10,000-18,000 seats primarily for shows:

Los Angeles-based Oak View Group, an entertainment and sports-facilities company backed by private-equity giant Silver Lake, is slated to develop eight new arenas over the next three years, six of which will forgo major-league teams, largely to keep their calendars clear for concerts.

An arena can generate twice as much net income from hosting a concert than a National Basketball Association or National Hockey League game, according to Oak View. Live music is expected to balloon to $38 billion industry by 2030, from about $28 billion currently, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Oak View said being able to schedule twice as many concerts as it would otherwise with a professional team in house is an attractive prospect in markets including Palm Springs, Calif., and Austin, Texas. And as streaming is helping artists develop larger international audiences, markets including Manchester, U.K., and Milan are ripe for more arena shows, too…

The company said the arenas are being designed with music as the primary focus, from acoustics to VIP amenities. They will include fewer suites – a pet peeve of musical performers, who typically aren’t able to sell tickets for those seats – and add more clubs within the venue to entice concertgoers to linger before or after a show.

Multiple thoughts in response:

1. The ability to tweak the venue for music in multiple ways seems like a big win for artists and audience members. Instead of being in cavernous arenas that need enough floor space for a playing surface, everything can focus on a stage. It will be interesting to see how sound quality in new arenas like this compares to multi-use facilities.

2. This is a reminder that the big money in sports is not necessarily in attendance to games but rather in television rights and other revenue sources. Could this lead to a future with smaller sports arenas that provide an upgraded experience (it is already difficult to compete with large HD televisions) and more emphasis on what is built around the stadium?

3. Sports teams often ask for public money for facilities. And many communities seem willing to provide it, even when the evidence suggests it is not a good investment. Will music arenas also be funded with public money?

4. Since many larger cities already have arenas or stadiums, it will be interesting to see what mid-sized markets get music-only facilities. Some of the locations mentioned above are places without major sports teams (like Austin). But, I could imagine some of these facilities within large metropolitan markets in order to cater to musicians (imagine such a facility in the southwest or northern suburbs of Chicago taking away business from the United Center, Allstate Arena, and the Sears Centre).

5. Just as sports stadiums and arenas have limited games, these facilities will have a limited number of concerts each year. What else could the arenas be used for?

No, the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena will not solve residential segregation in Milwaukee

The CEO of the Milwaukee Bucks says their new arena may or may not help the city:

Perhaps no NBA city is in greater need of a melting-pot meeting point than Milwaukee…

Feigin told the Wisconsin State Journal in 2016 that Milwaukee was “the most segregated, racist place I’ve ever experienced.” While he didn’t want to revisit those comments this week, Feigin said the new arena could help transform the city’s downtown.

“I don’t think this (arena) is a solution for racial harmony,” he said. “But Milwaukee doesn’t have a centralized meeting place. There are no parks in the middle of the city. By building this plaza, you’ve kind of orchestrated a meeting place.

“There are certainly obstacles and certainly a long way to go, but our message is this is a wonderful city. We are an organization that will speak out about injustice, and we are also an organization that is focused on how we can solve problems.”

It sounds like the Bucks CEO hopes the stadium becomes a cosmopolitan canopy site where people of different backgrounds can gather together and find common ground around the city’s basketball team. I am generally skeptical of claims that sports teams can help revive cities or heal cities. See this earlier post about whether the Cleveland Cavaliers winning an NBA championship would revive the fortunes of Cleveland. For an arena, will a few hours of watching basketball help fans truly cross race and class boundaries? A general civic pride might develop but I would guess many sports fans can compartmentalize their love for a winning team and their relationships, abstract or otherwise, with the other.

Did Kobe Bryant sell a McMansion or a mansion?

Kobe Bryant just sold his home – but different outlets call it a McMansion or a mansion. The second article gives some details about the home:

The 87-hundred square foot home was initially listed at 8.5 million in 2013, but ended up fetching 6.1 and some change. MLS records show it’s the most ever paid for a home in the Newport Coast enclave.

So what justified the price tag? Perhaps it was the home theater? Or the pool are with unobstructed views of all of Newport Coast? Or the 850 square foot gym. There’s a hair salon, outdoor kitchen, four bedrooms and 5 and a half baths. And maybe letting go of his mansion will help him ride off into the sunset, as Bryant himself reportedly told the L.A. Lakers’ general manager, next season will be his last.

See pictures here. The size – 8,700 square feet – seems to put it within the higher end of McMansion territory. However, the features seem to put it outside the typical suburban McMansion. A shark tank? The views of the Pacific coast?

Perhaps which term gets used for the home depends on the writer’s view of Bryant himself. Bryant is one of those players who tends to draw intense feelings on both sides. It is not unusual for wealthy entertainers and athletes to live in large homes. Using the term McMansion might suggest Bryant is barely rising above the housing levels of upper middle-class Americans or that he has a cookie-cutter home. Of course, Bryant is one of the best basketball players of all time and has earned around $300 million just playing basketball. Should Bryant instead be praised for his restraint? Perhaps the real question these days is to ask about the lushness of his lawn

A Milwaukee McMansion featuring Prairie Style, Las Vegas, and Palm Beach influences

News of foreclosure proceedings on NBA player O.J. Mayo’s house in the Milwuakee suburbs includes a description of his large home:

Built in 1995, the “contemporary” dwelling includes some ceilings as high as 20 feet. That’s tall enough to stack three O. J. Mayos on top of each other! The first floor has 4,298 square feet while the comparatively diminutive second floor has just 1,652 square feet. The 3,929 square foot basement has 2,250 finished square feet of floor space — plenty of room for a home theater (to watch those game highlights), a pool table, a bar, and all sorts of other jock stuff. There are two fireplace openings in the roof, and plenty of mantel space to display trophies and the other ephemera of a sporting life.

Four bathrooms offer ample space to shower or bathe after a game, with glass-fronted shower stalls and all sorts of custom fixtures. There are also two half-baths in the home, which has 5 bedrooms. The home sits on a 5 acre lot — the River Hills minimum — and has an attached 1,248 square foot garage. With 13 rooms, this is some house.

Architectural historians will place this structure in the era of the early McMansion. Although the real estate listing mentioned “Prairie School” influences in the architecture, the whole conveys the sense of a Las Vegas mansion colliding with a Palm Beach villa and settling to earth in the green landscape of the North Shore of Milwaukee.

See much better pictures of the home here. On one hand, this seems like a fairly typical big house: lots of space, lots of features, a big lot. On the other hand, the description of the home above is interesting. It is a home outside Milwaukee so the Prairie Style influences a la Frank Lloyd Wright make sense but the other comparisons are out of place. Las Vegas and Palm Beach just north of Milwaukee? This hints at one of the major complaints about McMansions: they tend to borrow and mix a variety of architectural styles that have very little connection to native architecture. A number of critics and architects argue that new buildings should blend in with existing styles. Architectural styles should be somewhat consistent. This, of course, does limit change but tends to preserve the existing character of places.

It’s too bad this article doesn’t go on to explore native Milwaukee architecture. Just how much does Mayo’s home differ from the typical Milwaukee suburban home?

High-powered lawyer to help sell the Milwaukee Bucks wants public money even as he lives in a McMansion

Here is an example of how looking at the personal McMansion of a wealthy individual can be pulled into commentary regarding that person’s public actions:

Marotta will certainly not be on the sidelines as a new arena is sought and fought over. He will be faced with the task of assembling a suitable building parcel as well as financing its purchase and the construction of a new facility. The $200 million promised by the seller and the new owners will not be enough to foot the bill.

Mayor Barrett and others have called for a regional tax to help pay for the stadium. If Marotta has to help this pass, he will get a taste of the struggle ahead by reading the Resolution Opposing a Tax to Fund a New Sports Arena in Downtown Milwaukee that was passed by the Executive Committee of the Ozaukee County Board of Supervisors in September 2013. Ozaukee County contributes to the 0.1 per cent Miller Park tax, and wants no part of another…

The first task is probably to find them in this cavernous dwelling, built in 2010. It has 17 rooms, of which 7 are bedrooms. There are 6 full baths and 3 half-baths in the home, along with “5 add’l fixtures”

Oh, we’ll find them later — off to the 5,605 square foot basement, of which 4,926 square feet is a finished rec room. That is a lot of recreating. Above is a first floor with 4,623 square feet of living space, surmounted by a more modestly sized 3,821 square foot second floor. Maybe it’s time to search around the 982 square foot attached garage with lake views and see if the kids are there, transfixed by the waves below…

By contrast, the visitor is encouraged to look at the orange structure to the south of the Marotta home. It could easily be overlooked, but upon closer inspection you can see a modern full-sized home dwarfed by the giant shadow cast by its neighboring McMansion.

This argument appears similar to the critique of McMansions offered by Thomas Frank several weeks ago: how can someone who has done well in life even think of asking for public money for a sports stadium? On top of this, studies suggest public tax dollars used for stadiums tend to benefit owners, not taxpayers. The McMansion discussed here (and it could be a mansion at over 10,000 square feet with the basement) is held up as an emblem of excess: it is very large, it is a teardown, it is an expensive house (in a nice location), and it is architecturally compromised. But, this analysis goes beyond speaking in generalities and links the negative qualities of the home to a particular person.