Remembering Michael Jackson in Music and in Sports
I dedicate the list to the one and only King of Pop, Michael Jackson, whom we lost on Thursday, June 25.
The list takes some of Michael’s biggest hits and attaches them to someone in sports.
Before, Jackson became Jacko and went too far off the wall, if you grew up in the late 1970s through the 1980s like I did, there was not a bigger celebrity than Michael.
The Thriller album has sold more than 110 million copies. That number will go even higher, as his record sales after his death have skyrocketed. The next biggest selling album is Back in Black by AC-DC which has sold less than half that of Thriller, with about 45 million copies.
The only sports record that could put that into perspective was Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak. Ripken played in 2,632 consecutive games; he bested Lou Gehrig’s record by 502 games. Everett Scott is third on that list with 1,307 games.
But, where Ripken really separates himself is actively in Major League Baseball. No player is close to even half of Ripken’s total. The current active leader is the San Diego Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez at around 300 games.
All this weekend, I have been listening to the King of Pop’s music, and remembering how good that music was. There have been songs I have not listened to in more than ten years, but somehow my brain remembers the lyrics exactly. I wish my memory was that good in other areas of my life!
His music was more a part of my life than I knew. I knew where I was when I first saw the Thriller video on MTV, when his hair caught on fire during that Pepsi commercial, when he captured eight phonographs at the 1984 Grammy Awards, etc.
I am going to remember Michael Jackson in a positive spotlight. I think his problems in his life trace back to growing up. Michael grew up in front of all of us. He was seven years old at the start of the Jackson 5. He was ten years old when the Jackson 5 had their first No. 1 hit with, “I Want You Back."
I could not imagine my childhood as a star recording artist with a very demanding father. It is likely that Michael never played Little League or had much time to associate with friends in school, like so many of us did.
If there was one person in music capable of pulling off a comeback like Elvis did, in his ’68 Comeback Special, it was Michael Jackson.
Sadly, we will never see that comeback.
Beat It—Gary Bettman
“They're Out To Get You, Better Leave While You Can
Don't Wanna Be A Boy, You Wanna Be A Man
You Wanna Stay Alive, Better Do What You Can
So Beat It, Just Beat It”
No sports commissioner has ever been as despised as one Mr. Gary Bettman. Fans have been asking for him to beat it for years. This guy gets booed in every arena he visits.
In fact, I think he goes home and gets booed. I always imagined Bettman walking into his home and say, “Hi Honey, how was your day?” His wife would answer back, “BOOOO!”
One day he will no longer be commissioner of the NHL. That day cannot be soon enough for this hockey fan.
Thriller—The Past Two Super Bowls
“And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller”
This part of the song is actually a reading by the great Vincent Price.
Michael was the halftime entertainer for Super Bowl XXVII at the Rose Bowl. Michael provided most of the entertainment during the night as the Dallas Cowboys steamrolled the Buffalo Bills 52-17.
The last two Super Bowls have had most of the entertainment on the field.
Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLIII gave us so many thrills that it kind of makes you forget that the Super Bowl has usually been more hype than game.
The most improbable catch and the greatest touchdown catch were made in these two games.
Santonio Holmes magical lean to keep both feet in bounds, and David Tyree’s special glue on the helmet to keep that ball attached without hitting the ground were two of the top thrillers in this decade for sports.
Working Day and Night—Syracuse vs. UConn, and Federer vs. Nadal
“You Got Me Workin' Day And Night
And I'll Be Workin'
From Sun Up To Midnight”
This is in honor of the two longest events that I watched from start to finish in the last year.
The Syracuse-Connecticut game defied basketball logic.
The game tipped-off at around 9:30 on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Three hours later the game was far from conclusion.
Syracuse had beaten Connecticut the last three times they played in the Big East Tournament. They never played a game like this.
There was the just missed buzzer-beater by Eric Devendorf after regulation.
Back-and-forth they went. UConn had a lead in each of the five overtimes, but the Orange kept chipping back and kept the game alive.
Syracuse finally pulled away in the sixth overtime and won by ten points. But, in my head and for those who saw it live, I think the game is still going.
It was a total of three hours and 46 minutes of basketball, with 102 combined points scored by the Orange and the Huskies in the six overtimes. Syracuse guard Johnny Flynn played 67 minutes! It was 1:22 on Friday morning and the longest game in Big East history was complete.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal gave us a show for the ages at Wimbledon in 2008.
Rarely do the two best in any sport put on a show worth of being epic. This one was more than worthy.
Breakfast at Wimbledon, turned into lunch, dinner and dessert and Wimbledon.
The start of the match began in the 9:00 hour, Eastern Time.
Nadal took the first two sets 6-4 and 6-4. But, the five-time defending Wimbledon Champion, Roger Federer would not go quietly as he attempted to pass Bjorn Borg to make it six straight titles in England.
Federer came back and won the third and fourth sets in tiebreaks. The fifth set there would be no tiebreak, because at Wimbledon you play out the fifth. To add even more drama, the match was tied 2-2 in the fifth set, when a rain delay once again halted play.
Fans wondered whether the match could be completed on Sunday, and would the two play a Monday morning finale. Would the greatest tennis match ever seen add more drama by going on for a second day?
It would not. Nadal would finally capture the match 9-7, well after the sun had set on Centre Court.
The time of the match went four hours and 48 minutes, but it was over seven hours in terms of overall time due to two rain delays.
The match finished at 9:15 pm, in England. It was 4:15 in New York. Wimbledon is usually off the air by two or three hours on a typical championship Sunday.
The All-England Club has completed the retractable roof on Centre Court, pretty much guaranteeing us that we will never see another Wimbledon match that will take us from day into night.
Billie Jean—Billie Jean King
“She Told Me Her Name Was Billie Jean, As She Caused A Scene
Then Every Head Turned With Eyes That Dreamed Of Being The One
Who Will Dance On The Floor In The Round”
Could it have been anyone else?
While the song has absolutely nothing to do with the ladies’ tennis great, it is ironic that the spelling is identical.
King has 12 majors to her name, including six Wimbledon titles, and four U.S. Open victories. King is one of just a few people to have won all four Grand Slam titles on either the men’s or ladies’ side.
But, it was a match played against a man that is this Billie Jean’s biggest claim to fame. In September 1973, King and former men’s champion Bobby Riggs would battle in a “Battle of the Sexes” match at the Houston Astrodome. Riggs was 55 at the time and could not keep up with the younger and very intelligent King.
Billie Jean won the match 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
Like the King of Pop, this King’s influence is felt very much today in tennis and in many women’s sports.
King once said, “Victory is fleeting, losing is forever.” That victory is 1973 did mean forever this time.
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’—Rex Ryan
“So Your Tongue Became A Razor
I Said You Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
You Got To Be Startin' Somethin'”
Rex Ryan has come out of the box as the coach of the New York Jets with his mouth ready to go.
In his opening press conference when he was named head coach of the Jets, he said, "We want to be known as the most physical football team in the NFL...The players will have each other's backs, and if you take a swipe at one of ours, we'll take a swipe at two of yours”.
He said that the Jets would meet the President in the next couple years, meaning that he thinks that the Jets will be Super Bowl Champions in the near future.
In June, Ryan got into a verbal tit-for-tat with Miami Dolphins’ linebacker Channing Crowder.
The week before, Ryan went on a radio show, and said that he did not come to the Jets to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings.
Whether Ryan actually believes some of what he is saying is anyone’s opinion. But, he has built up a frenzy of media activity around his team and has been quite the opposite of the Jets prior coach, the reserved Eric Mangini.
It appears that Ryan has started something, but can his team finish what his mouth started?
“We Can Change The World Tomorrow
This Could Be A Better Place
If You Don't Like What I'm
Sayin' Then Won't You Slap My Face . . .
Because I'm Bad, I'm Bad-
(Bad Bad-Really, Really Bad)”
The 2008 Detroit Lions gave new meaning to the word "bad."
Bad, as used by Jackson in the song, meant that you were bad in terms of your actions—you were tough and feared.
These Lions were none of the above.
They lost each game they played. They were bad in the original meaning of the word.
In the words of another hit song from the 1980’s by Howard Jones, “Things Can Only Get Better."
They can’t get any worse in 2009, can they?
Do you think as a tribute to Michael, the Lions will enter the field at Ford Field, to “Bad”?
Here Comes The Man
The Big Boy Stands”
The video for this song takes place in a basketball court with the basketball legend, Michael Jordan, trying to teach the music legend, Michael Jackson how to play basketball. In return Jackson tried to teach Jordan how to dance.
These two share the nickname of MJ, if there will be another MJ, he will have to rise to a level of greatness that is rarely seen.
Jordan was coached by a Jackson, who is now the NBA's most decorated coach, Phil Jackson, who won his 10th NBA Championship as a coach in June.
These two MJs are irreplaceable.
Human Nature—LeBron James
“If they say -
Why, why, tell ‘em that is human nature
Why, why, does he do me that way”
When watching LeBron James play and dominate a game like he does; I realize the special innate talents that seem to be a gift that James has over so many.
Basketball gives a player that quality of a single player dominating a team sport.
Say what you wish about Kareem, Magic, Larry, Oscar, Russell, Wilt, and Michael; the way LeBron plays it just seems so natural and such a physical gift that he has to play the game like so few have previously.
Just like the King of Pop, King James was given the crown at a very early age in his career. James will need to win a championship in the next few seasons to cement that crown on his head.
Smooth Criminal —Donte Stallworth
“You've Been Hit By
You've Been struck By-
A Smooth Criminal”
Donte Stallworth was drunk behind the wheel of a car and struck and killed a man, Mario Reyes, who was walking in the street.
Stallworth went to court and struck a plea of guilt. He would receive 30 days in jail, and eight years probation.
Stallworth and the Reyes family reached a financial settlement, avoiding a civil lawsuit. The terms have not been disclosed.
In 1993, the family of a child that had visited his Neverland ranch sued Michael Jackson. The lawsuit stated the Jackson inappropriately touched the child and that there was sexual contact involved.
Jackson paid the family $22 million to settle the case so he could continue with his career. He was never found guilty.
The legal system is what was pretty smooth in both cases. Had Stallworth and Jackson not been stars with money, it would have been interesting to see what their day in court would have been like.
Many others could have made this list; Stallworth is just the most recent.
We Are The World —South African Soccer
“There comes a time when we hear a certain call
When the world must come together as one”
In 1985, this record co-written by Michael Jackson was made to give aid to provide relief of famine and disease in Africa.
In South Africa in 1985, apartheid was still very much in effect.
No one could foresee that FIFA would be hosting the biggest sporting event in the world in this African nation just 25 years later.
While the U.S. team has made the most headlines at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup with their improbable run to the final, the host country has held more than its own.
South Africa advanced to semifinals and gave heavily favored Brazil all it could handle in a narrow 1-0 defeat.
In 2010, the World Cup comes to an African nation for the first time. The world’s best soccer teams will unite as one to play this grand event.
Let’s hope the World Cup returns to Africa again, and that the scenes of famine and apartheid never return.
“Stop pressurin me, just stop pressurin me
Stop pressurin me, make me wanna scream”
All right, knock it off, man.
I think Leaf had this song in his head when he went crazy that day with the reporter in the locker room.
Maturity gets questioned when you think of the names Ryan Leaf and Michael Jackson.
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough—Brett Favre
“Keep On With The Force Don't Stop
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough”
Dedicated to the man who just cannot seem to get enough of football or the media’s obsession with trying to sway his “retirement” decisions.
“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was a No.1 hit for Michael Jackson in 1979. Brett Favre was ten years old at the time.
The media cannot seem to get enough of Favre and Favre has yet to stop them by saying whether he will be a Viking or officially start his retirement.
Current Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers was not born until 1983.
New Jet quarterback Mark Sanchez was not born until 1986.
Obviously, in this picture, Brett Favre has been to Disneyland—not sure if he ever went to Neverland.
Say, Say, Say—Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco Johnson
”Say, say, say what you want but don't play games with my affection.
Take, take, take what you need but don't leave me with no direction.”
Since this was a duet between Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, why not have two people take this one?
In the video for the song, McCartney and Jackson are two traveling salesmen who go from town to town, either promoting something phony or performing a Vaudevillian-like stage performance.
Terrell Owens has now taken his act to its fourth city, and while Chad Ochocinco has stayed in Cincinnati, something tells me his show may be hitting the road in the near future.
These two would make incredible traveling salesmen, for all of their talk; neither wide receiver has produced a championship.
They both have talent, but they have been more show than substance.
One thing is for sure, Michael Jackson was a great showman, but he had the substance working behind that.