For Mara Sydnor
Preface: On the Secret Santa website, Mara listed her interests as “All the things.” To most people that would seem vague and unhelpful, but I knew what she was really saying, “Whoever gets this, please write me a minimusical about Michael Jordan.” And, so, that’s exactly what I did.
Michael Jordan, 1994,
Decides to give up basketball for a while
He said, “My daddy shot dead,
I’m gonna honor him
By playing baseball instead.”
Visits his dad’s tombstone,
Says, “Daddy, I’m comin’ on home,
Gonna join a minor league baseball team
Called the Birmingham Barons,
And honor your name with
This jersey I’m wearin’.
Once a baller always a baller,
Holding a ball and bat.
He’s catching feelings
In outfield and
Having a time at that.
But things aren’t so simple for
INT. GENERAL MANAGERS OFFICE
Doug Bernstein, general manager of the Birmingham Barons, invites Charlie McKat into his office for a little chat. Bernstein is sitting behind a big’ol impressive desk, made of an impressively expensive wood—possibly cherry, but definitely walnut—and has several photographs, lining the edge, of him standing next to various impressive-looking people. He offers Charlie a seat.
Doug Bernstein: Charlie, take a seat.
Charlie’s too polite to refuse.
Charlie McKat: That’s alright, I think I’ll stand.
Okie Dokie, then.
Doug Bernstein: I’d really appreciate if you sat down, Charlie. I have to break some bad news to you, and I’m gonna feel like a comic book villain if I’m sitting and you’re standing. It’s just a little too close to the chair swivel and the pet cat, you know? Please.
Charlie McKat: Just say what you’re gonna say.
Doug groans and gets up from his chair. Now he’s standing behind his desk, and that obviously won’t do either.
Doug Bernstein: See, but if I get up from the desk, right before I break the news, it feels too confrontational. You know? Like we’re about to fight. Because there’s a chair readily available, and I’m just opting not to use it. What? I’m voluntarily giving up the comfort of a chair, for the discomfort of standing. You don’t do that, Charlie, unless it’s for tactical reasons. I mean, sure it’d help if we starting throwing fists—no one’s denying that—but I don’t want to fight you, Charlie. You’re much bigger than me, and I’m much too much of a coward.
Charlie McKat (rolling his eyes): Come on, Doug…
Doug decides to go with sitting down.
Doug Bernstein: I’m afraid we have to cut you from the team.
No one can be expected to take this news well, but it’s usually safe to assume that a person isn’t going to react the way Charlie does. Furious, like a rabid dog, he unfurls his lips, and fixes his mouth to reveal the sheen of his teeth, snarling, tight-nosed, the way a knight unsheathes his sword in the night, ready for battle. En-garde. He throws his body forward like a shark jostling a lifeboat. Little people onboard screaming for mercy. But the sea is a fowl and unforgiving mistress—much like my aunt Petunia when a waitress gets her order wrong. He’s practically foaming at the mouth. Minus the foam, of course, but it’s really the feeling of it that matters. And he’s got feelings foaming like a barista pulling overtime—anger, envy, spite, almond milk, and a touch of malice. No tips, today. Touché.
Charlie McKat (slightly upset): What?
Doug Bernstein (popping up from his chair): Alright, standing it is. Haha, rather daft decision to sit, aye, Charlie?
Charlie McKat (nonplussed): I don’t understand. I’m the best player on this team.
Doug Bernstein (chuckling): Well, you certainly believe so. But that’s not really the issue, Charlie. You’re a fine player, really. The thing is this a minor league baseball team. Winning isn’t that much of a priority. Sure it’s preferred, but it’s just not the focus, Charlie. What you have is an attitudinal problem. You can’t yell at teammates after games and throw tantrums in the locker room. It’s bumming people out.
Charlie McKat: I never do that. See this is exactly the problem with this team, you just don’t get it.
Doug Bernstein: Look, Charlie. I understand where you’re coming from. I really do. But this team is about hot dogs and t-shirt cannons. And I’m afraid it’s time for us to go a different direction. We’ve decided to sign Michael Jordan.
Charlie McKat (irate): What? But he’s not even a baseball player!
Doug Bernstein: Exactly, it’s a novelty! Think of the crowds. It’s gonna be great.
Charlie McKat (sullied and sorrowful): Ugh, not Michael Jordan… Not again.
Doug Bernstein (feeling quizzical): I’m sorry, would you mind providing some exposition?
Michael Jordan gets accepted to
North Carolina Univesity
Decides to major in cultural geography
And he’s pretty good at basketball, too
He’s there on a sports-related scholarship
But the team has to cut one player
Oh, don’t you know it’s Charlie McKat cut from the team?
Oh, I think you ought to know
INT. UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA BASKETBALL COURT — EXPOSITION
Dean Smith, head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, addresses all of the basketball players following tryouts. He stands in the center of the court, dribbling a basketball, menacingly, while all the apprehensive prospects sit, apprehensively, in the bleachers, which, while a bit nervous looking, feel no apprehension at all. Among the prospects are Michael Jordan and, our hero, Charlie McKat.
Dean Smith: Alright, everyone. As you know, we just finished up without tryouts, which means it’s time to select the players for this year’s North Carolina team. Go Tar Heels!
Coach performs a beautiful crossover.
Dean Smith: Just because you were on the team last year, does not mean you will be selected for this year’s team.
Coach dribbles up to the three-point line and shoots an air ball. He waits in silence for his assistant to retrieve the ball, and then continues dribbling.
Dean Smith (losing confidence in his abilities but too much of a pro to show it): This year we’re only accepting thirteen players, and fourteen of you tried out. I don’t need to explain what that means. One of you needs to be cut. And that player is…
Coach performs an emphatic bounce pass into the bleachers. This is not what he meant to do, but you’d never know it.
Dean Smith: Charlie McKat!
Ouch, coach! Charlie’s gonna be devastated.
Charlie McKat (devastated): Alright. Well, thank you for the opportunity, coach. I loved playing for you this past season. I’ll always appreciate all the things you taught me about life and the game of basketball.
Dean Smith: Calm down, Charlie! It’s nothing personal!
Charlie McKat: We’re good, coach. Congratulations to all of you. Especially you, Michael, I can tell you’re gonna be a special player someday. Heck, you already are!
Michael Jordan: Fuck you, man!
Charlie picks up his duffle bag and quietly walks out of the gym, head held high.
Cliff Morris: Jeez, coach! What was that guy’s problem?
Dean Smith: Some people just have bad attitudes, Cliff. It’s those kinds of intangibles that you just can’t teach.
INT. GENERAL MANAGERS OFFICE
Doug Bernstein, now sitting, since he considers it rude to listen to a story while standing, is staring at Charlie, head in palms, in awe.
Charlie McKat: I was pretty distraught at the time, because all my life I wanted to be a professional basketball player. So I took a year to think about my future. Then I joined the baseball team. One thing lead to another, and that’s how I ended up here.
Doug Bernstein is stunned.
Doug Bernstein: Do you mean to tell me that you’ve met the Michael Jordan?
Charlie McKat (letting out a long sigh): Yeah, and, frankly, he’s a great guy. He keeps screwing up my life, but, you know, it’s not his fault, and… I’m sure he’ll be a great addition to the team.
Doug Bernstein (taken aback): Geez, Charlie, that’s a little harsh.
Charlie McKat (trying his hardest to convey his sincerity): Well, Mr. Bernstein, thank you for the opportunity to play with this team. It’s been a blast. And best of luck to you and the rest of the organization going into the future.
Doug Bernstein pops out of his chair, infuriated.
Doug Bernstein: Get the fuck out of my office!
INT. WARNER BROTHERS STUDIO
Charlie McKat, walks into a studio executive’s office for his final audition. It’d been almost a year since he left his job with the Birmingham Barons. Since then, he’d decided to pursue a career as a professional actor. When he heard that there was a part in a movie about a basketball player, he knew he’d found his big break. The first audition and screen-test had gone well. Now all he had to do was nail his audition in front of the director and studio exec. Charlie’d never been so sure of something in his life. He was going to be the star of Space Jam.
Mr. Studio Executive: Charlie, come in. Take a seat.
Mr. Director: Charlie, thank you so much for coming in. We really love you for this part. Really, you’d be great for it.
Mr. Studio Executive: Unfortunately, we’ve decided to go a different direction.
Mr. Director: We just got a call from Michael Jordan’s agent, and he said that he was very interested in the picture.
Mr. Studio Executive: It’s just business. We hope you’ll understand.
Sometimes even the tamest dogs go savage. What Charlie does next is almost too horrific to publish. Reader discretion is advised.
Charlie McKat: Haha, seems to be a regular occurrence at this point. Well, thank you for your time. Hopefully, we can work together in the future.
Mr. Director and Mr. Studio Executive jump back, and shield themselves with their arms to protect themselves from Charlie’s vicious blows.
Mr. Director (terrified): Ahhhhhh!
Mr. Studio Executive dashes to his desk, ducks behind it, and hurriedly grabs a phone off the top.
Mr. Studio Executive (nearly screaming into the phone): Security, come immediately, a man’s gone wild in my office!
Michael Jordan, very good at basketball
Now he’s in Space Jam, oh, oh, what a man
Called up by the studio, they say “Michael, you’re great
We really think you’re perfect for this part.”
Charlie McKat, unemployed actor
Sits on the side of the road, says, “Woe is me.”
Picked up by a garbage truck, they say, “Charlie, you’re trash,
We really think you’d be better off in a landfill.”
That hits Charlie, pretty good
He breaks down and cries
Says, “What am I living for,
If it’s all about me.”
After finally excepting his fate of being one-uped by Michael Jordan at every turn, Charlie decided to dedicate his life to helping the less fortunate. He started a charity dedicated to uplifting unprivileged children who weren’t talented at basketball, baseball, or film acting. He lives with his wife and kids in the Hamptons.
Michael Jordan also started a more successful charity, which strives for the same goal. His house in the Hamptons in considerably larger than Charlie’s.