I cried. I shouted. I jumped out of my chair when the buzzer sounded, and my wife came in wondering what the hell was going on. I said “WE JUST BEAT THE EFFING JAZZ AGAIN!” And then I cried a bit more.
And then I remembered we didn’t “just” beat the Jazz again. It had happened 22 years ago – but I was completely transported by The Last Dance, revisiting scenes from my youth like it was the first time all over. Only now I was watching them with the eyes of an adult. An adult with a mind geared towards marketing. So I asked myself, are there lessons we can take away from The Last Dance? The answer, in case the headline didn’t give it away, is yes:
Those are the lessons for marketing…but that’s not all we can learn from The Last Dance, because America was starving for what the series brought us. COVID-19 has disrupted our everyday existence, but it’s also disrupted our seasonal, springtime rhythms. The NCAA Tournament, the Masters, the beginning of baseball season, the NBA playoffs – all have become victims of the virus. But for six weeks in April and May, we were treated to an epic (there’s no other word for it) documentary series about one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports. And we came together to revel in it.
That coming together is a big deal. Because we need it right now. Partisanship has seeped into everything, poisoning ties between Americans in a way I’ve never seen in my life (I’m told the `60s were worse). Put a “snowflake lib” and a “right wing nut job” next to each other in a bar and they’re not likely to get along – until they find out they’re both Bulls fans. Then, if only for a little while, the smears are forgotten. Or at least redirected at the Pistons.
It may sound trivial, but sports are the most visible unifier we have. They remind us of what we have in common. They give us other heroes, other places to invest our loyalty, other ways for us to come together as humans and become part of something larger than ourselves. We love to compete – and we are united in our enjoyment of it.