Michael Jeffrey Jordan turns 53 today. His status as the greatest basketball player of all time is rarely questioned. He is doing well financially and is beloved around the world. Usually it’s tough to come up with a thoughtful gift for a man who seemingly has everything. In this case, however, the greatest birthday present the internet can give Jordan is to stop creating and sharing the Crying Jordan meme cold turkey.
Sure, Jordan himself has no problem with his photoshopped face cropping up online to document literally any event that causes disappointment. Why? Because the man is about one thing: the bottom line. Once someone figures out a way to monetize it, you can bet your sweet behind Jordan will change his tune faster than a person can point out Republicans also buy sneakers.
When Associated Press photographer Stephen Savoia captured the iconic photograph of Jordan crying during his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, it was a moment of raw emotion — something the Bulls great didn’t usually show. Savoia said in an interview that it was the first time in 40 years that he’d seen an athlete cry. Jordan’s status only made the moment more poignant.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that something so artistic and beautiful has been co-opted for cheap laughs and retweets. I’m not lamenting the fall of Western Civilization here but it’s worth noting how reductive the image has become: from high art to lowest common denominator commentary.
Maybe I’m overstating the situation and reading too much into a meaningless internet phenomenon. But if you grew up at a certain time, Michael Jordan was synonymous with greatness. There was a song devoted to the countless hours kids spent emulating his moves. He soared to heights once thought unreachable.
And now, for so many people, he’s only a silly crying face. He’s something to use when formulating words is too difficult a task. Michael Jordan is synonymous with Twitter users who still want to “be like Mike.” What’s changed is that “Mike” created a hilarious picture of Jordan’s crying face on Tom Brady’s body and goes by the handle @sportsjokes2923.
You could argue it’s refreshing to see people with reasonable goals in life. You’d be wrong but you could certainly argue that.
I’ll be the first to admit Crying Jordan’s cockroach-like resilience took me by surprise. To be fair, though, there was no way to know this fad would have such staying power. There’s probably a lesson about lowering one’s expectations for others in there.
Eventually this meme will die out. Momentum will dissipate. All I am asking is for reasonable people to stand up and give it a gentle nudge into retirement. Let me clarify: permanent retirement, not some neutered version that crops up two years from now and is markedly less funny.
It doesn’t seem like a tough ask. And what better time to do it than on Jordan’s birthday? What better way to honor his legacy in the most trivial, 2016 way possible?
Bad memes thrive when good people remain silent.
Happy birthday, Michael. Please know I tried to do something nice for you. If it doesn’t pan out then, hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?