Time of essence for Jordan

I will sleep easier after Friday morning, thanks to Michael Jordan.

About a week ago, I received an email stating there might be an opportunity to interview Jordan at his celebrity golf tournament at super-swanky Shadow Creek. I emailed back that I would be interested in this opportunity, should it arise, but acted as if it was no big deal. The interview would take place in early morning, I was told. Don’t keep Michael waiting.

So I went out and bought a new alarm clock. I even read the instructions. I set the alarm on my cell phone, too. I had never set the alarm on my cell phone.

Like I said, no big deal.

So the next time I’m at the Motel 6 in Cedar Rapids and have to catch a bus in the morning, I will sleep easier, thanks to Michael Jordan.

The interview was scheduled for 8:52 a.m. This shows how big Jordan is. I’ve done interviews at 8 a.m. and 8:30 and even one at 5:15 a.m., when Andre Agassi was looking for publicity for his Grand Slam gala one year and forgot there’s a three-hour time difference between Cincinnati, where he was, and the cool side of the pillow in Henderson dreaming about Salma Hayek, where I was. I am still plotting my revenge for when Agassi least expects it.

But I had never agreed to an interview at precisely 8:52. That’s like the starting time for a Final Four game or something.

I was told I would have eight minutes, tops. No controversial questions. Damn. There went my chance to ask if the lay-flat collar on those Hanes T-shirts that Jordan hawks really does lay flat after you toss it in the dryer.

Two chairs with comfy green cushions were set up on the 18th fairway at Shadow Creek, which, before the big shots at MGM Resorts International talked Jordan into moving his celebrity clambake from the Bahamas to Las Vegas, had been off-limits to the public. The last time I went trespassing around Shadow Creek, Steve Wynn owned it. The bite marks from the German shepherds have healed nicely.

A small crowd had gathered to watch the interview. I felt like Morley Safer on "60 Minutes," except I wasn’t wearing a checkered shirt with a tie that clashed. I sat down. Michael Jordan sat down. And then he said, "Didn’t I see you yesterday?"

This is where I would have raised my brow like John Belushi, if I could raise my brow like Belushi. It only goes to show that if one wants to make an impression on a golf enthusiast, one should wear a distinctive tweed cap that makes one look like a caddie.

It was 8:52, and I was on the clock. My eight minutes were ticking. Although Jake Gyllenhaal saves Chicago in eight minutes in that new movie, Michael Jordan saved Chicago in three seconds when he hit that shot over Craig Ehlo in the ’89 playoffs. With M.J., time is of the essence.

The MGM Resorts people, who were kind enough to set up the interview, wanted me to keep it about golf. And so I did. For 30 seconds, anyway.

I mean, if you were granted an audience with, say, General George S. Patton at a petunia festival, and the petunia folks wanted you to keep it about petunias, I can almost bet you would try to sneak in a question about the Battle of the Bulge if you thought the petunia folks weren’t listening.

Two fairly important college basketball games are being played in Houston today, and so I asked Jordan the same question I’ve been asking everybody.

"Did you have Virginia Commonwealth in your bracket?"

"I actually didn’t do a bracket," he said.

I wanted to believe him. I wasn’t buying it. Michael Jordan not filling out a bracket during March Madness? That’s like an Irishman drinking O’Doul’s on St. Patrick’s Day.

"Butler, VCU … I think it’s good to see a small school like that get that kind of national exposure. I’d like to see either one of those teams win," Jordan said.

I once read that Jordan considered sinking the winning basket against Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA championship game while a freshman at North Carolina the turning point of his career.

"Because no one knew who Michael Jordan was," he said. "That shot became my launching pad. I tell a lot of people that before that, I was Mike Jordan. After I made that shot, I was Michael Jordan. It’s amazing how one shot can put your life into a whole different frame of light."

One senses the title he won in college means as much as the six he won in Chicago, just by judging from his golf cart. It’s painted Carolina Blue.

"If you have your first baby and (go on) to have four kids, which is your favorite?" Jordan said. "They’re all special, but winning that NCAA championship got everything started for me."

I asked if there was a world 2-on-2 championship and it was Game 7, who would he choose for his teammate — "Scottie Pippen" — and by this time, His Airness seemed slightly amused by the line of questioning. The nice folks at MGM Resorts weren’t nearly as amused. They kindly told me to ask more golf questions.

So I did. And when it felt like my eight minutes were up or I was out of golf questions, I simply told the greatest basketball player who ever lived "thanks."

The counter on my tape recorder said "5:22."

5:22? I turned back toward the chairs with the comfy green cushions, figuring I’d use the final 2:38 of my allotted time to ask M.J. if he detected any sort of irrational behavior from Charlie Sheen when they made that T-shirt commercial.

Too late.

All I saw was the back of Michael Jordan’s Carolina Blue golf cart as it sped off toward the driving range.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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