Monday, June 9, 2014

The best thing the Hornets took from the Bobcats

Inevitably, when I talk to a group of young people about journalism, someone asks me if I've met any famous people. Inevitably, as part of my answer, I say: "I once spent the day with Michael Jordan." The kids are always very impressed.

That day was three years ago, when the then-Charlotte Bobcats held a "Day of Service" in which team officials and players fanned out across Charlotte to do good things for others. Jordan, who had owned the team for just more than a year at that point, made surprise visits to a middle school, a children's hospital, a Boys & Girls club and a men's shelter. He was close to 50 years old and hadn't played competitively in more than a decade. That didn't matter to anyone.

I remember the stop at Northridge Middle School most of all, how the gymnasium exploded with a joy so loud it seemed silent for a brief moment. Jordan was almost sheepish at the adulation then, and he was gracious throughout the day as children's - and adults' - eyes saucered when he walked into a room. It was a good day for the team, which hadn't had many of them, and I remember wondering if this Day of Service was something that would go away when the Bobcats no longer needed it.

Now they are the Hornets, of course, and they're a playoff team that seems to be on the upswing. Today, for the still-annual Day of Service, Jordan and crew are visiting Hornets Nest Elementary, where the team is rebuilding a playground and picnic area. The team also announced a fund to help Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers get money for classroom innovations.

There are a lot of companies in Charlotte that do fine things for others. Some have similar days of service - Wells Fargo had a huge one this past weekend. But there also are many that give it a try for a year or three until the concept loses its momentum. The Hornets haven't hit that point, and I hope they don't for a long while. Because while this Day of Service is still most definitely about marketing, it's also about the impact that franchises and athletes can have on their communities. If you happen to be at one of Michael Jordan's stops today, you might risk hearing loss, but you'll also see the real power some have to make someone's life better, even if just for a grand moment or two.

Good for Jordan, and good for the Hornets, that they didn't lose that when they lost the Bobcats name.

Peter St. Onge


Anonymous said...

Hey Peter, no opinion on the Bergdahl trade and the unilateral move by Obama??