Tuesday Assorted Links

1. Unbundle the police?

“It’s an unacknowledged peculiarity that police are in charge of road safety. Why should the arm of the state that investigates murder, rape and robbery also give out traffic tickets? Traffic stops are the most common reason for contact with the police. . . . Many of the police homicides, such as the killing of Philando Castile happened at ordinary traffic stops. But why do we need armed men (mostly) to issue a traffic citation? Don’t use a hammer if you don’t need to pound a nail. Road safety does not require a hammer.”

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes as well as he played basketball, and I contend, he may have been the best ever. #UCLA.

“I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.”

3. When it comes to Presidential leadership, Mexico just can’t win.

“The numbers were startling: In March, Mexico’s government said, the country’s emergency call centers were flooded with more than 26,000 reports of violence against women, the highest since the hotline was created.

But Mexico’s president brushed aside his own cabinet’s announcement, suggesting, without evidence, that the vast majority of the calls for help were little more than pranks.

‘Ninety percent of those calls that you’re referring to are fake,’ said the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, when asked about the surge in calls at a recent news conference. ‘The same thing happens with the calls the metro gets about sabotage or bombs.'”

For shit’s sake. This from a leftist populist, who won the presidency more than a year ago by promising to transform Mexico into a more equal society. Fool me how many times?

The GOAT, But At What Cost?

The Last Dance, the ten episode Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary, was a  welcomed oasis in the live sports desert some of us are wandering aimlessly in.

But even at eightish hours, it felt woefully incomplete in that it ignored the the costs of ultimate professional success on personal well-being.

The doc’s one overarching insight was that Jordan’s work ethic, drive, and competitiveness were unparalleled; as a result, none of his teammates ever measured up. And so he beat them down, to the point that they had no affection for him.

Here’s Noam Scheiber describing the dynamic in The New York Times:

“As Jordan himself said of his teammates in ‘The Last Dance,’: ‘I’m going to ridicule you until you get on the same level as me. And if you don’t get on the same level, then it’s going to be hell for you.’

More than 15 years after Jordan retired from professional basketball — for the third time — the mix of power and grace he displayed on the court remains a breathless thrill. But his leadership style, such as it was, feels outdated.

In the intervening years, a chorus of experts has warned employers, investors and board members against tolerating such cruel or demeaning behavior. Academics and government officials have used terms like ‘toxic worker’ or ‘superstar harasser’ in preaching vigilance against flawed if seemingly talented performers.

‘Every organization needs the ‘no-asshole rule’ because meanspirited people do massive damage to victims, bystanders who suffer the ripple effects, organizational performance, and themselves,’ Robert Sutton, a Stanford University management professor, wrote in a 2007 best seller named for that rule.

Watching the Michael Jordan depicted in ‘The Last Dance’ presents a paradox of sorts: The Bulls dominate the league. Yet Jordan is frequently meanspirited. He appears to make light of one teammate’s migraine and uses words like ‘dumbass,’ or more foul-mouthed epithets, to refer to others. He doles out postgame abuse as easily as high fives, complaining, ‘You couldn’t make a damn jump shot all night long.’ He seems to delight in embarrassing a teammate on camera.

One struggles to know whom to believe: the experts or your lying eyes.

According to the studies Mr. Sutton cites in his book, the problems with toxic workers range from the obvious to the subtle. Their belligerence creates costly distractions. Their treatment of co-workers increases turnover and absenteeism. When the demoralized colleagues do show up, they perform apathetically.”

Hey Scheiber, it’s very easy to decide who to believe, IF the question is professional success. Jordan took one of the worst franchises in the league and almost single-handedly turned it into a historic dynasty with six NBA championships. The ends justify the means. Professionally.

But personal success is an altogether different question, and I contend at least as important a one. The little bit of light the doc shined on Jordan’s personal life was telling. In particular, he didn’t have meaningful relationships with his teammates. They seemed largely a means to an end, championship rings, a historic legacy. Steve Kerr, who attributed it to his unrivaled fame, said Jordan lived separately from his teammates, but Kerr also acknowledged there was an “emotional” distance. The picture of Jordan sitting alone of the bus with headphones on spoke volumes.

The question that went unexamined is whether Jordan was too competitive for his own good OFF the court. Interpersonal success hinges on one’s ability to cooperate with others. Can someone as hyper-competitive as Jordan, who at one point admitted to “having a competition problem” throw a switch when the stadium lights go off?

We never hear from his first wife. Or his adult children in any meaningful way.

But we do hear from his teammates and competitors. Yesterday I listened to a podcast interview with Wright Thompson who has a piece out about Jordan’s family history. Talking about Jordan’s relationship with some of his security guards and staff, Thompson said he is intensely loyal, once you’re in his circle of friendship, you’re in it for life.

Tell that to Charles Barkley, who after criticizing Jordan for making some poor decisions as owner of the Charlotte Hornets, was deemed persona non grata.* Formerly friends, they haven’t spoken since and Barkley doesn’t expect to reconcile with Jordan.

Fast forward from the bus. The enduring image of present day MJ is sitting alone in his mansion with his drink and cigar in hand. He’s considered by most the greatest basketball player of all time.** The GOAT. His net worth is $2b. And yet, it’s unclear how rich he is when it comes to meaningful friendships.

Through the imperfect, incomplete lens of the doc, Jordan doesn’t appear to have any regrets, and of course, every one gets to decide for themselves how to balance their work and non-work lives. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s living large not just professionally, but personally. Maybe he’s surrounded by people who know him well and who love him unconditionally and who he knows and loves back.

In which case, nevermind.

*Barkley wasn’t exactly making news.

** The increasingly tiresome GOAT debate is whether LeBron is Jordan’s equal. Three-point hysteria aside, I might start my team with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

We’re All Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Lew

When I was a pipsqueak, switching sports with the seasons, my guys were Jack Nicklaus, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and later, Magic “Earvin” Johnson.

Now my favorite superstars are Dave Gordon, Lance Matheson, and Dan Mathis.

It’s kinda hard to believe Kareem is 64 now. It seems like yesterday I was in college, squatting in front of our fuzzy t.v. in a Palms apartment, as Mark Eaton watched helplessly as Kareem’s “most points in NBA history” setting baseline skyhook hit nothing but net.

Kareem has always been cerebral, aloof, and apparently, not too personable.

Last week, he said he felt slighted by the Lakers since they hadn’t built a statue for him yet out in front of LA’s Staples Center. That complaint could convince me to never erect a statue, but after digging a little bit into the context, I realized Kareem, just like all of us at times, feels unappreciated.

If Kareem felt appreciated by the Lakers, I doubt he’d sweat the statue. The Lakers in essence have said it’s tough to appreciate Kareem, given his aloof, prickly personality. He’s made his own bed.

Some of my co-workers don’t feel fully appreciated by others at work. Some of my friends don’t feel fully appreciated by their partners. Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t feel fully appreciated by Barack Obama. Maria Shriver feels unappreciated. I don’t like that I feel unappreciated at times.

I wish I was more self sufficient when it comes to feeling appreciated.

But the truth of the matter is I’d like a statue too. A couple of ’em. One for three decades of conscientious teaching. Another for three months of extra cooking and cleaning while the galpal fights plantar fasciitis. And another for Friday’s lawn work.

Maturity is one’s ability to show appreciation for others without worrying about it being returned in equal measure. The challenge is to switch from “Woe am I, so unappreciated” to “I resolve to out-appreciate you.”

Ever deepening selflessness, characterized by ever increasing appreciation for others, is a key ingredient of a life well lived.