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Outside the Lines:
Who's the Boss? and Pinstripe Patriotism


Here's the transcript from Show 83 of weekly Outside The Lines - Who's the Boss? and Pinstripe Patriotism

SUN., OCT. 28, 2001
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Jordan story reported by: David Aldridge
Guests: Mark Shields, syndicated columnist; Steve Burgess, .

Bob Ley, host - Michael is back. But how does Doug Collins coach the man who was his boss?

Doug Collins, Wizards head coach - I knew that when he hired me, he hired me to do my job.

Michael Jordan, 22.4 PPG in 2001 preseason - I will not overstep my boundaries as a player, because I feel Doug is qualified as a coach.

Ley - Coaching Michael Jordan; the man with six rings from that relationship will explain how it works.

Phil Jackson, Lakers head coach; Coached Jordan to six NBA titles with Chicago - You never have to challenge him about his own personal game.

Ley - Also this week - Have the Yankees become America's team?

Joe Torre, Yankees manager - The "NY" on our caps represented more than just baseball fans. It represented New York City and all of America.

Ley - Today on Outside The Lines - relationships. A superstar and his coach, and an historical franchise and this country.

Ley - In normal times, there are obvious laws of nature in sports. A coach is in charge of his players without looking over his shoulder. And the Yankees' march to another championship will awaken age-old resentments.

But these are not normal times. Ahead this morning, we'll see if changes in the world extend to the cottage industry of rooting against the Yankees.

But first, something equally unusual - the greatest athlete of our age playing for the coach he hired. Put aside the question of Michael Jordan possibly squandering part of his unparalleled legacy, he has clearly shown he remains a dominant player. The issue is whether Jordan's team will improve, and what that will mean to the relationship between Michael and head coach Doug Collins.

They go back 15 years, before Jordan was an industry and an institution. Before he called all the shots for the Washington Wizards.

David Aldridge now examines player and coach.

David Aldridge, ESPN correspondent - As president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards, Michael Jordan hired Doug Collins to be head coach. Now Jordan is employee number 23, playing for Collins. It is an unusual situation, to say the least.

Is Jordan still Collins' boss, or just another player? How does Collins discipline the man that, until a month ago, signed his checks? Do the Wizards have one head coach or two?

Collins - I have such great respect for Michael. I knew that when he hired me, he hired me to do my job. And he told me he wants to be coached.

Aldridge - You're in this very odd position where you're playing for the guy that you hired. Doesn't that change the coach-player dynamic, the typical coach-player dynamic?

Jordan - Yes. But I'm playing for a coach who I played for before. And he has an understanding for who I am, I have an understanding in terms of how he coaches. I will not overstep my boundaries as a player, because I feel Doug is qualified as a coach.

Collins - He and I communicate, so we know what we exactly need out of each other. I respect him as the greatest player of all time. I also respect him as the man who hired me. But at the same time I'm confident in what I'm doing. I think Michael knows that, and I think he respects that.

Unidentified Announcer - Here's Michael at the foul line, a shot on (Unintelligible) -- game! The Bulls win! They win it!

Aldridge - When Jordan hit the shot to win the first round of the 1989 playoffs for the Chicago Bulls, Collins was his head coach. But at the end of those playoffs, despite having taken the Bulls farther in the postseason than they'd been in more than a decade, Collins was fired, in part because of his hyper-intense methods.

But Jordan says he's now more comfortable with Collins' ways.

Jordan - Doug has in the past, has used me as examples, where early on in my career I wouldn't have understood it. But I understand it far greater now because of what I've gone through.

Horace Grant, Jordan's teammate on Bulls (1987-'93) - Michael trusts Doug. I mean, just point blank, he trusts Doug to work with those young guys. Mike is going to be the coach on the floor anyway. I mean, even if he wasn't an owner, you know, you have two guys in Coach Collins -- Doug -- and Michael, who are going to get the best out of their players.

Steve Kerr, Jordan's teammate on Bulls (1994-'98) - The same thing occurred in Chicago. Phil Jackson was the coach, but Michael and Phil were partners. And they sort of led that team together. And I see the same thing happening in Washington.

Jordan - We help each other, we aid each other. I speak up when I feel like it's a necessity to speak up. And I speak up from a player's standpoint, I don't speak up from a guy who's paying the checks, you know. And I don't override what the coach is saying. I chose Doug mainly because I know he's capable of teaching and helping these young kids understand the game. I let him do that.

Aldridge - The player as boss isn't unique in this era of superstar athletes becoming executives. Mario Lemieux, in his capacity as part owner of the Penguins, agreed to hire Coach Ivan Hlinka. Of course, four games into this season, Lemieux the player agreed to fire Hlinka.

Collins says he'll have no problems challenging Jordan if he has to, although he'll choose his words a little differently than he would with any other player.

Collins - Come on Michael, you know, we can do better than that, or something like that. I mean, you know what I found out about people who are really great at what you do? Usually they're so critical on themselves that you really don't have to say much. They know.

Jordan - I need to be pushed. You know, I need my weaknesses pointed out at this time, so that I can stress my determination to go out and work on these things. And sometimes it's OK for the players to see that I can be criticized. But they can also see that once I see that, my determination is that I'm going to try to correct that.

Collins - I don't think I would have gotten back into it had it not been with Michael. My wife and I were very happy, and we had a great life. And if I was going to get back into this, it was going to be with somebody who I really admired and respected.

Pat Riley, Heat head coach - I always thought that Doug was one of the very, very best minds in the game. And now after being out of it for a while, I think you're going to see one of the best coaches in the game, that has come back probably with a little different approach.

Aldridge - Jordan's contract as a player runs two years. Collins has a four-year coaching contract. There is every chance that it will be Jordan in a business suit, and not in a uniform, that will ultimately decide if Collins gets to finish that deal.

Jordan - If the guys don't understand his methods, then I'm there to try to clarify a little bit better, you know, because I operated under his system. So that's how the tandem's been working. And yeah, it's different, it's pretty rare. But yet, I think it can be very successful.

Ley - Well, the two were together when Collins was a younger, more intense coach, from Jordan's third year in the league through his fifth. In their final season together, the Bulls did make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, and then enter Phil Jackson.

After one season with the Bulls as the Eastern finalist, the two men ripped off a dynastic run, interrupted only by Jordan's baseball career. Phil Jackson, fresh from a successful career in the CBA, had worked under Doug Collins on the Bulls coaching staff. Jackson and Michael Jordan are linked by their mutual history and understanding, one that David Aldridge explored with the man who has won six rings coaching MJ.

Aldridge - You know this guy. How do you challenge Michael to be better, to do more, to do more things for a team?

Jackson - Well, you know, you never have to challenge him about his own personal game. There are players that you want to just slip a little thorn underneath the saddle blanket and see how they ride with that. There are players that you know you can ignore, just not even praise, and they'll respond to that.

With Michael, he's all over himself from the moment the game's over, and he can hardly wait until the next one. There have been a few times that I had some fun, but it was mostly to let the other teammates know that, hey, Michael wasn't above a form of criticism of the coach will give, a critique from a coach. But for the most part, it's about Michael being a teammate, being an adviser, being a confidant, being someone that encourages somebody else.

That was always where I felt that I did my best work with Michael is like, you know, maybe you should take this guy aside and give him a little bit. Michael would say, well I've been giving him a little bit of the red ass, so hopefully he'll get a fire underneath himself. And I'd say, well maybe you might want to try the other approach now, you know, and see if he can't get some confidence in himself.

So he was real good with his teammates. By the time he finished with the Chicago Bulls, he was really a great captain for the team.

Aldridge - He hires Doug as the coach, and now Doug is his coach, and he's playing for Doug. And you know both of these guys very well. And I'm wondering, what do you think is going to happen there?

Jackson - Well, I think that it's going to be, really, a good union. First of all, I think there is a collusion between the two of them, a mindset that they're saying, you know, we have to teach something to these young players, the group of young players that Washington has that is, you know, what Doug brought into Chicago and what Michael had in Chicago, and came to Chicago with. And that's his real intense competitive zeal.

And Doug can really screw that up a notch or two, and Michael can play that a notch or two above what these young players have ever played before. So they're going to get a big dose of that. The two of them working together, I think, will do fine.

There's going to be -- obviously there's always friction with players and coaches at some level, when you've got to move to win, or you have to stretch it. It's going to be interesting to see how much Michael's going to have to play for them to be competitive. He's going to have to put a string of 40-plus minutes together for a few nights in a row for them to get into a winning position. That's going to take its toll; but, you know, he's going to be a great player this year. It's going to be fun to watch.

Aldridge - Do you think -- the skills that he's obviously not as good at now, he will make up for in experience. But is there one thing that you are curious to see about his game when you do watch him play?

Jackson - Well, the one thing about Michael is that he always finished around the hoop if he took the ball to the basket. Even if he didn't get a dunk, his hands, his ability, his touch, his spin, going underneath, coming up the other side. Whatever he did around the basket, this man finished very well around the basket. This is really the tell-tale.

Will he have to just shoot turn-around jumpshots, face up jumpshots, short moves off the dribble and pull-ups, or is he going to be able to go around the basket and get things accomplished there so his game is fully fleshed out? I think that's kind of the tell-tale sign. If he can do that, I think Michael can still lead our league in scoring.

Aldridge - Is that a good thing for that team?

Jackson - Maybe not, but I think it's a challenge he'd love to have, and would take.

Ley - "Maybe not," Phil Jackson said.

Michael Jordan through the preseason led the Wizards in scoring, free throws made and attempted; he was a close second in minutes played. And he had the second-most rebounds on that team. The Wizards preseason record - two wins and six losses.

As we continue Outside The Lines - the Yankees, winners this season. And we'll take a look at how their stars and their success is being received in this unique season. Is it OK to root against the Yankees?

Ley - The games are trivial. Archrivals, the Mets and Braves, proved that when baseball returned to New York. But the same night's show, these games retain their magical power to uplift. The games can uplift thousands grieving, and solitary victims recuperating.

Manu Dhingra was on the 83rd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when he was overcome by the fireball from the impact of the first plane. He was burned over a third of his body, and hospitalized for over three weeks.

Manu Dhingra, World Trade Center survivor - My face was pretty much the size of a basketball, and they had to take a couple layers off of this. So I'm sorry the camera, if it breaks, you know. But as far as -- my arms got the worst of all my body parts. This is healing already.

Ley - His recovery will be long. Last night Dhingra gathered with some friends to enjoy game one -- as much as a Yankee fan could.

Still, the game was a welcome diversion from his own recovery, and the larger challenges in the wake of the attacks.

Dhingra - It's not the answer to all, and I'll never say that it is. I won't say that because of baseball I won't remember what happened or anything like that. But for three or four hours, I'm here with my friends, and seeing Derek Jeter make that catch, you forget about the pain and discomfort, even if it's for a few seconds.

Ley - There was once an American League baseball club called the Washington Senators, and it's nearly 50 years since the wistful story was published of a middle-aged Senators' fan so fed up watching the New York Yankees win every October that he sold his soul to the devil to become the superstar that could finally beat those "Damn Yankees."

It was delightful fiction. But in the terrible realism of the present, resentment of the Yankees' inevitable annual success seems quaint, perhaps even misplaced. Nationally, there is affection for all things New York. Does that extend even to these Yankees?

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R), New York - When you look up there and you don't see the World Trade Center, it's unbelievable.

Ley - Their city has been the focus of the world for over six weeks. Their mayor acclaimed for Churchillian moments under a Yankees cap. The horror visited on New York shocked the life of patriotic fervor across the country, a tidal wave of sympathy, anger and pride, neatly captured on the canvas of sports.

New York was hurting, America responded. Now the country watches as October has again brought the Yankees, perennial champions with an unparalleled history, invoking hometown pride and usually disdain on the road.

But have events caused this team to be perceived differently? First as improbable underdogs against Oakland, and then as rampaging champions against Seattle. Athletes keenly aware not only of their reconfigured place in society, but what this month of baseball might mean. When New York was hurting, America responded. Now New York, through its pain, is cheering. Across America, what is the echo?

Obviously that's a question posed with the understanding that the games are incidental to the events of September 11. But to consider the echo of the Yankees' success outside New York, we welcome in this morning Mark Shields, a syndicated columnist, part of the Jim Lehrer "Newshour" on PBS. He's also worked in a number of political campaigns; but the ultimate proof of his idealism is the fact that he's a Red Sox fan. And he's in Washington, D.C.

Steve Burgess is a writer whose latest column for is entitled "Why Does My Yankees Loathing Run So Deep?" He joins us from Vancouver.

By dint of that headline, you earn the first question - Were you up all night celebrating?

Steve Burgess, contributing writer - It was you know, Halloween, I was -- I probably would have probably been out there anyway. But yes, I was pleased.

But the thing is, I don't really care if the Yankees lose game one. The Yankees can lose game two, game three and game three and a half, and I still won't believe it until I see them down. Because, you know something, it's the people who don't like the Yankees who pay them the ultimate tribute, because we respect them, we know that they never lose. So, you know...

Ley - Mark?

Shields - Ordinarily, Bob, to be a Yankees fan is the moral equivalent of rooting for Germany in the World War. I mean, I agree with Steve in that sense. It's like rooting for the lions against the Christians or the tanks against the cavalry.

But I think this year it truly is different. And it's different because New York is a different place, and it's -- that defines the team this year. And my Yankee-hating, which I yield to no man in its intensity, this year is in check because this is a different ball club, and a different city it's representing.

Ley - But you came to that slowly, didn't you Mark?

Shields - Oh, I did; no, it wasn't easy. I mean, Joe Torre helped. But George Steinbrenner is proof, and Will Rogers once said he never met a man he didn't like, and its proof he never met George Steinbrenner. I mean, this is a loathsome group of people, generally speaking. They fired Red Barber, they fired Mel Allen. They've done terrible, terrible things to our culture and to our country.

But Torre, Jeter, Williams, and most of all New York people who stood on the corner and actually applauded as firefighters changed their shifts. They don't do that for investment bankers. So I think New York is a changed place this year, and I have to give the Yankees at least the benefit of the doubt -- not that I'm not rooting for Arizona, which is tough, I have to admit.

Burgess - Well you know Mark, the thing is part of showing your respect for New York -- I mean, we're all standing in solidarity with New York right now. But part of showing your respect for New York is hating the Yankees because New Yorkers don't want to be loved, they want to stick it in your face, the way they do every year. And they're still doing it.

You know, as far as the Yankees being good guys, yeah, they're actually an inspiring group. But once you get past rat fink Roger Clemens, they're kind of a good group of guys. But you know, the fact is it's kind of like "Star Wars." Once the guys in the Imperial Storm Trooper uniforms -- maybe underneath the uniforms they're great guys, they all look like Howdy Doody, I don't know. But once you put on the Imperial Storm Trooper uniform, you're one of the bad guys. That doesn't change.

Shields - Steve, you just lost me when you attacked Roger. I mean...

Burgess - You love Rog?

Shields - If there is a more bulldog, fierce competitor -- I even forgive him that brief stay when he went up to -- up north to the border and pitched for Toronto. I mean, no, he is truly a mighty pitcher, a great competitor, and unchallenged as a professional.

So no -- this is not to ignore the fact that they have won too much. I mean, it is like rooting for the absentee landlord when the shivering widow in the top-floor apartment. This is not an easy thing to do. But how can you hate these guys this year?

Ley - ... Guys, a very light topic, and we're having a little bit of fun with it. And there is a line here that any discussion about this has to find in the sand of public opinion. For example, last night in the pregame ceremony, a very evocative moment, when some Marines came out and recreated the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. And then moments later three Phoenix firemen recreated that marvelous photo -- sure to win the Pulitzer -- of the flag being raised off the damaged fire hole down at Ground Zero.

When you see things like that, Steve, do you have to think twice, double-clutch a little bit with hating the Yankees?

Burgess - No. The reason being that -- I'm glad you mentioned "Damn Yankees" because that was a great piece of American theater to begin with, and that's a part of the American tradition as well. And it shows that my attitude is a part of the American tradition.

Now, of course up here in Canada, I follow the Montreal Expos, which is kind of like following a parked car. But, you know -- so I really sympathize with the old guy who used to watch the Washington Senators lose, and sold his soul to beat the Yanks, because that's part of the American tradition too. I mean, baseball -- cheering for and cheering against is part of the American tradition. I don't think the Yanks would be comfortable if everybody loved them, really.

Ley - Is this discussion, Mark, just part of the proof that at least in this little part of America, we're getting back to normal?

Shields - I think it is. I think it is a healthy development. And lets be frank about it, if you lived in New York 50 years ago, you're either a Dodgers fan or a Giants fan. And at the same time you could be a Mets fan today, if you're a real person. I mean, the Yankees are Republicans, they're landlords, they're owners. But this year, they get my sympathy.

Burgess - You know, it's hard to summon up a lot of love for the Arizona Diamondbacks and their hallowed hot tub, you know. But this -- desperate times call for desperate measures. And you know, when Godzilla is rampaging across the landscape, sometimes you've got to build a giant mechanical lizard from scratch, and that's the Arizona Diamondbacks. You know, they're a plucky bunch of overdogs who are going to beat you senseless with their giant wallets. But you know, hey, any port in a storm; we'll take the Arizona Diamondbacks, sure.

Ley - Well we put this question out on; it was an unscientific poll, but we did ask folks -- they could log on and answer the question -In light of the attacks on September 11, what their opinion was towards the Yankees. Over 94,000 fans voted. Twenty-seven percent took the sensible view that there's no relationship between the attack and sports; 16 percent said they were already Yankee fans; nearly 7 percent -- I thought the number might have been larger -- but just 7 percent said they have just now begun to adopt the Yankees. But in what could be the clearest indication, as we just talked about, we could be returning to normal, just about half on the respondents said they still can't stand the Yankees.

Burgess - You know what it is, it's the inevitability of it. I mean, that predictability might work for "Rocky" movies, but for baseball it's kind of a drag, you know. Here we're watching Seattle and cheering them on all through the season, but we knew that all those wins in July and August, that was just like pregame trash talk. Once the money was down, you know that the Yankees are going to come through. And it's just that it happens every year, that's the problem.

Ley - Mark.

Shields - I have to say, Bob, that Joe Torre is now the face of the Yankees. And there's an admirable quality about the man. I mean, he is not what we have come to associate with the loathsome Yankees in the past.

Certainly Oakland was the ultimate underdog and the ideal underdog. You had to root for Seattle, I did in both cases. But it's really tough. I think a pathology has to be really deep this year, to hate these guys.

Ley - Yes but Mark, you're going to show your face again at Fenway, and you'll have to explain why now you're rooting for the team of George Steinbrenner...

Shields - I'm not rooting -- I'm not rooting against. Not rooting against. I'd never root for the team of George Steinbrenner. My goodness.

Ley - You're rooting for Steinbrenner, you're rooting for Bucky Dent, you're rooting for the team that...

Ley - ... Babe Ruth.

Shields - Oh, you mentioned Bucky Dent. Now that -- you know, that's really unfair.

Burgess - Listen Mark, you know, now these days baseball owners become presidents. You going to back Steinbrenner now?

Shields - Well, you know...

Ley - On that note from the nation's capital, I've got to step aside. I think the discussion proves we're getting back to normal, guys. Thanks for a light moment, looking at the Yankees and pinstripe patriotism.

Thanks to Mark Shields and to Steve Burgess, and we'll continue in just a second, Outside The Lines.

Ley - All the Outside The Lines Sunday morning programs available online in streaming video and with transcripts at And there's our e-mail address; we'd love to hear from you -

Ley - I'll be back with Robin in 30 minutes, another edition of SportsCenter, the brand new top 25 in light of the Nebraska win. And in just a second, John Saunders, in for Dick Schaap with "The Sports Reporters" from the ESPN Zone in Times Square.

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