OF all the films, television shows and box sets consumed over lockdown, the greatest, by some distance, in my opinion, is the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance.

I’m no fan of basketball and rarely watch documentaries and yet this brilliantly crafted look back at Jordan and his team mates’ accomplishments in the 1990s, their backgrounds, battles and ultimate triumphs is, quite simply, great TV.

The essence of Jordan’s success was the combination of his outstanding athleticism mixed with a total commitment to the need to win at all cost. Despite his millions and the worldwide fame that made Jordan one of the most famous and iconic men of his generation, what mattered to him was the game itself and a need to push both himself and all his teammates to peaks in the sport that had never been reached before.

Watching Jordan talk, in his jeans and T-shirt, now aged 57, looking more like a guy who lives next door than some billionaire megastar, you get the sense that Jordan’s battle was with more than simply his basketball opponents, his battle was, and is, with the culture of his time.

Since the 1970s competitive sport has come under increasing attack from the modern elites who fear the passions and aggression that sport can unleash. American thinker Christopher Lasch noted how the competitive drive in sport had been politicised by “radicals” who linked it to authoritarian instincts and even militarism, where sporting rivalries were understood to embody a destructive aggression.

Fast forward to today and the ethical anxieties about competition in sport have been institutionalised. Here we find SportScotland's "cultural change programme" Positive Coaching Scotland, filling the heads of coaches, parents and ultimately children, with everything other than a win at all cost mentality.

Pushing not only children but even adults today comes with an apprehension of abuse, an unease about the fragility of participants , so much so that when reading the blurb about coaching it feels more like talking to a therapist than someone who gives a damn about sport: “Never ask your child, did you win”; “Be careful not to empty the emotional tank”.

Thankfully sport has its own rules, separate from society. It is a space where physical aggression, determination and a warrior mentality can still shine. And it is this that ultimately grips us when watching The Last Dance, Jordan’s mind and body stretching not only him but humanity to new magnificent heights.

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