When the astonishing news broke that Michael Jordan was quitting basketball at 31 to play baseball, few people gave him a chance to make the big leagues. They were proven right when he quit during the work stoppage after hitting .202 with little power in 1994, but plenty of baseball people think he would have made it if he had stuck with the game. He had natural ability, being named player of the year in North Carolina at age 12, but baseball is not forgiving to 13-year absences, and he needed more time. No one would ever outwork Michael Jordan. Thus, it’s a bit of a what-if that we’ll never know the answer to because Jordan got the basketball itch again and went back to dominate the NBA for years. Complex takes a look back at Air Jordan’s year riding the bus in the bush leagues.
The Oral History of Michael Jordan’s Minor League Baseball Career
Trey Parker and Matt Stone were film school buddies at University of Colorado-Boulder and they thought they would do something “Christmassy” for the end-of-the-year student review. They had been cracking each other up with foul-mouthed little kid voices while sitting around film sets, and so they put those characters on screen using construction paper and crude animation. The audience loved it, and after a winding road, they convinced some adults at Comedy Central to approve the pilot. The rest is television history. Entertainment Weekly looks back at “The Spirit of Christmas.”
How ‘South Park’ was born: An oral history of ‘The Spirit of Christmas’
There have been a number of pieces recently celebrating the 20th anniversary of OK Computer, the first great post-grunge rock album. Startlingly innovative, the album represented Radiohead’s long-expected ascension to true rock icons. The album, which came at the end of four years of constant touring, is heavily influenced by that reality (or unreality) and the resulting alienation and loss of individual identity. It was recorded in Jane Seymour’s 1,000-year old English manor house, which may be haunted by Henry VIII’s illegitimate daughter (or Jane Seymour’s mother), thus providing its own unique influence on the proceedings. Rolling Stone went all out for the anniversary, including a lengthy oral history with embedded music videos for each of the album’s songs.
Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’: An Oral History
Michael Moore watched as General Motors systemically pulled out of Flint, Michigan, his hometown, and left the city to rot. A journalist who founded the Flint Voice, later the Michigan Voice, an aggressive counter-culture newspaper, Moore was not going to take it lying down. So he went to a press conference and asked GM’s president how many jobs would be ultimately be lost and what the company’s plans were for Flint. The resulting corporate doubletalk would be juxtaposed against a narrative of corporate responsibility in Roger & Me. While Flint led the nation in unemployment in 1987 and was second in violent crime, by 1989, when the documentary debuted, the city was in the midst of a remarkable turnaround, with unemployment halved, crime down, and GM actually contributing to redevelopment. The film’s narrative was a blessing and curse at that point, helping shine international light on a city still struggling to find a future, and, more importantly, a dialogue about what Rust Belt companies owe their factory towns when the boom days end. However, the national perception of Flint went in the tank. Roger & Me turned Moore into a superstar and he has gone on to have one of the most successful documentarian careers of all time, always with his trademark anti-authority stance.
Flint: An oral history of ‘Roger & Me’ after 25 years
Bonnaroo wanted to expand its festival experience so in 2004 it added a comedy tent, a showcase that has gone on to host many of the top names in comedy, including Louis C.K., Steven Wright, Aziz Ansari, and David Cross. The digs are somewhat less than swanky (no running water), but many of the stars treat it like going to camp, or a paid vacation, where they see their comedy brethren and some good music. The A.V. Club gathers a bunch of interesting and funny anecdotes, plus some good video clips, in this oral history.
Deadnecks and sound checks: An oral history of Bonnaroo’s comedy tent
What was this pitch meeting like? “Let’s get a bunch of random celebrities together and have them play carnival versions of sports?” In the 90’s, when celeb culture really took off, it worked. Did people want to see 80-pound Leo DiCaprio dribble circles around Tone Loc and launch 25-point baskets? Yes, they did. Don’t judge. Do you remember Dan Cortese? Well, you can read about his career highlight in this oral history by Complex.
The Oral History of MTV’s Rock N’ Jock
Chipper Jones was a perfect fit for the Atlanta Braves. A Southern boy with the drawl and the way he slowly worked the tobacco in his cheek. Also, he could really play. When he broke out in 1995 the Braves dynasty was already well underway, they had lost World Series in 1991 and 1992, then lost the NLCS in 1993. 1994 was the strike year (sigh). Jones proved to be party of the solution as the dynasty recorded their only World Series win in ’95. The Chipper Jones legend was underway, and he would go on to be consistently great for almost two decades, winning the MVP in 1999. He’ll take the Cooperstown stage before this decade is over. Creative Loafing gathers an impressive list of Braves royalty to discuss Larry Wayne Jones Jr.
Chipper Jones: An oral history
TED Talks, a boon to cheap HR departments everywhere, started off as an insular West Coast conference for wealthy tech-sector employees. Their talks, which focus on Technology, Education, and Design (TED), sometimes verged into proselytizing, but entertaining proselytizing. The conference honchos decided to put the videos online, hoping for 10,000 total views. The talks, which could not be longer than 18 minutes, proved to be catnip for the internet, gaining 10,000 views the first day and rising exponentially. Three weeks later the CEO decided TED was now a media platform, and the Silicon Valley Self-Help Movement was born. Wired takes a quick look back at the transformation.
The Oral History of TED, a Club for the Rich That Became a Global Phenomenon
Steel Magnolias comes from a place of anger and hurt: the playwright and screenwriter (Robert Harling) lost his strong sister to the debilitating effects of diabetes, but the story he crafted is one of the resilience and wit of Southern women. After a successful run as a play in New York, the movie had an equally successful run across the nation, garnering the then-unknown Julia Roberts a supporting-actress Academy Award nomination for playing the sister. Roberts was surrounded by arguably the greatest female ensemble cast of the 1980s: Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, and Dolly Parton. The piece has the classic mix of drama and comedy that leaves audiences laughing through the tears.
Thirty Years of Steel Magnolias
The Monterey Pop Festival of 1967 was the first rock music festival to gain widespread notice, and has since become known as a watershed moment in the 60’s rock history, especially for the California sound personified by the Grateful Dead, The Byrds, and Jefferson Airplane. Bands such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring a 24-year-old Janis Joplin), and The Who quickly became huge in the States due to their performances and the resulting publicity. The bands played for free and profits went to charity, another innovation that would trickle down through the years. On the eve of the 50th anniversary concert Billboard takes a look back at music history.
The Oral History of Monterey Pop, Where Jimi Torched His Ax & Janis Became a Star: Art Garfunkel, Steve Miller, Lou Adler & More
Dustin Johnson has been thought of as one of the best young players in golf for years, but he hadn’t won a major heading into the 2016 U.S. Open. The previous year he three-putted 18 to allow Justin Spieth to win. In 2016 he was in striking distance on Sunday, but needed the leaders to falter a bit. They obliged but a potential rules infraction by Johnson at 5 hung over the round as the USGA refused to make a definitive ruling until after he finished. It ended up being irrelevant as Johnson pulled away but it certainly added some drama! Golf.com revisits the scene.
Inside the stunning rules controversy that rocked the 2016 U.S. Open
When your subgenre’s flagship song is “Ass N Titties” it’s tough to get philosophical. It’s time to party. Ghettotech grew out of Detroit’s legendary techno scene as pure party jams. Get the RPMs up, get the booty poppin’. With DJ Assault joined as DJ Godfather as the headlining party people, the subgenre enjoyed a fun decade run starting in the mid-90s. This oral history includes some great images and graphics from the time.
Ghettotech: An Oral History; The definitive story of Detroit’s dirty little genre
Few video games make the jump to pop-culture fame, but Halo is definitely one of them (when Liz Lemon references you, you know you made it). For many years Halo was THE sci-fi shooter and the star of the show was Master Chief, a grunt in power armor who the player often controlled on murderous rampages through enemy ranks. The player’s trusty AI, Cortana, has been named one of the best female and supporting characters in video game history. And all of this video game history started as a side-project to Bungie’s Myst. Waypoint pulls out all the stops for a glorious three-part oral history of the Halo phenomenon.
The Complete, Untold History of Halo
Nobu made its name by serving distinctive seafood with stylish presentation. The original restaurant, called Matsuhisa, was in strip mall. That was also the last strip mall location, as the global sensation now operates entire hotels in addition to the namesake restaurants, known for attracting the glitterati like partner Robert De Niro. Founder Nobu Matsuhisa says his philosophy is that “food is like fashion,” and he is forever trying to synthesize local traditions with his iconic sushi recipes in stylish and memorable ways.
Nobu’s Matsuhisa Turns 30: An Oral History of the Sushi Restaurant Where Tom Cruise Couldn’t Get In
On the eve of Obama’s second inauguration the New York Times put together what they called a “romantic” retrospective of his tumultuous first term. Inheriting an economy in free fall, and two expensive never-ending wars, put the brakes on the transformative agenda that got Obama elected. He did get Obamacare passed, and there were other successes as well, but the end of his first four-year run was necessarily consumed with avoiding the ignominy of being a one-term president.
Obama’s First Term: A Romantic Oral History
Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street helped spawn the horror movie subgenre with its trademark mix of creaky suspense and effects-driven gore. Major studios balked at the film, which featured deadbeat parents, disaffected teens, and the soon-to-be-iconic Freddy Krueger. New Line Cinema signed on and would ride the success to newfound relevancy. The production was notoriously problematic, but that just makes the stories more interesting! Vulture revisits the madness.
Freddy Lives: An Oral History of A Nightmare on Elm Street
Happy Endings was another of those quick-witted, fast-paced ensemble comedies that was criminally under-promoted and cut loose after three seasons, only for it to continue to live on as a cult and streaming favorite. The cast of 30-somethings had the instant chemistry that casting directors dream of, and seemingly all of them are still in regular touch years after the show. Casey Wilson also married series creator David Caspe, so they probably see each other regularly. Complex takes a fond look back at the series.
The Oral History of ‘Happy Endings’
There are millions of 5’11” guys who think they can play in the NBA. There is one Allen Iverson, a “little” man who had an iconic career first with the Georgetown Hoyas, then with the Philadelphia 76ers. Known for playing with a street attitude, he backed it up by playing as hard as anyone on the court, despite nearly always being the smallest player. Iverson made news off the court as well, including with his groundbreaking 10-year, $60M Reebok shoe contract, the largest such guarantee to that point. Nice Kicks goes all out in an 11-chapter oral history that recaps Iverson’s career and successful partnership with Reebok.
The Rise Of Allen Iverson And Reebok Basketball // An Oral History
FIFA awarded the 1994 World Cup to the United States, one of the catalysts to growth in the support in this country. One problem: When this decision was made the USMNT had not made the World Cup since 1950. The host country gets an automatic bid, but for national pride the team wanted to make the 1990 Cup and end the drought. Coach Bob Gansler chose to go with college stars over indoor soccer veterans for fitness reasons, but it meant he would have a very young team. Their journey through qualifying was difficult and intense, resulting in a must-win game versus Trinidad and Tobago. They pulled out a dramatic 1-0 victory and started making plans for the World Cup in Italy. The team was handed a tough draw, facing three quality European teams, and lost all three. However, there was a moral victory in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Italy in Rome, a game the Italians expected to win by double digits. The experience was truly the beginning of a new age in American soccer (they’ve been to every World Cup since) and The Guardian takes a multi-faceted look back at the scrappy group of college kids that made it happen.
An oral history of USA at Italia ’90: the World Cup that changed US soccer