Charlotte Bobcats majority owner Michael Jordan received a ton of favorable - oh, let's just say it - fawning publicity this week for his announcement of a team charity. The excitement on TV and the web - no doubt inspired by the fact that MJ came out of his hole and deigned to speak to Charlotte's traditionally celebrity-worshipping media - overshadowed the essential puniness of the Bobcats' charity in this case.
The Bobcats, in partnership with Lowe's, plan what big-money companies looking for good press and a decent tax write-off commonly call an "investment in the community." The two new businesses will have someone drive a renovated school bus, now called a Book Bus, around Mecklenburg County all year, giving away books to kids ages 5-13 in elementary schools and summer literacy programs.
How many books will be distributed by Jordan & Co. for the benefit of students? A whopping 6,000, or rather "up to 6,000." Wow, what a haul for the kids: one book for every 17 kids. My first thought was that the driver of the bus will have a pretty easy job. But hey, considering that these books will be extra-educational since they are, after all, being doled out by an emissary of Michael Jordan, surely the lucky students who get a book will each gladly pass them around to 16 other kids.
OK, sarcasm will only take you so far. Jordan has done some good things in the name of the Cats, primarily the donation (along with Fox Sports Carolinas) of $200,000 to the YMCA's Y Achievers program, which helps teens get into college. That's pretty substantial, which makes it harder to explain the paltriness of the new gift. Then again, the Cats also made a really big deal out of their wondrous gift of $5,000 scholarships for students at three area high schools. These days, as college students and their parents can tell you, $5,000 might pay for four years' worth of coffee and computer repairs, but not much else. I know, I know, don't look a gift horse in the mouth blahblahblah. But really, Michael? And really, TV stations? All that slobbering over a completely inadequate book donation? Here's a better idea, fellow journalists: ask MJ if he has any plans to lower ticket prices until the Cats have a winning season. You know, in case he really wanted to impress someone.
The original version of this blog incorrectly stated how many students would receive books and their ages. The correct figure is approximately one book for every 17 students ages 5-13.