In 2009, overwhelmed by the ovation he received at his own Hall Of Fame induction, basketball legend Michael Jordan had himself a good cry. Not just a good cry, but a great cry. Maybe the greatest cry of all time. His eyes turned blood red, and tears streamed down his face like little waterfalls. His face all but melted off his skull. While the moment may have been incredibly powerful and poignant at the time, the image of the weeping Jordan is hilarious when taken out of context. The internet has been using and abusing the hell out of it for months now. Ironically, though the original picture actually captures a moment of triumph for the star athlete, “crying Jordan” has become an icon of failure and defeat. His tear-stained face is now pasted onto the bodies of sportsmen who have just lost crucial games. Such are the cruel realities of social media.
The Jordan meme has become, one might say, a significant chapter in the history of American sports. It is so significant, in fact, that at least one Twitter user feels it merits its own episode of the documentary series 30 For 30 on ESPN. Die Wrecked Her has created a very funny, 30-second promo for the proposed episode. “What if I told you,” asks the video’s narrator, with appropriate solemnity, “that to ruin a legacy, all it took was one cry?”
In a larger sense, the video is about the legacy of memes like “crying Jordan.” Are they a significant part of history? Do they merit being the subject of artful, thoughtful documentaries like this one? Shows like 30 For 30 thrive on nostalgia. Documentaries about sports and popular culture aim to take things that may have seemed ephemeral and place them in their proper historical context. But now, maybe the past is all used up, at least the good parts of it. Maybe, in order to keep cranking out episodes, ESPN will have to turn to semi-recent Twitter memes for inspiration.