As the world stops to mourn and eulogize for Michael Jackson (Iran? What Iran? Wake us up when Iran can moonwalk, pal!), we’d like to dial the Wayback Machine to 2002. Most of our readers had yet to be born - or maybe they had, we’re awful at math - so we’ll be the eyes and ears you never had, people.
One of the weirdest things to happen in sports that year was Jackson’s appearance as the honorary chairman of the Exeter City Football Club. That’s in England, if you’re keeping score at home. In order to celebrate the beginning of the season, Jackson stepped to the microphone and delivered a speech (video after the break) that was vintage MJ, which may or may not be a good thing:
In case you’re keeping score at home, that’s nearly eight minutes of obviously well-intentioned but undeniably creepy speaking by the man who, well, did that all the time. And the forceful insistence on making physical contact with strangers and telling them you love them? Hooo, boy. The world’s not quite ready for that.
As UNPROFESSIONAL FOUL notes, Michael Jackson was there with his magician buddies Uri Gellar and David Blaine - no, seriously, that’s not a joke - and he and Gellar were directors of the team. Not surprisingly, it ended in total disaster:
Exeter City FC was mired in financial and ownership problems. Amidst all of this, the mystic spoonbender Uri Geller had clombed onto Exeter. The team was in a fairly precarious position, so any celebrity of note who was willing to put his weight (and money) behind the team was reluctantly welcomed.
By the end of the 2002-03 season, Exeter City had been relegated to the Conference League. Meanwhile, Geller was nowhere to be seen, not to mention Jacko. Exeter’s former ownership were eventually found guilty of defrauding the club of millions of pounds, and except for the hard work of the Exeter City Supporters Trust and the good fortune of drawing Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup, Exeter City FC might very well have folded.
Yes, not wise. We should reiterate that Gellar and Jackson weren’t the defrauders, so little if any blame should be put on them for the disaster that unfolded, but all the same people may not want to fondly remember that rainy day in 2002.
But really, so it was for the last 10-15 years of Michael Jackson’s life. At times beloved and off-putting, often simultaneously, good-hearted, but ending in disaster all the same. It’s a damn shame.