I’ve never really had a problem with Valentine’s Day, but given the amount of people who purport to boycott it every year, it appears I’m in the minority. Thanks to the continuing Hallmark-ization of the holiday, there’s no escaping its stifling ubiquity: Single people end up feeling left out, while those in relationships get the pressure of planning the perfect night and such. The whole thing can be rather exhausting.
That, my friends, is where Michael Jordan comes in.
Frankly, there aren’t a whole lot of things that can’t be made better by adding the G.O.A.T. to the equation, and it just so happens the nostalgia factor that makes Air Jordans an enduring powerhouse isn’t limited to sneakers. Witness the growing appreciation for vintage Michael Jordan Valentines, presumably inspired at least in part by how much cooler the holiday was in our youth.
MJ’s personal history on February 14 is also a factor. It was on Valentine’s Day in 1990 that he was forced to wear No. 12 after his uniform was stolen from his locker. Jordan scored 49 points in a random practice jersey; the moment was commemorated with a display at Pearl Pavilion, the Air Jordan All-Star experience in Manhattan.
Anyway, when you think about it, there was something pretty great about the uncomplicated way we used to celebrate Valentine’s Day as kids. Back then, everyone gave valentines to pretty much everyone else in a platonic ritual that left the whole class feeling good. There was probably at least some measure of Ralph Wiggum-esque adolescent angst that I’m not recalling, but for the most part, I remember it being vastly superior to the social media and marketing frenzy that V-Day has become.
Perhaps the best part was the valentines themselves. Though just about everyone I knew purchased their cards at the same local Rite-Aid, the freedom to pick which superhero or pop singer best represented you was a golden opportunity to assert your burgeoning individuality.
To help your cause, the selection was extensive back then, featuring an array of cartoon icons like the Muppets, Captain Planet, the California Raisins, and Will Smith. As a comic book aficionado, my grade school go-to was a pack of valentines featuring Spider-Man climbing a wall next to messages like “Let’s stick together.” I bought the same ones every year; why mess with obvious perfection?
Is it any wonder Jordan ended up getting a piece of the action? Recall the heyday of the early ’90s, when the Dream Team launched MJ’s celebrity into the stratosphere and licensed his visage to every possible product. Our houses ended up filled with Michael Jordan collector cups, wrapping paper, bizarre coffee mugs — and for our purposes today, kitschy valentine cards.
If your valentine serves as an avatar for your interests, the Jordan cards offered a connotation of dynamism and sophistication that Ronald McDonald couldn’t quite muster. Back when you first discover sports as a kid, you felt cool simply through showing that you’re a fan, and wearing a Jordan jersey was the utmost in grade school couture.
(Sidebar: That feeling never quite goes away, despite the fact that Jay Z effectively killed jerseys for people over 30. That doesn’t seem to bother denizens of Lambeau Field or your local sports bar, and just last week, I wore a LeBron James high school football jersey with surprisingly minimal shame.)
Regardless, a treasure trove of Jordan valentines unearthed by a Google Image search reveal that legitimate effort went into the message/picture combinations. The “I like your style!” card thankfully has MJ wearing a crisp suit instead of a pair of questionable jeans. “Lookin’ fine!” features our hero donning a tux and a solid head of hair. A picture of Jordan dribbling a ball in outer space incongruously reads, “Hey, Champ! Have a great day!” Best of all, Jordan informs your would-be paramour, “You’re cool!” while wearing a sweater your mom might have bought you at K-Mart.
From what I can tell, the demand for kitschy valentines isn’t what it used to be, but keeping with the times, you annually have the option of gifting a Valentine’s Day Air Jordan sneaker. Though it’s not specifically branded for the holiday, it hardly seems a coincidence the all-red “Bulls Over Broadway” Air Jordan X releases today at Champs Sports.
All these years later, Jordan Valentines are somehow readily available at Amazon, though you should only consider using them if your significant other likes basketball and/or has a decent sense of humor. For what it’s worth, I asked my wife in a text what her reaction would be if I gave her one of these things, and she replied, “Love it.” You should take that with a grain of salt; she’s quite used to me by now.
While some deigned to parody the Jordan Valentines by giving them a modern bent, they’re not funnier than the originals’ utter lack of irony, which serves as a reminder of a sweeter, more innocent era. Even if they’re destined to simply sit on your shelf, I’d reckon $9 seems a more than reasonable price for a genuine time capsule.
Follow Bryan on Twitter at @SportsAngle
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