11.07.2007

FD Guest Lecture: Love, Basketball and Imperialism



When it rains, it pours. Today, some far-reaching thoughts from Matthew Yglesias, whose eponym now calls The Atlantic home. And if you haven't already, take a look at Matt Ufford's ode to Adrian Peterson.

When I was approached about writing a guest post for FreeDarko my first thought was, naturally, "of course I'll do it, what an excellent opportunity to help promote my forthcoming book." Unfortunately, the book in question won't be released until late April and it's about American foreign policy. The good news is that all things in this world are connected — particularly sports and American empire.

In particular, the country is, at the moments, under the grips of a dubious false choice between baseball and football, between imperialism and isolationism. The term rankles many in the American context, but there can be little doubt that it fits. As John Judis argues in The American Prospect's current issue:
There were two kinds of imperial rule: direct, where the colonial power assigned an administrator -- a viceroy or proconsul -- who ran the country directly; and indirect, where the colonial power used its financial and military power to prop up a native administration that did its bidding and to prevent the rise of governments that did not. The latter kind of imperial rule was developed by the United States in Cuba in 1901 after Roosevelt's Secretary of War Elihu Root realized that direct rule could bring war and rebellion, as it had done, to the McKinley administration's surprise, in the Philippines.
Not coincidentally, they play a lot of baseball in Cuba. Similarly, many of our Major League Baseball players hail from the Dominican Republic, a country also subject to indirect imperial rule through the US-Dominican Treaty for Assistance in Governing during the early twentieth century. On the pacific rim, too, one finds baseball in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan -- all states bound to the United States by military garrisons and close defense ties. Everywhere around the globe baseball follows the American flag or, more precisely, the American military as its tentacles reach out.



Eventually, the United States largely moved beyond imperialism as an instrument of national strategy, but baseball itself lagged on as a legacy of that period. Meanwhile, in January of 2001, George W. Bush found himself inaugurated as President of the United States. Most observers assumed at the time that his foreign policy judgment would track the sort of prudent statesmanship associated with his father, with Bush family retainer James Baker, and with incoming Secretary of State Colin Powell. A more insightful observer would have noted that Bush was the first former owner of a baseball franchise to occupy the White House and known accordingly that his election, in fact, heralded a return to the imperialism of the McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt administrations.

Thus, not only the invasion of Iraq, but also a broader project to impose upon the world a series of unequal bargains in which the United States and key proxies like Israel thumb our noses at the Non-Proliferation Treaty while threatening
World War III
unless Iran is prevented not only from building a nuclear weapon, but even from gaining "the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

Meanwhile, the powers that be would like us to believe that there is only one alternative. As hawkish senator Joe Lieberman told my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg when he was reporting for The New Yorker, "A lot of Democrats are essentially pacifists and somewhat isolationist," with his particular beef in this instance being a Ted Kennedy proposal to deny Bush funding for the troop "surge" that took place earlier this year.

They want us to think, in short, that the only alternative to baseball's dreams of conquest is the splendid isolation of football -- America alone, padded and helmeted, marching to the beat of our own drummer while the rest of the world tries to figure out what a "yard" is.



The truth, however, is that an alternative does exist: liberal internationalism or, as they say in the sports world, basketball (hockey, of course, represents a dystopian vision of Canadian global hegemony, I don't know anything about soccer, and cricket is the rotting corpse of British imperialism) . Basketball, like baseball, is
a global sport but it rejects baseball's domineering imperial mien. Instead of spreading through conquest and invasion, basketball spreads through Joseph Nye's soft power, gaining adherents through the inherent appeal of this American cultural product, marking out of sphere of influence wider than the American military into the heart of rival great powers like the Soviet Union and Communist China.

Some would see mere coincidence here, but internationalism is in the game's very bones -- invented as it was by a Canadian living and working in the United States, basketball has always been a sport capable of looking across national boundaries and doing so in a spirit of cooperation.



And, indeed, basketball, like a foreign policy grounded in restraint, international law, and global cooperation through stable multi-national institutions has often been castigated as un-American, too dependent on funny-looking foreigners, counter-culture types (or both), and non-whites to succeed. The truth, however, is that these concerns reveal an untoward lack of confidence in American values and power. In the international arena, when the country has sought to rally the world around good causes -- the containment of Soviet Communism, rolling back Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, closing the "ozone hole," saving the whales, eradicating polio, toppling the Taliban regime in Kabul -- it has not proven unduly difficult to do so through legitimate methods and with partners around the world. So, too, our finest sport acquires adherents without recourse to force of arms; adherents who flock to our shores and enhance our game.

What's more, when American and foreign join hands through pursuit of the hoop, they truly cooperate, working hand-in-hand on the court to pass, cut, drive, dish, pick, roll, and rotate. In baseball, players from around the world are brought together on a single team, but they remain an aggregate of individual performers, each pursuing his own interests and vision. On the court, by contrast, true cooperation is necessary. Nash and Amare, Duncan and Parker, Yao and T-Mac, aren't merely teammates but partners on the floor,creating an international coalition whose whole is the greater than the sum of its parts.



Since 1998 or so -- the year of NATO's multilateral use of limited force to advance global human rights norms, the year of Michael Jordan's sixth championship and second retirement -- internationalism, basketball, have fallen a bit into obscurity. But in today's perilous environment, we need them both more than ever.

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56 Comments:

At 11/07/2007 10:51 AM, Blogger Brickowski said...

Just amazing. Probably one of the most brilliant things I've ever read on the internet.

FD Guest Lectures keep killing it.

 
At 11/07/2007 10:56 AM, Anonymous JCN said...

wow!

 
At 11/07/2007 11:15 AM, Blogger shoefly said...

Bravo!

 
At 11/07/2007 11:29 AM, Anonymous Ziller said...

Oh my fuck.

How does Stern fit in with Nye's theories of internationalism as a better option than imperialism, though? Stern's talk of an 'NBA Europa' or a Chinese D-League -- contrasted with futbol's wholly separate but intertwined leagues -- surely sets the NBA global vision apart from the 'soft power' of a Nash-Iverson-Kobe-Nowitzki-Yao All-Star starting lineup. (RIP T-Mac) Of course Stern's apparent thirst for some level of NBA imperialism is all talk, and there's seemingly a stronger push for a more liberal regime of freer transfers from Euroleague to the bigs (i.e. the Darko rule). But he's certainly pushing the bounds of the standard liberal internationalist policy saliently outlined here by Matt... not unlike the expectations we've built for President Hillary Clinton.

 
At 11/07/2007 11:35 AM, Anonymous megapickles said...

great piece, matt.

 
At 11/07/2007 12:00 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Improvisational basketball intellectualism meets Clinton realpolitik. I surprise myself by saying this, but Mr Yglesias, I think you've just written my manifesto.

wv: ikdrbb: ink drubbing best

 
At 11/07/2007 12:06 PM, Blogger Captain Caveman said...

Wow. How much do I owe for this course?

 
At 11/07/2007 12:13 PM, Anonymous Art Tatum Can't Shoot said...

So you (rightfully) rail against American imperialism, but won't take the time to actually learn about other cultures' values (i.e., soccer). Only in America. Read Foer's "How Soccer Explains the World." I think it could add an interesting perspective to your theory.

How can you justify basketball as soft imperialism, but baseball as something else? We stopped running Japan over 50 years ago- I think we can safely say they legitimately enjoy the sport by now.

If you want to counter that argument by bringing up American corporate imperialism, then I could simply point to every nation on the planet that's filled with McDonalds, Exxon Mobile et. al, but doesn't play baseball. Plus, I don't know much about soft imperialism, but isn't that effectiely what corporate imperialism is?

Now I feel dirty for defending baseball. PS- Ziller, you spelled President Barack Obama's name wrong.

 
At 11/07/2007 12:20 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Let me join the crowd and express a profound appreciation for this excellent, excellent post. What a treat.

 
At 11/07/2007 12:22 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Shit, I forgot:

wv: qbcfoxws--Queensbridge outfoxes the West Side.

 
At 11/07/2007 12:26 PM, Anonymous Ziller said...

Tatum Can't Shoot: I didn't know defenders of stickball were so naive.

And apologies, Sergeant-at-Arms Bangin':

wv: hvhbfo -- Havana hates ball, fo' sho.

 
At 11/07/2007 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My god is this pretentious.

 
At 11/07/2007 12:35 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Er, football/soccer maybe?

 
At 11/07/2007 12:51 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

thanks to both matts for these certified bangers. they've made me anxious to post again on my own blog.

also, may i suggest you check out the brand new LONGFORM SHOALS, which a new theory of the celts and some hawks talk.

 
At 11/07/2007 12:55 PM, Blogger Will said...

fucking Excellent. What a treat to see the two best blogs out there intersecting so brilliantly

 
At 11/07/2007 12:58 PM, Anonymous 7.5 PSI said...

Oh good, the geopolitical ramafications of the manner of hitting balls. But were we to extend his logic, I think football properly named would be the european-style, ethno-linguistically rooted nation state. America never quite understood nationalism the way europe does; it's version is more artificial, it involves a lot more padding, more cheerleaders, and fewer chanting, drunken mobs.

If one really enjoyed this sort of thing, it wouldn't be too hard to extend to golf, the game of the multi-national corporation. Tennis would be a sort of old fashioned whiggish liberalism.

 
At 11/07/2007 1:01 PM, Anonymous trouc said...

I can't quite decide whether the understatedness here (on the usually apocalyptic FD) makes or breaks the case, but either way it's great. The typo in the title's a nice Yglesias touch too. FD's got the golden touch.

 
At 11/07/2007 1:08 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

the typo was mine, and it's fixed. though it's entirely possible that yglesias misspelled it over email, too.

 
At 11/07/2007 1:21 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

Regular Yglesias readers know that that typos are as much a part of his style as his irrational regard for Andray Blatche or his disdain for Rudy Giulliani

 
At 11/07/2007 1:30 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

hence "he might have misspelled it over email" qualifier. i respect another man's brand.

 
At 11/07/2007 1:32 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

Nice Hawks bit, Shoals. I'm going to watch every single one of their games on League Pass, and probably get pissed off in equal measure at A) Tyron Lue for completing sucking; B) Josh Smith for shooting from outside of 15 feet; C) Joe Johnson for being so laconic; D) Marvin Williams for not taking over; E) Acie Law for being a rookie and not quite ready to run the team in crunch time.

Also, at the whole team in general - how do you let Antoine Wright beat you down the stretch?

 
At 11/07/2007 1:38 PM, Anonymous db said...

Fabulous writing, and on sure ground about baseball and US football, but the analogies are constrained by a lack of internationalism on the part of the author - as a couple of people have mentioned, football/soccer is really the international sport and is starting to corrupt gringo youth by the second (the feminization of white male america from an international sport promoted by "soccer moms" and dominated by Euros and Latinos a little too emotionally demonstrative for the WASP market).

As PSI notes, nationalism means something different in a linguistically rooted nation-state instead of a European colony like the US. But what basketball now gives us is essentially global black culture, a version of Paul Gilroy's Black Atlantic, which deconstructs the economic supremacy of English-speaking colonies (right way basketball) through a recognition that they were all, including England, economies built on slavery. If we had to take a cultural trope from international basketball, it would be the free black man - the former slave in the U.S., the economic migrant in the countries that colonised Africa. This, to me, is what gives hoop its sense of cultural emergence.

That leads to the interesting question of what indigenous ball sports might look like, and on that subject I think we need to turn to Australia, not just because I was born there but because the national football code is based on an Aboriginal sport, and has been one of the key vehicles for white recognition of Aboriginal achievements.

http://www.davesfootballblog.com/post/2007/02/28/know-your-football-codes-australian-football/

All that aside, those last two posts are showing some pretty serious swag on the part of FD.

 
At 11/07/2007 1:42 PM, Blogger Ricky B said...

Great post, although it's worth pointing out that baseball's popularity in Japan pre-dates American occupation by several decades. The game was introduced in the 19th century, the professional league was established in the 1920's and became popular by the 1930's.

 
At 11/07/2007 1:46 PM, Anonymous blindblue said...

Outstanding stuff. We need more ball analogies in the political discourse. To wit, if Podhoretz wrote about sports too, he'd just be Jason Whitlock and not an actual policy advisor to Giuliani's campaign.

 
At 11/07/2007 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darkofan: Basketball doesn't require a common language between teams or teammates.

Consider cricket and the near absolute domination required to impose that game, with its arcane rules, stylized manners, and formal dress.


It is , consistent the guest lecturer's brilliantly executed hypothesis, played well in places that were subject to viceroy rule , Jamica , India , Hong Kong.

 
At 11/07/2007 2:21 PM, Blogger Signal to Noise said...

Wow, wow, wow. Great stuff from the two guest lecturers.

 
At 11/07/2007 2:45 PM, Blogger lost said...

db- tight.

in my neck of the woods, indigenous ball sports means lacrosse, but the way women play it. natural boundaries, open basket, no pads and helmets. men's lacrosse is no game for men, just a broke-ass bastard half-football game for the melanin-challenged preppies.

this is a great post but I'm questioning any general notion of sports style as indicative of imperial intent.

this is because of rugby. it's english in origin, and spread throughout the globe in much the same manner as cricket: through colonization by the british. however, unlike cricket, game play bears little resemblance to the british colonial model as I understand it. (a true scholar would know why cricket flourished in some colonies, rugby in others. probably something to do with the particular colonial style of governance, no doubt for economic reasons of efficient thievery. so, you know i'm just fakin it)

I'm quite comfortable putting forth rugby play as a better model of internationalism than any other sport.

rugby is the epitome of collaboration in sport:
-fifteen per side in coordinated improvisation for 80 minutes facing virtually every form of adversity known in sport ranging from fielding kicks to getting kicked in the nutz. ok, no frat boys named brad, chad, and tad hitting you with sticks.

-each player must have a broad range of competencies to deal with unpredictable eventualities. tackling, kicking, passing, catching, interpreting rules on the fly, taking advantage of the limited number of referees, and so forth are required of all. there is specialization but there are no specialists.

-players make all the decisions. coaches are at practice and on the sideline to make substitutions. paternalism is kept to a minimum

-the game is open to diverse physical types from the tall and slim to the short and squat, not limited to pituitary freaks or juicers. the common physical requirement is fitness which any player can achieve through effort in training.

-likewise, the game is played by teams from all over the globe with players from as diverse ethnic and national background as any sport.

-despite the appearance of the game as a cacophony of elbows and ass cheeks, there is a certain degree of order with which a style of play must comply. however, there is no expectation that the style of play emulate any british standard. the pacific island teams especially have their own interpretation of how to win (they're very FD, i think) and continue to challenge the more conservative, professional national squads

-beat the shee-t out of each other for an hour and a half. drink beer together after.

of course i could go on and on about my favorite sport. basketball is a distant second, but I'm in America, and it shares some of the best attributes of sport.

in short, a game of rugby bears little resemblance to the 'papa britain' colonial approach that makes cricket look like it does.

also, american participation is welcome but not expected.




wv: ohktmbvr. too drunk to remember if it's still October or already November.

 
At 11/07/2007 3:08 PM, Anonymous Disciple of Clyde said...

This is an awesome post.

Now I'm going to start thinking of teams like the Spurs and Warriors as "Coalitions of the Willing"

 
At 11/07/2007 3:26 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Wow. Now I wish I still had a political term paper to write.

And in this context, can it be more than coincidence that the US has looked bad in international basketball competition since the start of Bush administration?

 
At 11/07/2007 4:22 PM, Blogger Pichi Campana Aguanta said...

Well done, sir. This is vintage FD.

 
At 11/07/2007 4:29 PM, Blogger Brian said...

People keep bringing up soccer as "the" international sport. Some points on this:

1. Why are people concerned with the exclusivity here? Of course soccer is an international sport, but it doesn't it THE only one. Ironic that a sport used as an example of non-hegemonic international spread of ideas is itself treated as a hegemon.

2. The point was that basketball provides a model for how a genuine American contribution to the global community can be spread in ways that are less imperialistic...obviously we're not the ones spreading soccer, so it doesn't have the same distinctive capacity.

3. Don't act as though soccer's globalness isn't largely a result of European imperialism. Soccer tends to be bigger in those places that were subject to imperialism the longest. Basketball's spread to China, Eastern Europe, Spain, Argentina....a remarkably different kind of spread than how soccer first made its rounds.

 
At 11/07/2007 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you think it is that it's only in the present and former British colonies that conflict sports thrive? From the descendants of soccer (a contact, not conflict sport) such as rugby, Gaelic football, American football, Australian football, hockey (that Canadian derivative), lacrosse (another North American derivative) and so forth. In all of those sports (and others too numerous to mention), direct physical conflict is an integral part of the game.

The rest of the world sticks to soccer/football and other namby-pamby kids' games.

Whassup wi' dat???

PS: Lost's manifesto on rugby was spot-on. A brilliant sport...until they soccerified by promoting all that damned kicking in place of the more noble approach wherein the loosies and eights break off, cheat and otherwise use their intelligence to trump little scrum halves who race around like coked-up earwigs trapped by the porcelain bathtub. But I digress...

 
At 11/07/2007 5:27 PM, Blogger lost said...

anon.-

can you dilute cocaine to the point where it will penetrate an earwig's exoskeleton?

kicking has always been a part of the game but it has gotten out of hand in high-profile matches lately.

since the sport went professional, teams have been far less daring; the equivalent of monotonous 'right-way' basketball is excessive kicking.

however, the low-scoring RWC07 final was the last straw and the IRB is advancing rule changes to promote loose play, passing, and keeping the ball in hand.

brian- soccer/footy is exalted as the 'global' sport because of its universality. 1. something you can kick without breaking your foot. 2. somewhere to kick it. 3. someone to stand in your way (optional).

Basketball is very accessible, but not close to soccer.

I'll agree that the two sports spread differently, but I might add that having a boat is no longer a prerequisite to imperialism.

shoals- since we're criticizing colonialism today: who 'invented' hoop? http://www1.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/2290927/2/istockphoto_2290927_mayan_game_court_chichen_itza.jpg
just sayin

 
At 11/07/2007 6:02 PM, Blogger the schef (adam schefter haha) said...

this is mad head - i hate free darko and the warmonger yglesias - yalls is blowin mines

 
At 11/07/2007 6:26 PM, Anonymous Gus said...

Baseball in Japan predates the war, or at least America's involvement in it. American teams barnstormed Japan in the '30s playing Japanese college and all-star teams.

 
At 11/07/2007 9:04 PM, Anonymous paper tiger said...

really interesting post.
i look to be a little late here, but i've got to point out that its important to recognize the high degree to which the international spread of basketball doesn't have to do with the game's intrinsic appeal. much of the spread rests, instead, on the perceived exoticism of this largely black cultural product. it's obviously no coincidence that basketball blows up internationally through the same era when hip hop music and style are the dominant commercial productions.
so i think this discussion of basketball's spreading as paralleling the need for a soft power approach to making friends in the world needs to include some analysis of the idea that through basketball america is appealing to the rest of the world by showcasing our oppressed. (i've got penny von eschen in my head here.)
also, i think the spread of basketball is as much cultural imperialism as the export of any of our other products. there is a style and a swag and often a soundtrack that travels with basketball- baseball never had this. so, in the political analogy, i think this is more "be like us, emulate us" than "stand beside us."

 
At 11/07/2007 9:44 PM, Blogger T. said...

There's something interesting in Paper Tiger's comment that I'd like to expand upon. Here in Asia - while the top level of basketball (CBA, KBL, PBA, etc.) invariably tries to appropriate the hip hop music and style to often comical, discordant effect, the basketball being played in the streets and at the shoe company/NBA run events IS set to a hip hop beat. And if you puruse the magazines and websites - it's all very hip hop flavored.

It's like for these kids, basketball and hip hop are intertwined and unseperable. Like they think "I'm playing basketball, there should be Dipset on the boombox"

The odd thing is . . .most of these kids don't really like hip hop - except for a few leading edge kids, these kids are not out there trading the new mix tapes, or even copping the newest Young Jeezy or Lil' Wayne albums. As soon as they leave the court, they're back listening to their S.H.E., Rain, Super Voice Girl, or Michael Learns to Rock.

For them - hip hop is part of basketball, but its rarely in and of itself a music type worth pursuing.

(This will vary GREATLY - from country to country - depending upon exposure to the US, of course. This is less true of say, Korea or the Philippines than of China)

 
At 11/07/2007 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Al Horford coulda got one more bucket, the Suns would have given up 5 double-doubles in their loss to the Hawks tonight.

 
At 11/07/2007 10:43 PM, Anonymous djslickwatts said...

I missed the 2nd and 3rd, so I only heard twice about Tony Parker's wedding, honeymoon in Turks & Caicos, French medal of honor, et cetera. How can these guys be this bored with the NBA this early? Can we get announcers who, I dunno, like basketball? Fuck.

 
At 11/08/2007 12:26 AM, Anonymous A.S. said...

This would be great if it was remotely true, but these ideas have more to do with American/Western self-loathing than what you want to call imperialism.
Firstly, I wish the author (or editors) would take the time to respond to his flat untrue claims that baseball has flourished in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan as a result of being "bound to the United States by military garrisons and close defense ties." After all, several people in this section have mentioned it. Or should we just interpret that as part of some ironic, tongue-and-cheek narration of an author who isn’t really the author of the piece?
Baseball was brought to Japan in the 1870s and flourished as a game during imperial Japan. Baseball was first played in Korea by American missionaries who lived their entire lives here, but it too flourished during Japanese occupation. Baseball was introduced in Taiwan in the late 1800s...again, by Japanese military, after China ceded control to Japan in 1895.
If baseball in Asia is a direct result of American imperialism and "the American military as its tentacles reach out" then why isn't it as popular in the Philippines, Guam or Cambodia? Why aren't there avid baseball lovers in Germany? I live in Korea, and I can tell you, that while thousands of Americans are portraying anti-American, anti-Imperialist global-loving socialists in print and on the computer, some folks over here are pretty close to living it. And guess what? Attendance for the Korean Baseball League is as high as ever. McDonalds and Wal-marts go out of business in my town. I’ve seen it. And yet they love baseball, KBO and MLB. What gives?
The true arm of American economic expansion (I'm not lazy enough to simply call it imperialism) is American pop culture. Surely basketball, (as was noted by Paper Tiger and others) is more closely intertwined with that than baseball via hip-hop culture.
People love baseball, people love basketball. Personally, I love both. These are the things we amuse ourselves with as we sprint from womb to grave. Some of us know this, some of us try to deconstruct it and create false self-loathing diatribes to further our own muddled interests.

 
At 11/08/2007 12:53 AM, Anonymous blindblue said...

Baseball is pretty big on Guam, at least as big as something can get on a remote island with a population less than 200k which mainly serves as an aircraft carrier (Andersen AFB). Their team made it to the Little League World Series a while back, it got a lot of play in the local media until they were unceremoniously crushed by fifteen runs in their quarterfinal against Curaçao.

I haven't lived in the Philippines since before Estrada was thrown out of office, but people's interest in NBA basketball seemed a lot higher than their interest in homegrown leagues like the PBA or PBL. Don't think I ever saw anyone play baseball in all my years there.

I got nothing on Cambodia.

 
At 11/08/2007 3:20 AM, Blogger CJB said...

This post has its head in the right place but I think it's way to reductivist and oversimplified--especially in the analyses of sport and hegemony--and also completely off the mark as far as the history of baseball in Asia goes.

Baseball in Asia was disseminated via the Japanese colonial occupation of Korea and Taiwan and various other Asian countries. It is not a product of the American colonial legacy.

Also, I think there's a kind of obnoxious presupposition in a very 101 political history/hegemony analysis sort of way that all people in asia (or Latin America or Europe) choosing to play baseball/basketball etc. do so as a result of a kind of hegemonic brainwashing. What if they just choose it because its cool and they like it and its fun? It's not like every time Americans eat sushi or watch Kung fu movies its because they're brainwashed by Eastern hegemony.

Interesting topic but I think more homework was needed.

Jackson Broder
East Windup Chronicle
www.eastwindupchronicle.com

 
At 11/08/2007 3:59 AM, Blogger T. said...

One note which is forgotten in the spread of basketball is the role of Christian proseltyzing in the the growth of hoops around the world. In most countries, YMCA missionaries were responsible - at least for that intial seeding of the idea of a leather ball and a hoop - and it was via Christian missionary work that the game was spread to many many places.

blindblue - there's a definate difference between PBA/PBL fans and NBA fans - the NBA fans are a lot more "mass" - while the PBA fans tend to be segerated into two major classes - one being screaming teenage girls the other being 40 year old Filipino guys who have a big beer gut.

 
At 11/08/2007 4:08 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Re Paper Tiger: If you look at Europe today, basketball and hip hop do go hand in hand for the most part. But I'm not sure these two developments are as intertwined here as maybe in other parts of the world, in fact the hip hop boom probably lagged a little bit behind.

One big turning point for basketball in Europe certainly was the 1992 Olympics which basically introduced most of the people to how fascinating this sport could be. And while the Dream Team's dominant players were black, Jordan, Barkley, Magic, Malone and Pippen don't exactly scream hip hop, as Bird, Mullin and Stockton don't either.

I'd argue that early 90's hip hop didn't have a huge effect on Europe or at least European mainstream. It wasn't until probably Tupac, B.I.G., Snoop and them that the movement really started. When basketball and hip hop grew together in the US (personified by AI?) and then spread throughout the world, I totally agree with your point about the perception that kids won't know where one stops and the other begins.

Case in point, two weeks ago my basketball team played an opponent made up of 17-19 year-old first first-league prospects who had The Game, 50 Cent et al. going during our lay-up lines. Then last week we played an older team that's also located quite close to the french border (where US mainstream culture/hip hop culture is maybe not as widely embraced as in other parts of Europe) and they had the Chili Peppers and other older rock songs that now escape me blaring from the speakers.

So if you're from Europe and grew up on AI, then basketball and hip hop probably are closely intertwined for you. If you're a little bit older, there's at least a good chance they aren't.

 
At 11/08/2007 4:12 AM, Anonymous Mattu said...

I want a Matt Yglesias's poster!! Great article, pal!

 
At 11/08/2007 5:17 AM, Anonymous Brock said...

At least in France, there has been a home-grown hip-hop culture since the early 80s, one which does not follow the culture of US hip-hop. I think that the basketball-hip hop confluence developed in Europe on its own, in a way not dependent upon AI.

 
At 11/08/2007 8:55 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

Don't know if there are many regular FD readers who are also cricket fans, but I thought someone should stand up for the sport - "rotting corpse" ain't exactly fair....

Football, rugby, cricket (and most other competitve sports - athletics, tennis, croquet) were spread by the British Empire, brought in by red-jacketed soldiers, railway-building navvies and tea-drinking bureacrats. All the different classes that made up the British Imperial diaspora had their favourite sport and played it with the natives. But that was a long time ago.

What is the most interesting aspect of this process, and one the impacts on the core FD credo of style and swag, is that since these sports were introduced 150-100 years ago, the various nations have adapted and changed the games to suit their own national styles.

So, sub-continetal batsmen in cricket tend to be wristy, brilliant players of spin (becuase they grow up playing on dusty, bumpy pitches), English batsmen tend to be dour accumulators, and Australian cricketers have a kind of take-no-prisoners, macho swagger that means they win. The way cricket is played in all these countries has become a kind of nationalistic identity. It's not just about winning the war, its about winning the war in a way that conforms to your countries identity.

The same is true in football. Even in europe there are clear stereotypes that any football fan can tell you. The Germans are organized, the Italians are cynical, the English unsophisticated but effective, and the French flaky but touched with genius. East Europeans are technical but temperamental and the Dutch kind of stoned.

And when you look further afield, the differences are even more apparent. South America has its light/dark, Jedi/Sith in Brazil and Argentina. Ghana has a kind of exuberant athleticism, etc. etc.

What is strange is that these forces are so strong that they even effect the game at a club rather than national level. Despite the recent internationalization of the EPL, most of the clubs in the Premiership, despite being in some cases entirely made up of foreign-born, rather than British players, still play what a direct, British style.

I don't watch enough basketball to know this - but are there basketball national stereotypes? Is Nowitski grimly effective? Luol Deng direct?

Oh, and cricket is amazing.... best sport in the world.

 
At 11/08/2007 9:15 AM, Blogger Flud said...

Kaifa's got it right there. I used to stick on some classic Van Halen for our team's lay up lines (not only does it rock-ass, but it really annoyed all the boys with fake limps and secret Boyz II Men albums) Then again I'm Irish and I'm flyin' to New York to see the Knicks play the Heat on sunday so what would I know about the game?... Great piece man.

 
At 11/08/2007 10:18 AM, Blogger Kyle said...

Great post. I really like the direction FreeDarko is taking with all the fresh insights through guest lectures.

 
At 11/08/2007 11:21 AM, Blogger lost said...

The game of basketball itself is inherently dorky. The conditions are far to contrived. The field of play is too constrained. The dribbling and the hoop are both silly items, yet require fairly specific physical plant to even play. (b-ball is actually a lot like europe in those respects)

To me, the game itself has no intrinsic qualities that would appeal to a broad audience. If the lot of us got together and played a 'FreeDarko commentor 5-on-5', it probably wouldn't be anything to watch. (personally, I can fake the funk, but masonry abounds) Hardly the spectacle that would inspire a global sport, anyhow.

I can't help but picture Ted Stryker teaching 'advanced competitive theory' in the Peace Corps.

It is the player's ability to overcome the dorky nature of the game in order to look fluid, athletic, and creative which makes the game interesting. This is why the global appeal of the game is tied to hip-hop; hip-hop and black basketball are intertwined across time and space, cousins that came up together in the cut. Without African American players the game looks dorky again.

If you don't believe me, raise the basket to 12 feet. What do you have? Women's basketball. Dwight Howard becomes Lisa Leslie. Who's going to watch that? Basically nobody; the lesbians will still be at WNBA games.

It is the ability of the black athlete and his emulators to make kinesiological art out of confined space and contrived circumstances that holds our interest. You know, that ability to thrive despite ludicrous, unnatural, externally imposed restrictions.

Thanks to our asphalt nation, our Rucker, our ABA, our NBA, even our stupid-ass AND1 tour, the young men of the world have a new rite of passage. Hoop is much like dance; you can easily look like a fool, but if you don't, people take notice. And by people I mean women.

If you can play the black game, you can get access to black women. If you can handle the rock... This is the perceived connection that is driving the global hoop sensation.


whoever said 'exoticism'? Paper Tiger, i am on it homey.

 
At 11/08/2007 11:55 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

From recently late Lee Hazlewood's "Baghdad Nights": "It's just like playing football . . . with a gun." Best comment post ever by Andrew. Why do I love the British spelling of "favourite"? U know why.

 
At 11/08/2007 12:40 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Sorry about the typos... must proof.

And I fogot to say what a great piece that was.

One of my favourites, ever. Full of colour, like a nice, ripe aubergine.

 
At 11/09/2007 1:43 AM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

Maybe I'm just being wistful; I'm sort of hoping that a piece about foreign relationships as personified through sport that restricts soccer to "not being understood" is an intentionally sly reference to the global realities of the Greens being part of a right-wing coalition and gentle Tibet being a religious autocracy in comparison to "Mission Accomplished".

 
At 12/06/2008 12:28 PM, Blogger samir said...

"cricket is the rotting corpse of British imperialism".

Hmm..lets see what was going through the head of the genius who wrote this line: "Well, lemme see, I should have a throw-away line about cricket, but I don't know *anything* about the game, but I do know England has something do with it, and perhaps some other countries, so let me just say something about imperialism, something a little snarky, that'll sound clever, yeah, thats the trick".

Fucking idiot.

 
At 4/13/2009 3:57 AM, Blogger 平平 said...

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At 8/19/2010 11:29 AM, Blogger kenan said...

if the images were present it would have help more. latest sports news

 

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