FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

USA Basketball in Black and White!

by DAVE ZIRIN

How many times do we hear fans try to assign wild-eyed political symbolism to sports teams? My friend Zeke is convinced that “If the Yankees win that’s good for Bush!” I’ve also heard, “The Detroit Pistons beating the LA Lakers will give confidence to blue collar workers around the country.” Or my favorite irrational analysis, “I bet they fixed the Super Bowl so the ‘Patriots’ would win–you know….because of the war.”

But the Olympics are a different beast. The US as the world’s lone superpower lord over the Olympics like Alexander the Great. Our defeats are celebrated as dents in the armor. Rooting against the US outside this country becomes as natural as cheering for Rocky Balboa.

But a new layer of people inside the Unites States rooted against one US team in particular this Olympics, and for all the wrong reasons. The bronze medal winning US basketball squad became the team fans in the United States loved to hate. According to a national poll, 54% of fans said they wanted to see the team of NBA superstars lose–with another 20% reporting that they “kind of” wanted to see them taken down.

Some of this animosity is more racist than a Bob Jones University course syllabus.

As sports writer Jason Whitlock wrote, it is as if White America got a memo that read, “[You] do not have to support a group of black American millionaires in any endeavor. Despite the hypocritical, rabid patriotism displayed immediately after 9/11, it’s perfectly suitable for Americans to despise Team USA Basketball, Allen Iverson and all the other tattooed NBA players representing our country. Yes, these athletes are no more spoiled, whiny and rich than the golfers who fearlessly represent us in the Ryder Cup, but at least Tiger Woods has the good sense not to wear cornrows.”

The confederate confines of talk radio have been the breeding ground for this anger. On one show, a caller who identified himself as a former member of the American military, said he hates Team USA because they don’t “represent the America he fell in love with.” When asked to describe this America he fell in love with, he said, “It was a country you could walk the streets without worrying about being mugged.

Another ESPN morning radio host–in an over-caffeinated frenzy–even called the players, “uppity”–this being the classic slur for Black people who “don’t know their place.”

Normally the code is subtler: this team is “too hip hop”. They “don’t care” or they have “too much attitude and swagger” are more popularly used. But “uppity” is about as subtle as a Bush campaign ad.

The racial slings and arrows are easier for the sporting public than the uncomfortable truth. The straight dope is that the US no longer owns a patent on the game of basketball. Unlike 1992 when the first Dream Team of Magic, Larry and Jordan posed for pictures and signed autographs for opponents and then won by 40, the teams of Argentina, Italy, Spain, Lithuania, and even Puerto Rico, now play an equal or superior brand of basketball. They weave around the court like it’s the beautiful game of soccer, with back door cuts, infectious flair, and libertine emotion. It’s no coincidence Argentina won the gold in both basketball and soccer. They play both sports with a joy and teamwork that is a wonder to behold.

But instead of analyzing why Argentina won, we get the gutter analysis of why the US lost. Forgotten is that the US players are playing against international teams that have been together for a dozen years. Forgotten is the fact that these so called “lazy” players, agreed to come while the top NBA stars refused to play. Forgotten is that the NBA is now an international league with players from Puerto Rico’s Carlos Arroyo to Argentina’s Manu Ginobli, to China’s Yao Ming. Most importantly, forgotten is that International Basketball bears about as much resemblance to the NBA as Tai Chi does to Judo.

International ball is a game of constant passing, three point bombing, sharp shooting goliaths, packed in Zone defenses and a paint that is shaped like a geometrists nightmare–some sort of trapezoidal rhombus.

As former NBA coach Dr. Jack Ramsey wrote, “It may be just about impossible to teach the international game to a group of NBA players in the span of a couple weeks. Coach Brown, and assistants Gregg Popovich and Roy Williams, are among the top coaches in the game today. [and] they haven’t gotten the job done.”

The US lost because USA Basketball–not the players–were arrogant enough to think they could roll the balls on the court and other teams would genuflect in front of the NBA’s marketing might.

Count me as someone who is glad the US lost–it’s always good to see William “Braveheart” Wallace stick it to Longshanks–but the racist scapegoating reveals all that is bankrupt about the so called Olympic spirit. Face the facts: Argentina is on top of the basketball world because they can pass, shoot, and run, better than anyone in the world. They have taken down the master’s house with the master’s tools.

DAVE ZIRIN has a book coming out this Spring 2005, “What’s My Name Fool: Sports and Resistance in the United States (Haymarket Books). He can be reached at: editor@pgpost.com.

 

 

 

DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail