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.

February 09, 2016
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail