FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

USA Basketball in Black and White!

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.

 

 

 

More articles by:

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.

Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
Matt Johnson
The Rich Are No Smarter Than You
Julian Vigo
College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education
Brian Wakamo
It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!
Beth Porter
Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws
Christopher Brauchli
Eric the Heartbroken
Louis Proyect
Rebuilding a Revolutionary Left in the USA
Sarah Piepenburg
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Robert Koehler
Putting Our Better Angels to Work
Peter A. Coclanis
The Gray Lady is Increasingly Tone-Deaf
David Yearsley
Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
Elliot Sperber
Aunt Anna’s Antenna
March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail