Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The System Works

I was caught watching USA Basketball last week. Women's basketball.

Well, not exactly. My job is to make DVD copies of certain TV broadcasts. These are used for a variety of things; scrapbooks, banquets, PowerPoints, broadcast training. I am the "reproduction of any part without the express written consent of the NBA is prohibited" guy. A pending request was in for the women's basketball gold game, and I was in the midst of filling the order. And I was entertained.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Beauty In Details

There are many reasons I love basketball, but here's one:
The game was designed with beauty in mind.

The story of basketball goes like this: Dr. James Naismith was obsessed with physical fitness and wanted his students to exercise during the winter. Dr. J had a few soccer balls lying around unused (too cold outside to play). Dr. J hung a peach basket on his gym wall, gave his students a soccer ball, and told them to run. And the beat goes on.

I, along with 99% of you, discovered basketball via jams and Jam. My chronological basketball memory starts with an impressive human being denied multiple times by the world's most incredible athlete. If Dr. Naismith's game began as pastel, ours was augmented by watercolor.

The mistake, of course, is to define basketball solely in pragmatics. There is more to the game than acrobatics and athletics, just like a painting is more than just wall art for a den. As Confucius once said, everything has its beauty...but not everyone sees it. But if the game is beautiful and there's beauty in its can we excavate this inner beauty?

In other words, how can I convince my girlfriend that she'd like the sport? (Kidding.)

(Aside: Basketball is the easiest sport for anyone, including the fairer sex, to appreciate. Football is rigidly constructed, a 3-hr baseball game has about 15 total minutes of movement, and hockey is violent in a way that disrupts common sensibilities. Try hoops first. You're welcome.)

The answer, of course, is to take your time. Watch. Pay attention. Notice how much attention one player gets over another. Notice those adjectives in action: laughter, dispair, hubris, gloom. Ignore the stat graphics.

Also, I don't suggest using March Madness as your theoretical framework. Learning hoops via March Madness is like learning how to roll out of a moving car on a freeway. You will learn, but you'll probably die first. You'd be better off watching your cousin play in the park.

Before football takes over in four months (or earlier, if your fingers type, watch some hoops. I'd suggest the NBA. Why? Because of something Edgar Allen Poe would say:

Beauty, of any kind, in its supreme development, excites the soul to tears.

- M.B., II

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Winter Solstice

[Editor's Note: This reads as a tongue-in-cheek critique of commercialism or a new-Age script for Soylent Green. I did not mean for this to happen. I like other sports, but there will always be a special place for true hoop in my heart.]

I love the winter. I am a weirdo.

Winter is defined by its kinetic energy. There's no time to consider feelings and thoughts. It's too damn cold for that. Summer is for contemplation and nostalgia, winter for precision and spatial reasoning. It takes mental ingenuity to turn your living room into a beach volleyball court. Especially when a family trip to Barbados is not an option.

Summer is, in contrast, literally and figuratively warm. It's easy to wait your turn, spread your limbs, and allow the action to slide in your direction. Even the season's definitive sport, baseball, insists on patience. Wait, and catch the ball when it comes to you.
Winter demands that you pursue action. Or hibernate, if you can develop an immunity to cabin fever. Catch the object in motion, or better yet, trap the object in motion that stays in motion.

If you want to escape the cold weather, try basketball. Basketball is always moving, always active. Don't worry about warming your hands; friction is built-in. Feel free to make erroneous analyses or suspend judgment. Basketball understands. Basketball is forgiving. Basketball is frenetic, and knows that mistakes will be made. At times, it may be a little hot to handle.

If you want readily digestible basketball, I'd encourage March Madness for starters. It's a whiz bang form of competition, no different than an three-legged race or an episode of Supermarket Sweep. March Madness meaning making is in the moving pictures and corporate memes. Despite what they say, no prerequisite learning is required. This makes it much easier to applaud faceless shooters making jumpers in a well-lit garage. And by the time it all ends, you'll need a stimulus respite.
You're welcome, baseball.

- MB, II