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 details...how 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 E-S-P-N.com), 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

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