Everyday people

For a very slow, white, badly asthmatic guy, I’m a pretty good basketball player. The only activity that I’ve participated in that was truly integrated along racial lines was pick-up basketball in Oakland. People who love basketball like the idea of it being a sport anyone can play, no matter their skin color or where they’re from. And that — along with the whole undrafted underdog angle and the fact that New York is such a big market — is why basketball fans are so excited about Jeremy Lin.

It’s just not that complicated. It pisses me off that conservative assholes have to take a nice story that brings people together and use it as pretext to spout their usual moralizing people-don’t-love-Jeebus-enough bullshit. The article John linked was a good solid take-down, but what I find most baffling is that Bobo believes that sports is about being awesome and dominating, when everyone who’s played any sport competitively knows that for most people sports is about coping with failure. Losing hurts more than winning feels good in all arenas of life and in sports, your season almost always ends in a loss. In almost all cases, either you don’t make the play-offs or you lose in the play-offs.

(A friend of mine who plays a lot of baseball thinks that this creates a need among athletes to credit a higher power for failure and success — it’s easier to deal with losing if you think it’s beyond your control. Superstitious rituals, thanking God when you do actually succeed, and so on are all manifestations of this in his opinion.)

I guess if you never played or watched sports at all, you might not know how much losing sucks, but I can’t help but chalk Bobo’s attitude up as yet another example of elite pundits’ complete lack of empathy for anyone at all different from themselves. They see the vast majority of humans as children who need to be told to sacrifice, zealots who need to be told suck on this, egotists who need to be taught that they can’t win every time. It’s incredibly strange to me that there’s an actual market for this.






36 replies
  1. 1
    Persia says:

    I’ve never been a player, just a spectator, and it’s amazing how idiotically superstitious I get before a team I like plays in an important game. I refused to wear my one piece of Patriots apparel between the last playoff game and the Super Bowl, just in case.

  2. 2
    Schlemizel says:

    REALLY? you don’t get it?
    EVERYTHING, means exactly what those yahoos say it means. Reality does not matter. If Lin were to pray on the court that would be proof to them that America is missing religion, if he does not it is proof that America is missing religion.

    That works for any subject you want to use it on – particularly with that loser but really for all conservative pundits & the morans that listen to them

  3. 3
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    I can think of only a handful of columnists who are not pretentious jackasses, and even those guys sometimes wander into jackass country.

    There’s like one or two at the NYT, and the same number more or less at Kaplan Daily Prep.

    The rest are without any merit or worth whatsoever.

  4. 4
    dww44 says:

    I don’t think that David Brooks has one scintilla of humility in his makeup and he always seems to be doing this in his columns:

    They see the vast majority of humans as children who need to be told to sacrifice, zealots who need to be told suck on this, egotists who need to be taught that they can’t win every time. It’s incredibly strange to me that there’s an actual market for this.

    He and Friedman both come off in their writings and especially their Teevee and radio appearances as incredibily condescending, whether the subject is sports or some other. But, the takedown of Brooks and his sports column is a great one.

  5. 5
    Suffern ACE says:

    What Jeremy Lin has taught me today is that if you win, you get the front or back pages of the tabloids all to yourself. When you lose, you share the page with a photo of a stripper. Not that the stripper has anything to do with you. She is A-Rod’s stripper. Or at least a stripper is on the cover because A-Rod went to a strip club and that needs an illustration. Generic stripper or we’ll not know what that means. Now that the ethos is out there, can we discuss it for the next week?

  6. 6
    Yevgraf says:

    Brooks was the kind of kid who saw being picked next to last in the pickup baseball game as a great triumph.

    Most of the time, the other kids didn’t call him spaz or tard.

  7. 7
    Mark says:

    Were David Brooks to walk onto a basketball court today, he would be wearing converse all-stars and a wife-beater. He would dribble the ball with both hands and try to throw the ball upwards through the basket. He is that clueless about sports.

    He is also that clueless about everything else in the world, so it’s unclear why he gets paid to write.

  8. 8
    Felinious Wench says:

    Synchronicity. I’m currently watching my husband’s basketball team practice. It’s a quiet Saturday morning, and playoffs are looming.

    Bobo does…not…understand…athletes. He does not understand their world. Jeremy Lin seems to be a great guy. But faith in basketball is not unusual at all. All faiths, or no faiths, are represented in front of me as I watch the team.

    Team sports played as a true team teaches sacrifice, compromise, dependence on others to carry you, and humility. Jeremy Lin is a point guard, and they have to have those qualities even more. And that’s what can make basketball great…not an individual Asian American playing well, but than person within a team of many different races and personalities. And that has little to do with his faith.

    That’s what Brooks doesn’t get at all. I pray this is his last foray into sports writing.

  9. 9
    Birthmarker says:

    One thing I’ve learned from Facebook is that there are a lot of people out there who think that God is managing their lives on a moment to moment basis.

    I say this without judgment. It is just a mindset for a lot of folks.

  10. 10
    Yevgraf says:

    To add to what Mark said, Bobo would also be wearing a glasses strap and would whine a lot about getting fouled.

  11. 11
    Mark says:

    @Felinious Wench: I actually hope he keeps writing about sports. I still have idiot friends who recommend his moronic Burkean columns. But seeing crap like this will actually make them think twice.

    There was a time when I respected Steven Levitt. And then he wrote a piece about baseball that was humiliatingly bad. He showed up in the comments and went all ad hominem on everyone. After that, I noticed that everything he wrote was garbage.

  12. 12
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Felinious Wench:

    That’s what Brooks doesn’t get at all. I pray this is his last foray into sports writing.</blockquote.

    Fixed, no charge!

  13. 13
    Mark says:

    @Yevgraf: The spam filter won’t let me plus-one you

  14. 14

    What I’ve observed, and the topic of this post is an illustration of, is that the US in the 21st century is weirder than I ever imagined it could be, for all different reasons than might have occurred to me. That there is a continuing market for the Bobos and Moustaches of Understanding of contemporary opinion writing fits right into the bewildering society that has developed here.

    If you’d suggested to me that in 2008 and beyond we’d be arguing about an attempted revision of US laws to what existed in 1950-1964, only with much lower tax rates, I’d have advised you to get off the sauce. In some ways, it’s made me question my powers of observation, because things simply cannot be the way they appear as it makes.no.sense.

    Slightly OT: Corporations are people and zygotes are people. When the holy rollerskating fuck do women get to be people too?

  15. 15
    Jewish Steel says:

    It’s incredibly strange to me that there’s an actual market for this.

    The market is their even more out of touch, untroubled-by-empathy editors and owners.

  16. 16
    PTirebiter says:

    It might be worth remembering that it begins with the joy of the sport. Little League and Pop Warner was all about being a “apart of” as opposed to “apart from.” What little sting a loss may have brought was shared and tempered by the pure joy of playing the game with your teammates. Learning there can be self fulfillment without selfishness. Maybe Brooks missed the experience of a boy getting his first full uniform.

  17. 17
    Gian says:

    It’s easy to see why the right wing loves the story.
    Lin was the player of the year in high school, and won a state championship versus a perpetual powerhouse but didn’t get a division one scholarship offer.

    If you put the wingnut lense with respect to college admissions, you’ll see where it goes…

    in it’s own way the story is a true american one. someone with extraordinary talen denied a chance until multiple bits of bad luck befall other people, and he gets a shot and makes the most of it.

    and the reason he was riding the pine so to speak… hard not to see the stereotyping., and the the stuff like Jason Whitlock’s tweet about the size of the man’s genitals…

    the espn headline is no shock and is trying to be too cute by half, with all the other rather offensive stuff already out there.

    anyway, the right wing sees him as a handle cudgel to whack african americans with that’s why they love him

  18. 18
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @efgoldman:

    Master could make Little Richard sound as joyless and leaden as Nietzsche with a bad case of the piles.

    I was lifting a cup of hot tea as I read that line and damn near spilled it all over myself when I guffawed at that.

  19. 19
    Bullsmith says:

    Someday Bobo may come to understand that “teamwork” is actually a sporting term. Really, that may have been the most ignorant column in terms of how playing team sports actually works that I’ve ever encountered.

  20. 20
    Birthmarker says:

    #14. Your last sentence could be a song, along the lines of ‘Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. “

  21. 21
    WereBear says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): Corporations are people and zygotes are people. When the holy rollerskating fuck do women get to be people too?

    Worth t-shirting. With some clever graphic instead of the cursing, to broaden the appeal. And I’d buy one!

  22. 22
    Mark S. says:

    @Felinious Wench:

    Team sports played as a true team teaches sacrifice, compromise, dependence on others to carry you, and humility. Jeremy Lin is a point guard, and they have to have those qualities even more.

    Man, did anyone ever play on a team where the point guard shot the ball 90% of the time and only passed when he was triple-teamed? Oh, and he was also the coach’s son.

  23. 23
    Bobbo says:

    There Is a market for this. Wealthy, self-identified liberals who are actually closet wingers.

  24. 24
    Polar Bear Squares says:

    It’s actually bullshit too. Religious people are nothing new to American sports, as Ta-Nehisi Coates said. Kareem Abdul Jabbar, anyone? Jackie Robinson? Muhammed Ali? Sandy Koufax? Charlie Ward? Find me a football team and I’ll find you a prayer group.

    I just get this feeling Brooks feels like he has to point out new shit to his audience every column. Like he’s some third-rate scout on some farm team. So if he can’t found the goods he has to just make shit up or make a big deal out of something that’s really mundane.

  25. 25
    marv says:

    I was a professional athlete for 8 years and I have a slightly different take on athlete superstitions. We were not so stupid as to think they really worked, but I think when people try to do really difficult, repetitive things, there is a natural tendency to try to create in small repetitive actions a kind of “climate” for success. I suspect some great writers, for example, might be quite picky about their writing and prewriting routines in a similar way. And also, if you are lucky enough to play a sport for a while at a high level and wind up feeling respect for the difficulty of the sport, and for your competitors, and for yourself, losing isn’t all that bad. In fact, it’s the next best thing to winning. The main thing is just to play.

  26. 26
    PanurgeATL says:

    @PTirebiter:

    What little sting a loss may have brought was shared and tempered by the pure joy of playing the game with your teammates.

    At best, yes, but there’s an awful lot of Doug’s “losing hurts more” attitude around.

    As for teamwork, conservatives love teamwork as long as they can use it to enforce conformity. “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, so get a haircut, you DFH!”

  27. 27
    ornery_curmudgeon says:

    “It’s incredibly strange to me that there’s an actual market for this.”

    Oh there’s a market, DougJ. Pundits are well employed by corporate power to advance corporate ideals and power.

    The media does not lack humility, they are not clueless, or cowed, or confused … they are not mistaken or shortsighted or lazy or bored or seeking a horse-race of any kind.

    The pundits are bought. Purchased. Paid for. Made men. They are paid to enrich corporate owners. They are never going to tell you this.

    This may sound dickish but instead of watching sports, review actual, real history about corporatism and the Right wing in 1920’s. They aren’t calling it the Ministry of Propaganda this time around, but the other differences are fairly minor.

  28. 28
    pragmatism says:

    I agree with your friend’s theory, Doug. Baseball is especially defined by failure. A .300 hitter is an all star. They play a season that as 2x the number of games as other major u.s. team sports. That makes for a lot of failing, even for the best hitters. So you get superstitions and rituals and (for most but not all players) humility. The humility is reinforced by the unofficial rules of the game. If you show someone up, not only will you incur the wrath of the baseball gods but you will get beaned or your teammates will.

  29. 29
    marv says:

    @efgoldman:
    yeah, I’m sort of old and the way I remember this is the evangelical, born-again, personal-relationship-with-jesus christianity was just getting started and making its presence felt in weekly chapel meetings in locker rooms etc. Again, just my recollection, but if a teammate said praise the lord, it was going to be about something important, like the birth of a child. I honestly don’t remember anyone saying the lord hepped me hit that home run, and think he would have been laughed out of the clubhouse if he did. Would also add that while pointing to the sky after a touchdown is really annoying to me, I remember when Catholics would cross themselves at the free throw line and for some reason I always thought that was sort of cool. And finally, when Ali would refuse to answer Cosell’s questions after a fight until he had delivered a long thanks to Allah and Elijah Muhammad, I thought it was just sort of corny and silly, but the amazing thing to me now to look back on is that I never knew anyone who cared about the Allah thing.

  30. 30
    Felinious Wench says:

    @Mark S

    Man, did anyone ever play on a team where the point guard shot the ball 90% of the time and only passed when he was triple-teamed? Oh, and he was also the coach’s son.

    I’m more used to point guards who look to pass first. Husband’s team runs a modified Princeton offense, so selfish basketball doesn’t work out well for those kinds of players.

  31. 31
    Mark S. says:

    @pragmatism:

    I never played baseball and never particularly liked watching it, but I always wondered what it would be like to play a game where even if you’re on a real awesome team, you’re going to lose 60-70 games a year. How down can you get about 1 loss?

  32. 32
    pragmatism says:

    @Mark S.: The cliche is that you can’t let the highs be to high or let the lows be too low. Losing or failing, dusting yourself off and going back to the grind is ingrained in the culture. Having 162 games seems ridiculous. But it is strangely necessary due to the nature of the game. I’m probably misremembering but I think the average number of minutes that the ball is in play for an MLB game is 7.

  33. 33
    Birthmarker says:

    @pragmatism: God, I can’t wait for spring training…

  34. 34
    pragmatism says:

    @Birthmarker: I’ll catch a couple cactus league games. Gonna be fun. Have a good one birth marker.

  35. 35
    marv says:

    @efgoldman:
    Well, there you go – conclusive proof, if it were still needed, that even with bellbottoms and disco, the 70’s were a lot cooler than the ’80’s. I blame Reagan.

  36. 36

    […] nature of the point guard position in fine detail. Charlie Pierce’s take down is vintage, but folks both here and many other places have had their way with the last-kid-picked-for-dodgeball poster […]

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