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Gains from Losses

Guest Column
Bukola Afolayan

With so much news in our world recently, some worthy news items tend not to get the attention they deserve. Did anyone happen to follow or watch the World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis? Well, no guilt intended, as I did not even know it was taking place until it was almost over. This is no surprise as I am not the biggest basketball fan around. I have a five-minute attention span for any sports that is not soccer. Just enough time for the highlights of the game, thank you.

So I was catching the highlights of basketball last week, and I saw an article that said the U.S. basketball team lost to the Argentinean team. I thought it had to be a misprint or women’s championship. This thought was not meant to be a sexist one. Being the ignoramus I am in basketball, I knew one thing: The U.S. men’s basketball team is invincible. They wrote the rules of the game; they run a cartel on the game and have some of the world’s finest zombie-like fans. Therefore, a paper expecting me to believe that the U.S. men’s team lost to some Argentineans has to be smoking crack or something.

Dude, this is like saying the U.S. military got their butt kicked by some developing country. Ok, there lies the fallacy of my ignorant knowledge. If the U.S. men’s team is not invincible, then who is anymore? It does not end there, though: the U.S. team went on to lose to Yugoslavia after that; and then lost to Spain to finish sixth overall. Can someone please say LOSERS? No, I am just kidding. But let me share two of my insights of this losses and their implications on our post-modern world -- for the United States anyway.

The first insight is of a domestic nature. Let’s take a look at the implication of these losses to the NBA and its invincible elites -- the young black males. It is a given that basketball is a monopoly owned by the NBA and they have the best players in the world, which really equates to U.S. players. After black people were allowed into the game, it only got better. However, it created an anomaly that some could say has harmed the black community more than helping it. True, it produced good role models like David Robinson, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson, but it has also produced its many shares of poor role models also (no, I am not naming names here).

It has also created a stereotype that basketball is all that young black men are good for in our society. A black guy who does not play basketball is like a white guy who cannot play golf. Then, let’s not forget how it has created the get-rich-quick mentality amongst young black teens. Every young black man and his parent want him to become the new Kobe Bryant. Drop out of school, forget college, play good ball, get drafted by the Mafia (oops, I mean NBA), and bring in the dough. With folly, young black men have started thinking the game belongs to them and that the NBA cannot survive without them.

But consider the Southern Americans and the Eastern Europeans; let’s not forget about our tall Chinese friends while we are at it. The Cartel (oops, I mean the NBA) can choose to be patriotic, imbecilic and bigoted, and choose to view these losses as glitches which will not occur again. However, the truth is that globalization is a success (for once) in the game. Basketball is evolving and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Basketball is no longer a black affair with a sprinkling of some ghetto suburban white kids. It is time to recognize that the rest of the world wants a voice and some contract negotiations too.

Open the doors and let in our Latino, Europeans, and Asian friends too; heaven knows it’s about time. Maybe, if we can be so lucky, the diversity can break the destructive mentality of the basketball-playing-young-black-male and their so called “invincibility.” Diversity is a lovely thing (and I do not refer to just the black and white diversity as do corporate niches).

The second insight is of an international perspective. Let’s look at the wider implications of these losses of the US men’s basketball team. I made a fool of myself, earlier, by stating that I knew this team was invincible. So much for my state of knowledge. However, it is no coincidence that I compared it to the U.S. military (which, by the way, lost technically in Vietnam). Our men’s basketball team represents a greater thought process of our capability as a country. After 58 straight international wins, excuse us if we tend to be haughty and condescending about our abilities. Same thing can be said of our politics, social values, military might, and economy. The United States is so great that everyone wants to be like us. However, as these losses have shown us, inventing and writing the rules does not guarantee an indisputable claim to the game. What is known is that no condition is permanent and that slaves will rise to become masters eventually.

I am no soothsayer (even if I was, I doubt a basketball game would be my tool of choice for predicting the future), but it might just be prudent of the United States to take a hint of warning from the team’s loss. Nobody is invincible as the United States, the Taliban and Iraq have already learned. We are all vulnerable and open to possible changes in the business-as-usual routine. But are we ready for the changes? Our basketball team was definitely not ready; otherwise they would not have lost a second time, or a third time for that matter. Invincibility, blah, that is just some wishful thinking that we all have, to put us on a high level that recreational drugs could not attain.

Bukola Afolayan is an alumnus of the Class of 2002.