Speaking of basketball, as I was yesterday, I take great pride in reporting that the great game of basketball was invented by a Canadian. Dr. John Naismith. Unfortunately, there were no tall people in Canada, so the game moved south of the border where it immediately became a tremendous success.
There was a more serious obstacle keeping basketball from flourishing in Canada, one stemming from the contrasting natures of our contiguing cultures. As you may know, the original game of basketball was played using suspended peach baskets as the baskets.
There was a drawback to using the peach baskets. The two teams would scrap ferociously for the ball, one team would finally take control, they would drive to the basket, a player would shoot, and if they were on target, the ball would land in the peach basket.
And not come out.
Frugal Canadians were generally unwilling to supply a second ball. This meant that, after the first basket was scored, the game was over. Basketball games always ended with the same score: two-to-nothing. Sometimes the games ended pretty quickly, like in seconds. On the other hand, if the teams were evenly matched and the defenses were tight, or if both teams were bad shooters, the games could go on for six or seven minutes.
It was not easy selling tickets to these contests. People generally like their entertainment to last somewhat longer. If traffic was bad and you got there a few minutes late, there was a good chance that you’d miss the entire game.
One answer to the “not coming out” problem would be to carry a ladder onto the court after every basket, climb up to the beach basket, and retrieve the ball. Someone had to have brought in a ladder to put up the peach baskets in the first place. The thing is, by the time the game started, that person would almost certainly have left, taking the ladder with them. You can’t just leave a ladder sitting there for the whole the game. It might be needed at home. (Remember, we’re thinking Canadian here.) Besides, dragging a ladder onto the court after every basket would have really slowed down the game.
Of course, there’s another way of the ball coming out of the peach basket. You’ve probably already thought of it yourselves. But that solution is no – you should pardon the expression – slam-dunk, due to the aforementioned contrast in the Canadian and American cultures.
Imagine a couple of American visitors, coming up to Canada, to check out the “new game.” They’re barely in their seats, when the first basket’s scored, and the game is over.
And it’s off for a beer.
AMERICAN VISITOR: “What do you mean, ‘It’s over’?”
CANADIAN: “Well, the ball’s in the peach basket.”
AMERICAN VISITOR: “So?”
CANADIAN: “Well, we can’t get it out.”
AMERICAN VISITOR: “You can’t get it out.”
CANADIAN: “No. Don’t you see? It’s up there in the peach basket. Way up high.”
The Americans exchange looks of head-scratching bewilderment.
AMERICAN VISITOR TWO: “Did you ever think of cutting the bottom out of the peach basket?”
CANADIAN: “What’s that now?”
AMERICAN VISITOR: “If you cut out the bottom, the ball will fall out.”
CANADIAN: “You’re saying, cut the bottom out of the peach basket?”
AMERICAN VISITOR TWO: “Yeah.”
AMERICAN VISITOR: “Then you could keep playing.”
CANADIAN: “It's true you'd be able to keep playing. But what happens to the peach basket?”
AMERICAN VISITOR: “I’m not following you.”
CANADIAN: “The peach baskets. They’d be ruined.”
ANOTHER CANADIAN: “You try using a peach basket with no bottom? The peaches’ll fall through it. Right onto the ground.”
CANADIAN: “It’s the bottoms that keep the peaches in.”
The Canadians shake their heads, smugly chuckling at the "clueless" Americans.
AMERICAN VISITOR: (TO AMERICAN VISITOR TWO) “What the hell are they talking about?”
CANADIAN: "Destroying a perfectly good peach basket. Even a child would know better than to do that. (CALLING) You there, Jimmy McDonough. What would happen if you and you pals were to cut the bottoms out of your peach baskets so you could play basketball?”
JIMMY: “Our Mum would kill us!”
ANOTHER CANADIAN: “You see?”
AMERICAN VISITOR TWO: “It’s just a couple of baskets.”
CANADIAN: “‘Just a couple of baskets.’ Peach baskets don’t grow on trees, you know.”
ANOTHER CANADIAN: “Besides, once one of them tries it, they’ll all want to do it.”
CANADIAN: “Where will you put your peaches then, Mr. Yankee Doodle? In your pockets?”
AMERICAN VISITOR TWO: “Take out the bottom.”
ANOTHER CANADIAN: “Never!”
AMERICAN VISITOR: “Do you like the game like it is?”
CANADIAN: “It’s not high scoring, I’ll grant you that. But we appreciate the subtleties.”
ANOTHER CANADIAN: “And it doesn’t eat up our valuable time.”
AMERICAN VISITOR: “Look, I’m tellin’ ya, you got a fabulous concept here. You mess up a few peach baskets and you’re on your way.”
CANADIAN: “Now you listen here, mister. This is Canada. And in Canada, you don’t sacrifice your livelihood for a few moments of meaningless fun. It’s not always about the almighty dollar, you know. You have to be sensible about things.”
AMERICAN VISITOR: “Nice meeting ya.”
The Americans go home, taking the game of basketball with them, but making minor adjustments. They add tall people, and cut the bottoms out of the baskets.
The rest is history. Basketball became an international sensation and made billions. Today, the Canadian national pastime