Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Speaking of Basketball..."

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.

American reaction:


Canadian reaction:

“Good game!”

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.”


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: “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!”


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.”


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

is lacrosse.


Anonymous said...

You have hit the nail on the head!
You are living in the land of "Yes, you can!" having come from the land of "No, siree!"
If I had a nickel (with a beaver on it, not a buffalo) for every time I've been shot down for daring to be innovative, I'd probably have at least a dollar by now. And that, my friend, is why they call that coin a 'loonie'.

rms said...

Sorry Earl, you had it right then you went off on a tangent about cutting the bottom out. The reason reason to keep the game short:

"Canadian reaction:

“Good game!”

And it’s off for a beer."

Going for a beer, how much more Canadian can you get? (And I don't even drink beer!)

rms said...

Sorry, I meant the "real" reason.

I think I need a coffee.

Anonymous said...


We have just added your latest post ""Speaking of Basketball..."
" to our Directory of Sports . You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory and get a huge base of visitors to your website.

Warm Regards Team

Joe said...

Ironically, in the US, lacrosse is seen as a posh sport for the patrician set.

A. Buck Short said...

Is Canada especially known for its peaches? (I mean with the exception of that techno-punk Toronto musician of the same name.) Wonderful take on the subject. You may have also stumbled upon the reason something like 2-1 became acceptable as a hockey score.

However, having once held a public relations contract with 25 Massachusetts YMCAs, I would be remiss in not calling everyone’s attention to your glaring omission of the fact that, although Canadian himself, Mr. Naismith invented the game while physical director of the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA. Far be it from me to question any implication that the gentleman may have first attempted the sport unsuccessfully somewhat farther north. But this is why the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is located in Springfield rather than Winnipeg, although I understand the bidding between the cities had been quite spirited.

As can be seen in this photograph below, the Basketball Hall of Fame is distinguished by a front door in the shape of a huge basketball – making entrance only possible after said sphere is bounced several feet in either direction by an ridiculously large gentleman of Chinese extraction.

This continued the tradition of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, and the Football HOF in Canton, OH, siting these facilities in cities that are difficult, though not entirely impossible to get to – and yet still hardly worth the trip. This tradition was later carried forward with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, with the exceptions that it is not so off the beaten track; the kids seemed to find it “easy to dance to;” and I’ll give it an 85. (Personally, I believe the R&R HOF should not be so underappreciated simply because its exhibits of memorabilia have been duplicated in every Hard Rock CafĂ© throughout the world.)

As illustrated below, you will note, stylistically with its integration of the ball of record, the Football Hall resembles the Basketball Hall – with the additional advantage of a certain phallic imagery.

Since the mission of this blog is obviously one of education as well as entertainment and enlightenment, your readers should also be made aware that 4 years after Naismith, the game of Volleyball was also invented by a gentleman named William Morgan at another YMCA in nearby Holyoke, MA. Mr. Naismith does deserve some of the credit however, since the impetus for the latter sport seems to have been an appreciation for basketball by a large group of Y members who nevertheless didn’t like the idea of having to run around so much – nor the occasional bodily contact.

Mr. Morgan is said to have drawn inspiration from elements of the games of tennis (raising the top of the net several feet), baseball (the serve and return), handball, and of course basketball (the original “net” apparently having been constructed as a wall of apple crates). Rumor has it Mr. Morgan first also attempted to integrate elements of the biathlon, but abandoned that primarily due to the high casualty rate. OK, I made those last two up. But, you can look this up too, he originally christened the new sport “mintonball,” because of its similarities to badminton – sans the tedious necessity of gluing feathers onto the sphere in question. The Y also was looking for something that wouldn’t be perpetually misspelled and mispronounced, with the “M” omitted – that being the crucial second pose in the song by the Village People, and in said context the embarrassment of having to mouth the word, “shuttlecock” (with its implication of sequential transmission of STD’s).

A. Buck Short said...

Now where were we? Oh,Volleyball.

Not that anyone asked but, since I’m procrastinating on something considerably more urgent, In the course of my YMCA days, I read somewhere that Mr. Morgan’s aforementioned volleyball also drew heavily on the German sport of Faustball – an activity that you may never have even previously come across. Essentially soccer with the nets in the middle, but you’re allowed to use your hands – quite possibly after first having made some sort of pact with the devil. The uninitiated may enjoy the following videos of contemporary matches.

The hairpieces with the German flag colors are clearly the Teutonic equivalent of our own popular American or Texas flag halter tops, if not quite as functional. Obviously adopted to maintain fan interest during their overly long, even by German standards, team cheer: “Gimmee a W; gimmee an a; gimmee an l; gimmee a p; gimmee a u; gimmee an r; gimmee a g; gimmee an i; gimme an s; gimmee an n; gimmee another a; gimmee a c; gimmee an h; gimmee a t. Whatdayagot?” Walpurgisnacht!

What continues to puzzle however, is why Beach Faustball never really took off, given that the above Weltmeister team song so clearly must have emanated from the pen of Brian Wilson. May have something to do with the fact that the North Sea water temperature remains so frigid yearlong that all the German nude bathers plunging in involuntarily utter the exclamation, “Karch Kiraly!”

But we digress. Hard as it may be to believe, it is understood that, right up through the 1930s and 40s, the game of basketball was pretty much dominated by….wait for it…wait for it….Jewish players. Go ahead, look that up too.

“Roundball” (as if baseballs, softballs and soccer balls were trapezoidal) has always been an inner city game – and until the invention of Levittown, that’s pretty much where you could find the Jews. The dominant semi-pro team for nearly 20 years was the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association SPHA’s (spahs not spaaz as you might have thought), later to win the first NBA title as the Philadelphia Warriors. No kidding.

Paul Gallico, then a New York sports writer, once penned the theory: " I suspect the reason that basketball appeals to the Hebrew with his Oriental background, is that the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind, flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smart aleckness." Others wrote that generally being shorter, our tribe boasted superior balance and foot speed. It must have been years before anyone even entertained the idea that height could actually provide some advantage.

And don’t even get me started about coaching, beginning with the Reds, Holtzman and Aurebach. If there is any doubt these guys were Jewish, years ago, when my friend, a minister, was dating Auerbach’s daughter Nancy, I got to sit in on a couple of informal meetings in the coach’s office. They always sent out for “Chinese.”

Peter J. said...

A few years ago a group (now known as Historica) produced a series of "Heritage Minutes" that were broadcast all over Canadian TV. They were similar in form and frequency to the "Hinterland Who's Who" vignettes that I'm sure you're familiar with, except instead of animals each touched on a different event in Canadian history. One of the first batch was the pivotal scene you just described; you can see their take at