It is October and that means that all true sports fanatics in my home country are fixated on baseball. For some that means making a subtle adjustment in their feelings towards teams that they are willing to root for and the process can be remarkably pragmatic and rational as far as emotions go. Often times baseball fans will use this time of year to switch allegiances of sorts from their hometown or favorite team to a team that actually still has a shot at winning the World Series grand finale -if only temporarily. Much like the “holiday” of Halloween, these agonizingly deep and tortuous spirits of October don’t elicit too much attention considering all the people on the planet. Baseball is one of those great American inventions that has largely been confined to the Americas, Caribbean, Japan, and the Philippines despite the lofty titles that the ultimate prize bestows. However, basketball is the treasure to the world presented by the United States that shows the most persistence in spreading.
When trying to explain the intricacies that can aptly surmise the fascination with a pastoral game without time limits even the most expert baseball aficionado may fall well short. The marketing just hasn’t been the same for baseball since Babe Ruth, but basketball has an angle that is blatantly apparent. Instead of trying to explain that accurately hitting a spherical ball with a cylindrical bat is arguably the hardest skill in professional sports through physics examples try showing a highlight reel of a top level basketball player. Virtually any variety of shots in basketball will leave the viewer with a sense of awe instantaneously. Pictures of distance shooting with incredible accuracy and powerfully graceful slam dunks have spellbound us all and are suspended in time on the internet. Even dribbling and passing a basketball can invoke a kind of Magic that can enchant a casual observer. A novice could watch 1000 home run at-bats before ever glimpsing why the seemingly simple task of knocking the ball over the fence is amazing, every single time.
Basketball cuts to the chase, and you don’t need a history lesson on antebellum Americana and the abundance of yeoman farmers to understand the new world sport. Basketball started out as a team game that could be played indoors. Later basketball evolved into a sport that would thrive in urban spaces especially when played by individuals that faced more economic hardship than merely bored farm workers. Historian and Associate Professor at the State University of New York, Justin Turner referenced that the first baseball squad ever recorded playing a game was none other than the New York Knickerbocker Club that also published the first rule book in 1845 in his post doctoral dissertation. (BASEBALL DIPLOMACY, BASEBALL DEPLOYMENT: THE NATIONAL PASTIME IN U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS, page 14)
Thanks to modern agriculture we may never see the likes of the conditions that created baseball again but human beings keep reinforcing the circumstances that founded basketball. The impact that each game has played in the global economy is quite astonishing but the blueprints for additional wealth seem to be divergent. Indeed, the future looks brighter for one of the games. The increased development of the world is leading towards larger populations living in denser cities where the disenfranchised and marginalized dream of a nontraditional means of escape. What is more, the equipment for playing basketball is more along the lines of the most popular world sport of soccer and the purest form can be embraced by both sexes. All you really need is a ball and people start to come together.
Baseball might be the official American pastime but it just hasn’t been all that infectious. The established realm of baseball can only claim the Netherlands as the only foothold in Europe. Basketball has been full on sick since before the time it saw Doctor J and it still has a chance to go viral. In the modern era that also includes the highly chronicled legends of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Pete Maravich, and LeBron James so there may be no end to more stories like these from running whatever courts that they want. The youth of the world have taken up basketball on all inhabited continents due to the inspiration and excitement from striking visual cues that align with prevalent social themes. This is the secret to the health of the game of basketball. The culture of globalization is perhaps inadvertently breeding basketball lovers at a feverish pace.
The International Baseball Federation began six years after the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and there they no longer sanction a culminating event that unites the world for a true championship since the Baseball World Cup folded in 2011.
The sports that we all play have a certain potential to reveal more about our increasingly interconnected and technical society than we may care to admit. Prolific participation in sports can certainly coincide with the rise of entire regimes and there is a hardly an upstart political movement that wouldn’t leap at the chance to appropriate such successes. Popularity matters but total world domination is still like a jump ball in basketball: completely up for grabs. In other sports it can be more like a forgone conclusion but the courts at least seem like the more egalitarian alternative than the diamond or the fields. The United States has enjoyed a significant head start on the rest of the participants but the FIBA Basketball World Cup results show that the medal count isn’t lopsided. Besides, things are known to change.
Spain was the last basketball team to win the FIBA tournament other than the USA in 2006 and the country will be the subject of further coverage on the phenomenal organic growth of the sport on The Chronicles of Six. This author believes that the next basketball legend will speak Spanish as a first language which would dramatically extend a broad appeal. Three English-speaking countries ultimately went into the creation of the sport of basketball as Naismith was Canadian born eventual citizen of the United States of immigrant Scottish lineage. Currently the majority of the basketball innovators are from the USA because the sport is still an evolving invention 125 years after James Naismith recorded the first game in Springfield, Massachusetts. In this series several Spanish athletes have been chosen for the spotlight in order to give interested readers insights into the emergence of basketball anew, and from a different perspective.
These stories are important and so expect more at a later date.