Re: I Blame Obama

1

anyone else think that in the age of Obama, we're going to be faced with an effort to save the racist image of blacks as inherently pathological

Yes.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 10:28 AM
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Jason Williams is a white player who's described as "playing black". Serbs have told me that he's part Serbian -- the Serbs also have natural B-ball ability.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 10:32 AM
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I heard that Apo has Battier's college jersey.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 10:41 AM
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If the guy were a fabulous offensive player, there wouldn't be any story. The whole reason Michael Lewis wants to write about Battier is that he gives Lewis a chance to extend his Moneyball discussion into the realm of basketball.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 10:53 AM
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Am I hallucinating or did I read an article (perhaps quoting Dreams of My Father) that Obama either quit his high school basketball team or only ever made JV or something and said it was because their game was "too white"?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 10:56 AM
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5: Technically, it's possible that both conditions apply: you are hallucinating and you have read such an article.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:02 AM
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It's worth noting that the scrappy, David Eckstein stereotype of white players isn't really part of the basketball narrative (at least to my knowledge as a casual fan, largely of college hoops). The stereotype of white players isn't so much that their hard work makes up for their lack of physical attributes (exceptions like Adam Morrison notwithstanding) so much as that they tend to be soft, perimeter players, three-point experts rather than guys who take it to the hoop. And there are quite famous examples of super-aggressive, trash-talking, physical white post players, Larry Bird and his forearm shiver being perhaps the most famously assholish.

There are strange racial dynamics going on in the NBA, but I don't think they map out as neatly as in baseball or football, at least in part because of the very international nature of the game (and the fact that unlike baseball or football, foreign players are mostly white).


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:10 AM
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The stereotype of white players isn't so much that their hard work makes up for their lack of physical attributes (exceptions like Adam Morrison notwithstanding) so much as that they tend to be soft, perimeter players, three-point experts rather than guys who take it to the hoop.

I've always thought of this as the European stereotype (as of a few years ago, before more inside players from Europe started to change that), more than the white one. There was a long discussion a few years ago, on a TNT halftime or postgame show, where the former player commentators pretty much all agreed that they don't think of the European players as white.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:27 AM
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Jason Williams is a white player who's described as "playing black".

And whose nickname is/was "White Chocolate."


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:31 AM
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I've always thought of this as the European stereotype (as of a few years ago, before more inside players from Europe started to change that), more than the white one

I don't think so -- it goes with "suburban ball" too. (Check out, in fact, the allusions to this exact stereotype in the linked article.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:33 AM
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The really peculiar bit about the article, given the racial issues raised in it, was the cover picture. Battier's medium-light skinned; there are pictures at the linked story, in which he looks like you'd expect, like a biracial guy with one white and one black parent. The cover image, though, looks different in print than on the web: in the print cover, the lighting (photoshop, whatever they did) is such that he looks unambiguously white. Like, I looked at the cover (never having heard of the guy), and read the first half of the story believing that it was a (conventionally racialized) story about a 'smart', 'hardworking', underrated white player.

I think this is an awfully thin thread to hang a question on. Newspaper printing is notoriously lousy when it comes to cover matching, even when you're talking about the magazine. It could just be an accident.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:34 AM
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Actually, thinking about it, the European stereotype is the perimeter playing minus the hard work. Also, tall.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:36 AM
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But how is this any different than what went on "before" Obama? Successful blacks were accused of acting white then too (the "oreo" insult).


Posted by: zunguzungu | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:38 AM
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Also, I'm just thinking of NBA or high level college basketball stereotypes. I've never paid any attention to basketball at other levels, except for watching a state championship high school game on tv once or twice.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:41 AM
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soft, perimeter players, three-point experts rather than guys who take it to the hoop.

FIBA rules:wide free thro lane, closer 3-pt arc, no "no-charge" semi-circle. Different zone-d rules?
= different style of play.

I also wonder if "taking it to the hoop", excluding the superstars, really statistically pays off that much better than the 15-ft jumpshot.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:48 AM
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a fruit basket! for 13


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:52 AM
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There's a couple different "white" stereotypes, or at least were last time (nearly a decade ago!) that I paid much attention: there's the soft perimeter three-point specialist (the brothers Paxson, Steve Kerr), then there's the hard-working but basically untalented backup center who gets in there, rebounds, plays some enthusiastic but not very athletic defense, and is completely useless on offense - Scot Pollard or Kurt Rambis.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:55 AM
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7: The foreign influence has changed the white/black dynamic somewhat. But there certainly has been a strong theme of the scrappy white player through the history of basketball. There is also the "soft" long range shooter, first (and briefly) as the 2-handed set shot throwback holding out against the jumping Negroes of the '50s and early '60s, and revived when the advent of the 3-point shot increased the value of long range gunning). I would refer the interested to both Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story by David Wolf and Bill Russell's* autobiography (both great reads). Another white player stereotype is the "white big man who takes the charge and falls down a lot" (really evident in late '70s through the '80s NCAA play as they tried to shut down everything Phi Slamma Jamma seemed to represent**) and which on preview is related to Tom's hard-working big guy in 17, sometimes enhanced by thuggery a la Kevin McHale.

*And Russell played "Battier with rebound stats" in contrast to Wilt Chamberlain. In particular, he and KC Jones were early innovators of a lot of under-appreciated defensive basketball.

**Valvano's little victory was the worst moment in the history of NCAA basketball.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:58 AM
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Pistol Pete.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 12:45 PM
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The primary thrust of the Battier article seemed to be "Moneyball comes to basketball," with a side helping of "the Barack Obama of basketball." (Obama is of course explicitly mentioned in the article.) I didn't see the article as trying to define him as white: it has the basic "bi-racial kid doesn't really fit in" storyline, and the only place where he is identified as being more of one race than the other is when someone says he thought he'd be the first black President.

The article mentions (but does not really emphasize) that Battier was nationally recognized as a talent when he was 12 years old, and that he won awards for being the best player in the country in both high school and college. He was the sixth pick in the draft when he came to the NBA. He does only score 10 points per game, but he must be pretty "talented."


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 12:45 PM
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Dude, there are already tons of racism-salvaging comments out there about Obama himself, along precisely the lines you remark. He's not black! He's biracial! He's as much white as he is black! What's really racist is all this talk about what his presidency means for African Americans! Etc.


Posted by: Bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 12:53 PM
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Ma href="http://www.bingformayor.com/">Dave Bing for mayor!

I'm not sure why I remember Bing so well from my early years of watching basketball, but I do.

I don't enjoy basketball anymore.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 1:17 PM
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It's odd to see this because Battier has been one of the poster children for the APBRMetrics community for a while. See, for example this from 2006, and this from 2007.

I don't have any insight into the racial dynamics, Lewis isn't going out on much a limb by hyping Battier.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 1:59 PM
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What's really racist is discussing the Sunday New York Times on Saturday.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 2:43 PM
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...he and KC Jones were early innovators of a lot of under-appreciated defensive basketball.

It's true. Bill Russell for forty fifty years has not gotten any real recognition. Barely anyone knows his name. The prevailing meme at the time was that Bill Russell might not score as many points as Chamberlain, and he also couldn't play defense. The press gave the all the credit for the championships to Cousy, then to Havlicek & Heinsohn. It's twew, look it up.

Same thing with Oscar Roberton & Willis Reed. Such an injustice. Only now, in the enlightened age of the millenials, are the black basketball players of the 60s getting the attention denied them in their playing years.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 5:01 PM
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One of my close co-workers went to Duke when Battier was the star there. He was wildly popular and not thought of as anything other than a great player in college, I think. Those who know more about the college game than I might say more, but I think his current style is something that he's adopted in the NBA and wasn't so much his game in college. As for his appearance, if you look at his ESPN page picture
http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?playerId=0976
You'd not guess he's mixed race, I think, or at least not be sure. He's not a clear case. To my mind he falls in the same range as Derek Jeter and maybe Jason kidd in that both are mixed raced to some degree or other but you'd certainly not think that they look "typically" black. (I think Kidd even looks more mixed race to me though he's lighter than either. If I recall correctly (I might be misremembering here) he's "1/4" black, whatever that means.) Also, among people who know much about basketball, Battier is very well respected for his defense. You can't afford to have more than 1 person like him playing full time, though, I think.


Posted by: Matt (not the famous one) | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 5:04 PM
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Tangential re race and basketball:

http://whitebasketball.blogspot.com/
It's a simple fact: White basketball players are better team players, and make those around them better. Chalk it up to better passing, more court awareness, less selfishness, better basketball IQ, and probably other reasons.

I came across that when researching a comment about Brook Lopez as a white basketball player (I don't know how he identifies, and he seems to be widely accepted as white, but pix of twin brother Robin suggest the estranged Cuban father passed along some black genes).


Posted by: dance | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 5:32 PM
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The national play-by-play on those Celtics teams was an outrage:

"Pass by somebody, HAVLICEKSHOOTS!, misses, offensive rebound by some guy, easy layup through three defenders. Ball brought upcourt, st...turnover! Pass to Havlicek, HAVLICEK SCORES!
Ball brought up, pass, BLO...easy 2-footer missed."

The television technology was primitive, so most of the games had the camera operators blocking certain select portions of the screen with their index fingers.

Only after Bill Russell was able to overcome his modesty and self-effacing nature did we learn the truth about the 60s NBA.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 5:37 PM
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In short, it is now obvious to all and proven on the court that white basketball is as dominant as ever, WHEN GIVEN THE CHANCE. The ethnic cleansing of whites from the NBA is not based on lack of basketball skill, but on other factors.

There is no doubt that blacks can be great basketball players too, but the systematic exclusion and minimization of whites can no longer be justified, and WE AS FANS WILL NO LONGER TOLERATE IT.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 5:58 PM
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At the time, Russell had a lot of advocates. His teams would win. Part of it was that Chamberlain was regarded as more stereotypically black, what with the 20,000 girlfriends.

In hockey Europeans are stereotyped as soft, and one Finn played junior hockey in western Canada to toughen up.

Finns are the most promising western Europeans for that kind of thing.



Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 6:01 PM
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One of my close co-workers went to Duke when Battier was the star there. He was wildly popular and not thought of as anything other than a great player in college, I think. Those who know more about the college game than I might say more, but I think his current style is something that he's adopted in the NBA and wasn't so much his game in college.

I don't think that's quite true. I don't watch a lot of Rockets games, but Battier's NBA game sounds a lot like his role from his first couple of years in college when he was surrounded by significantly more potent scorers.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 6:04 PM
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The thing about sport is that it is the only place left in the media that you can really get away with straight up group stereotypes -- efficent germans, boring Italians, sexy Brazilians, agricultural route one english*, etc., and not expect to be challenged.

It's like art history sixty years ago, full of national characteristics and such.

* Argentinians -- sexy South Americans, or animals?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 6:06 PM
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27: Not tangential at all. Latest post starts: Beautiful night in Indiana, as the Pacers start three American Whites. Sounds like a breed of chicken. "Our nuggets are made from 100% pure American White white meat for American whites."

28: I do not recall it as quite that bad, although Havlicek was the prototypical scrappy white player.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 6:10 PM
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31: From the perspective of what I heard on tv - Battier played during the years I watched tons of college basketball - Battier at Duke was always known as great, underappreciated because he was best at defense, and overshadowed by teammates with better offense. At the same time, I suspect you're right that his role is quite similar to what it was in college - it's just that in college it didn't keep him from being considered great.*

*I suspect there was also an ESPN effect at work. Or maybe just a Dick Vitale effect, since once he gets started on how great someone is, there's no stopping him.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 6:28 PM
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11: Could be, and probably they'd expect most people paying attention to a story about this guy to know who he was. Still, the cover image had me doing a doubletake halfway through the story when they started talking about race.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 7:10 PM
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In hockey Europeans are stereotyped as soft, and one Finn played junior hockey in western Canada to toughen up.

"Soft" is definitely part of the Canadian stereotype of European players. And there's a sort of formulaic backhanded compliment about how the Europeans play a "cleaner" game. But sometimes that formulaic compliment is not meant to be backhanded: especially at the junior level, there's a real concern that Canadian hockey has become too stupidly violent at the expense of superior skating and puck-handling skills.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 7:42 PM
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Canadians have to use whatever talents they have.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 7:44 PM
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Canadians have to use whatever talents they have.

Apparently, the Canadian talent for being boringly risk-averse can sometimes (during a financial meltdown, say) come in handy.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:13 PM
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35: having read the story now, I don't get the sense that Michael Lewis particularly gave a shit about the racial angle of it; he clearly was more interested in the statistical angle, but there was Battier, feeding him stories of growing up biracial.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:38 PM
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Bill Russell for forty fifty years has not gotten any real recognition. Barely anyone knows his name.

It's possible this is true outside of Boston, but in Boston this is absolutely not the case.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:41 PM
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39: Oh, come on. The picture could have been a fluke that I overinterpreted, but Lewis wrote the article -- whatever Battier was telling him, that much of the article wouldn't have been about race if Lewis hadn't written it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:44 PM
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s/b "hadn't written it that way."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:45 PM
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Y'all are talking about racial stereotypes in basketball and no one's mentioned "White Men Can't Jump"? That's the first one that comes to mind for me...


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:46 PM
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41: well, sure. But he certainly wrote in such a way as to convey the impression that he was more interested in the statistical nerdery than any black basketball vs. white basketball backstory. That could be disingenuous of him, but given his other sports (and finance) books I'm inclined to believe that he's a lot more interested in the outcome of statistical analysis on the management of sports teams than he is on divining the true, racialized nature of basketball.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:50 PM
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You could read Moneyball for instance, or The Blind Side -- a book which explicitly has a lot more to do with race, and the role of race in professional athletics -- and you wouldn't read one word about (say) white football vs. black football. I tend to think that shit is just a shorthand in the basketball world, and Battier uses it as a way to talk about himself and his approach to the game, a shorthand which Lewis obligingly transcribed.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:53 PM
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Doesn't have to be disingenuous on purpose for Lewis (and whoever did the cover) to look at an academically gifted, cerebral, unathletic ballplayer and feel that it's weird for him to be black, leading to coming down hard on the 'not really black' angle that his biography offers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:54 PM
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But I don't get any sense -- besides your claim that the printed version of the cover was somehow different than the web version (which would be weird in the first place -- they made two versions?) -- that anybody did think it was weird. The reason they came down on the "not really black" angle is that (a) the style of play in those two leagues really is different and (b) Battier brought it up.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 8:58 PM
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No, it's the same shot as the cover, it's just darker on my screen than it was on the print edition.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 9:02 PM
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100% pure American White

I had an extremely weird conversation recently with someone who was bound and determined to find live examples of "pure" Vietnamese people. I came away with a new appreciation of the level of focus on appearance in Hollywood. That is one strange industry.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 9:30 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 9:50 PM
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100% pure American White

This rating is only official if it carries the sticker of approval from the Civil Rights Commission.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 10:27 PM
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I don't know the world of Bob McManus, but when I was growing up in the 1950s in California, I knew - like every other serious basketball fan - that Bill Russell was the heart and soul of the Celtics, just as he had been with the NCAA champion USFrancisco Dons. And that he was the best defensive player in the game, although not a touch on Wilt Chamberlain offensively. (FWIW, Wilt never fouled out of an NBA game. Didn't guard all that aggressively, IMHO.)

So the endless debate was between those who felt Wilt's greater physical talents (and size - he was as much as six inches taller) and scoring ability made him "the best player in the world" and those who believed that Bill's defense - and the fact that the Celtics kept beating Wilt's teams - made him actually more valuable.

But no one I knew thought the white players on the Celtics (or anywhere else) were better than these two. The only other candidate for "the best player in the world" would have been Oscar Robertson.


Posted by: dr ngo | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 10:48 PM
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52:I don't know the world of Bob McManus

Yes, I am wondering if some what he reports was true but regional. I was shocked a number of years back by the sincere impression a colleague who grew up in the South had of the Texas Western (now UTEP) victory over Kentucky in the NCAA basketball final in 1966 (since dramatized in the film Glory Road). He was convinced it was basically a bunch of blacks who went on to become criminals beating the "students" from Kentucky.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:05 PM
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I assumed Bob McManus in 25 was being highly sarcastic? Although I didn't quite see the point of it.


Posted by: dance | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:10 PM
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54: Ah, upon re-reading I think that you are right. Multiply trolled by the bobster while I wasn't watching.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-09 11:21 PM
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we're going to be faced with an effort to save the racist image of blacks as inherently pathological

St/eve Sail/er's latest:

"I've been pointing out that because African-American culture has become so narrow and inward-looking, it's now having a harder time producing high achievers"


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 1:10 AM
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I (fondly) remember how Dreams from My Father drove Sai/ler absolutely nuts during the campaign. Well played, Obama. Well played.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 11:00 AM
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Recently, a lot of sportswriters have been using vaguely statistical terminology to make the same content sound more boring and less readable, in an effort to...sound more objective, I guess.

Perfect example:

9. Cullen Harper, Clemson: Once regarded as a highly touted prospect, Harper struggled through an up-and-down senior season. Though he finished as the ACC's leading passer, he finished with a negative touchdown-to-interception differential (13 touchdowns, 14 interceptions).

You could say "He finished with a negative touchdown-to-interception differential". Or, you could say "he finished with more interceptions than touchdowns". I can't see anyone writing the former a decade ago.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 5:35 PM
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Yeah, that's pretty stupid. Writing about actual statistics, on the other hand, can be pretty interesting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 5:37 PM
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You could say "He finished with a negative touchdown-to-interception differential". Or, you could say "he finished with more interceptions than touchdowns".

'He threw a shitload of picks.'

max
['In the spirit, since I see it is titty season again at SI.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 5:47 PM
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Yes, "he threw more interceptions than touchdowns" would be even better.

These giant sports websites are collapsing under their own weight. There's no editing for form, and there's all kinds of writers who have their photos next to the stories but have no voice of their own that's separate from every other cliched writer on the site.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 5:53 PM
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This is a great article that has nothing to do with race. But you can't tell why that's so unless you've been following the stathead debate about sports in general, and also know basketball in particular. Anyway, basketball is the most complex major American sport to understand statistically, and this article tries to use Battier as a narrative prop to explain that complexity.

As for race, the "hard-working but unathletic white guy" stereotype is really dead among serious basketball observers, because the game has been so dominated by African-Americans that every possible stereotype has clearly been instantiated in numerous black people by now, certainly including the shrewd, hard-working, blue-collar defensive specialist.

The really fascinating racial story in basketball is the glaring contrast between the success of foreign whites and Asians and the almost total disappearance of American-born non-blacks from the game. There's some deep stuff going on there about the interaction between genetics and culture, how there are only limited niches in a society for particular sorts of success and they tend to get dominated by people from a particular subculture.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 6:43 PM
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Lithuanians and Serbs are genetically superior for basketball, PGD. The answer is as simple as that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 7:23 PM
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I finished the article thinking there could have been a really interesting article about Battier and race, but this article was not trying to be an article on race.

I also came away from the article thinking Lewis really worked hard to downplay how highly regarded Battier has always been. I think he wanted a truly anonymous-ish, but successful player - maybe someone who wasn't considered that great in high school/college, wasn't drafted that highly, but has still managed to hang on for a multi-year career in the NBA - but either couldn't find one, or couldn't find one who doesn't have decent offensive stats, or couldn't find one people would be interested in reading about. So we get someone who was successful at all levels before being caught up in the statistical movement as an illustration of the statistical movement. Maybe the really counterintuitive cases haven't come up yet.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 7:32 PM
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I think he wanted a truly anonymous-ish, but successful player - maybe someone who wasn't considered that great in high school/college, wasn't drafted that highly, but has still managed to hang on for a multi-year career in the NBA

There are lots of NBA players who fit that description -- most notably Ben Wallace, awful on offense, totally untouted (went to a community college), but became a star by being a defensive specialist. Bruce Bowen, the list goes on. The thing with those guys is that they were well-known by reputation and respected by traditional scouts. Lewis wanted somebody where he could claim their skills were totally invisible to anyone but stat-heads. The stat-head beef has always been with the old grizzled scouts who claimed that their *intuition* and *observation* were superior to the sacred number-crunching.

Lithuanians and Serbs are genetically superior for basketball, PGD. The answer is as simple as that.

right, I don't know why I was looking beyond the obvious explanation. Argentina and Spain are genetically superior as well.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 7:57 PM
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Bowen is someone I was thinking of as a possible example whose profile might not interest many people. I didn't know about Wallace's background - no wonder I don't remember seeing his college games - but you're right that he's too much of a star to work either.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:01 PM
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Maybe the really counterintuitive cases haven't come up yet.

Because there aren't any would seem the logical conclusion.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:07 PM
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Or because the stats aren't particularly advanced yet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:10 PM
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64: I came away from it feeling like he wanted to have a story about this new statistical analysis technique, and how it highlights less well-known players, and ended up with a story where Battier sorta successfully defended Bryant.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:14 PM
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The quote in 56 may be the least offensive thing St/eve Sail/er has ever said on the subject of race.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:15 PM
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I just read Lewis' article, and now I'm pretty sure this post was intended as satire, on the "white liberal who sees racial injustice everywhere" model. Because otherwise it doesn't make a damn bit of sense.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:17 PM
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But how much can you get out of stats that you can't get out of just watching the sport?

In baseball & cricket, clearly quite a lot (partially because those games are stats; a cricket score card is the game in a way that an association football score isn't) but I suspect basketball is the wrong side of the line for statistics to be counter-intuitive except in a very few pathological cases.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:17 PM
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it's just darker on my screen than it was on the print edition

As a rule, pictures always look darker on a Windows-based machine than on a Mac. Almost every print shop in America is run off of Macintoshes due to better color-matching.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:19 PM
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It might also be harder to be very anonymous in the NBA and still get significant minutes. It's fine if the stats are confirming what people already know; as Sifu says, it's early, and they could reveal more as they get more advanced. But "look at how these new techniques accord with what people already think" doesn't make a great hook for a story.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:19 PM
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71:Nah, it's for real.

see 33b, 40, & 52 as reactions to 25 & 28

I thought the bit about the fingers in front of the tv camera would alert people to the put-ons, and people would get mad about the caustic sarcasm. But, no, it was taken seriously.

After all, Stormcrow himself (18) said that Bill Russell was an underrated defensive player, apparently because of racism. I suppose because Russell might have said it himself in an autobiography. I can accept that Russell encountered racism in housing etc for instance in the 60s, but the dude was worshipped as a god for what he did on the court. At. The. Time.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:34 PM
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Almost every print shop in America

Er, this was true when I worked in the printing industry a decade ago. I actually have no idea whether it remains the case.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:39 PM
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As far as why white liberals are so dedicated to searching and destroying every last speck of residual possible personal racism after most institutional racism has been largely dismantled...well, hell I am so bored and tired after a year of this, with at least another 8 to go.

"But, the black President, he shows nothing, no progress, except among our tiny enlightened minority. The racism, the RASCISM BURNS EVERYWHERE. And you are a racist to deny it."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:40 PM
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70: Sadly, no -- the fucker's said much worse.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:48 PM
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It's not opposite day, Klug.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:50 PM
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It's not opposite day

That's exactly what you'd say if it was opposite day, though.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:57 PM
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Yes it isn't.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:58 PM
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Ah, shit. I am an idiot.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 8:59 PM
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82 isn't a very clever use of opposite day.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 9:10 PM
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28 is.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 9:12 PM
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Oddly, my name was left off of 84. But the remember info is working; I haven't typed my name in for this comment.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 9:17 PM
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75: After all, Stormcrow himself (18) said that Bill Russell was an underrated defensive player, apparently because of racism. I suppose because Russell might have said it himself in an autobiography.

I should not chime in again after having been trolled so successfully (I tip my hat), but I will say two things:

1) What I believe was somewhat under appreciated was that Jones and Russell had worked out a lot of the defensive system stuff they did analytically; they were true predecessors to the kind of thing described in the article. I did not mean to imply that Russell's defensive play was not recognized (and I did not word that very well in 18) as I implied when I said Russell was "Battier with rebounds" in contrast to Chamberlain. And yes, Russell himself is at best a rather nuanced example of the effects of racism *on* the basketball court, a fact which he recognizes, as he talks more about it with regard to overall institutional biases and other players than himself.

2) But if you want to use "Bill Russell was a Basketball God" to refute all claims that racism had a major influence on basketball during that time period, kindly blow it out your cranky boomer ass. And.That. From.Someone.Who.Was.Also.There.At.The.Time.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 9:42 PM
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I am not arguing.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 9:43 PM
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Dennis Rodman, on the other hand, was battier with rebounds. And tattoos.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 9:49 PM
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I actually have no idea what the reaction to Bill Russell was at the time, not having been alive. However, it was certainly the case that Boston at the time (up until like two years ago or whatever, and even to some degree now) didn't do a very race-blind job of evaluating who was really contributing to the team. Am I now given to understand that bob believes this wasn't the case? Speaking as a Bostonian, I appreciate the credit, but doubt your history.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 9:53 PM
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white players are hardworking, smart, team players who are underrated because they're not showboating.

in the early days of basketball, before the sport was taken up so heavily by African-Americans, and during a period when City College of New York fielded a side that did very well in the NCAA championships, it was felt that basketball was naturally a Jewish game, because it was ideally suited to their craftiness and sneakiness. I seem to remember that there were newspaper columnists of the 1920s who would state this as uncontroversial fact.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 11:51 PM
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90: for example.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 11:56 PM
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The Jews would still dominate, if CCNY's sneakiness had stayed on the court and not extended into profiting monetarily by throwing games.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-15-09 11:58 PM
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Just to get a sampling of mainstream reception of Bill Russell, I sampled some articles from Time. He is of course universally praised for his defense, but as to the larger point, I cannot stop my self from taking this cheap shot: But the man who turned the Celtics into champions is the lean, agile Negro at center: Bill Russell (6 ft. 10 in., 220 lbs.), the league's finest defensive player. Later in the article we learn that the Celtics bench is strong, Negro Guards K. C. Jones (6 ft. 1 in., 202 lbs.) and Sam Jones (6 ft. 4 in., 198 lbs.) can move the ball nearly as well as Cousy and Sharman.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 12:17 AM
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re: 73

Images don't always look darker on Windows machines as a lot of Windows users have their monitor brightness cranked to the max [although you are right, they often are darker]. Windows monitors are also usually set with the white point at 9000K rather than 6500K [as would be more typical on a Mac], which often leaves images looking unnaturally blue or dull/weird in certain frequencies.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 12:21 AM
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92: It was his "implication" in a point-shaving scandal while a freshman at Iowa (he was expelled even though as freshman he was ineligible to play) that derailed Connie Hawkins' career. Iowans' white guilt about the incident spurred them to give Obama the Democratic caucus victory half a century later.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 12:26 AM
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This basketball history is all wrong. Everyone knows that the sport has only recently been corrupted by money and that in the old days everyone passed the ball twice before shooting, if they ever shot, and played for sheer joy. Adolph Rupp's teams were famous for this.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 12:30 AM
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Adolph Rupp - truly the greatest Adolph of the 1940s


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 12:43 AM
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87:No, Indeed you are not arguing. I certainly would have a very hard time refuting some cited anecdote from, by the mentions of Cousy and Sharman, almost fifty years ago.

There will come a time, perhaps when we have a black President, that the best response to "Some guy at Bob Jones U said..." is...

"And your point?"


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 4:08 AM
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Jews were also big in boxing and organized crime before WWII. For whatever reason, the next generation sollectively decided to be doctors and lawyers and PhDs and comedians instead. B-o-o-o-o-o-r-i-n-g.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 5:03 AM
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"And your point"

I've tried, at various levels of subtlety, to encourage people to stop reading NRO, Reynolds, and other rw sites. The trade off between 'knowing what the other side is thinking' and 'adding legitimacy by clicking (much less linking)' is a completely losing proposition.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 5:54 AM
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I have to admit that, after reading this post and then reading the linked article, my thoughts were in the vein of Brock at 71. But then I see LB above defending her take on the article, and I see that I am wrong. More's the pity.

For a somewhat more reasonable take (IMHO, of course), see Jason Kottke here:

http://www.kottke.org/09/02/basketball-moneyball


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 7:49 AM
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Mmm. This post would have worked better if anyone else had seen the print cover image and had the same reaction to it I did.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 8:06 AM
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102: One of the dangers of being analog in a digital age -- who gets the print edition anymore except New Yorkers? :)


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 8:55 AM
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LB, if it helps, I've heard of Shane Battier for years and never been clear on his race (which does suggest something is a bit weird--Duke has a rep for producing white bb players who don't succeed and Battier often gets referenced as a Duke product, but without the white bit, a little bit with the "hasn't lived up to the hype" bit).

However, I think pretty much all half-black athletes get written about the same way (various degrees of tragic mulatto)---I've read a lot of sports writing and haven't picked up on anything like you are suggesting, though I will start looking for it now. (Considering how people cover Obama, if sportswriters *don't* emphasize the white half for people who are "playing white", it would be quite interesting).

Small counterpoint, really just included because I think it's one of the more interesting biracial athlete pieces I've seen, not especially in a good way (it's *very* tragic mulatto)--This story about Hines Ward, published after he won Super Bowl MVP, is all about him being half-Korean, but he plays a conventionally black offensive position (wide receiver---the theme "the only white wide receiver" has driven a number of stories).


Posted by: dance | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 2:03 PM
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The trade off between 'knowing what the other side is thinking' and 'adding legitimacy by clicking (much less linking)' is a completely losing proposition.

Heh. Indeed.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 7:28 PM
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Mmm. This post would have worked better if anyone else had seen the print cover image and had the same reaction to it I did.

Weeeell, he looks pretty pale on my Mac.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 7:32 PM
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it was felt that basketball was naturally a Jewish game, because it was ideally suited to their craftiness and sneakiness.

I for one have the mind of a crafty point guard in the body of a general manager.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 02-16-09 10:09 PM
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