The NBA Playoffs

Imagining Life as a Spanish Basketball Star
The stadium scene.
May 18 2007 3:26 PM

The NBA Playoffs

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Paul,

I graduated from college in 1992. Lord Jesus, I'm old. Since then, I've lived in four neighborhoods in four different cities. One of those neighborhoods was predominantly black, one was predominantly white, one was predominantly Mexican, and the other one housed immigrants from about 60 different countries. Admittedly, each spot had its own special annoying qualities, but all of them were dirty, noisy, and dangerous. The family of man in all iterations behaves wretchedly when the median neighborhood income is low. Then again, I grew up among rich people, and they sucked, too.

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Yes, one of the reasons I watch television is to root for the success of people who look like me. That's why I enjoy sitcoms featuring Jewish characters. I wish there were more of those. But despite my decades of real-life exposure to the worst of what humanity has to offer, I still like to see people from other walks of life succeed. I recognize that there are superficial, even profound, differences among human cultures. But I can't help it; I was educated during the golden age of "cultural diversity," and my rooting interests are spread across all lines. When I watch basketball, I root for Nash and Amare because they're on my team. When I watch baseball, I root for Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin because they're on my team. When I watch football, I root for whoever's on my fantasy team.

I guess you could use, as comparison, how Jews felt about Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax in their primes. But you could also argue that when Greenberg and Koufax played baseball, especially Greenberg, Jews weren't considered mainstream "white." Feeling pride for their accomplishments was akin to feeling boricua pride, or Dominican pride. By the time Shawn Green was playing for the Dodgers, you made a few jokes around the high holidays, admired the fact that a Jew could hit home runs, and left it at that, particularly when his skills began to decline. Also, he shared the outfield with Gary Sheffield, one of the sourest people in all of sports. Who would you root for?

As for your ideas to fix the NBA, they sound good, but about as likely as the president being elected by direct popular vote or a movie that features Superman fighting the Incredible Hulk. Boy, would I root for the Hulk in that one. I must say, though, that I'm somewhat jealous of your life. If I were under 30, single, and living in Spain, I'd probably get drunk a lot, have a few incredibly dysfunctional romances, and seriously contemplate attempting suicide a couple of times. That's how I spent my 20s, anyway, except it was in Chicago and I was bad at basketball.

It's been a lot of fun getting to know you via e-mail. If you feel somewhat soiled by our exchange, well, you can trust me when I say that there are many more humiliating ways to promote your book than by outwitting me in an online magazine. Wait until a bookstore puts you in a dunk tank in an empty parking lot or you're forced to read without a microphone in a dark corner of a condemned Pittsburgh parking garage. Those are the times that try author's souls, or at least they were ones that tried mine.

I wish you all the luck in the world with this book. It's really funny. And if we ever do meet in person, of course it will be awkward. Every conversation I have with everyone I ever meet is awkward. But at least we'll always have this groundbreaking mind-meld. For that, I thank you.

Go Suns!

Neal

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