Briefly, On Watching Basketball and Advertising


Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I generally tend to think of it in terms of live music experiences:

    Football is a Sousa marching band. Relatively simple, heavily orchestrated, and the discipline to never waver from the precision your coaches taught you is paramount.

    Baseball is like going to see Lilith Fair. It’s something you mostly want to do on a sunny day, and often you find your mind wandering at times during the middle. But every now and then, there are moments that make you want to stand up and cheer, and by the end you realize you’ve had a kick ass day.

    Basketball is jazz. So much of it is improvisation that those who are very casual watchers often don’t understand that the improvisation takes place within a well orchestrated structure, and that a team that has a player that lacks the ability to play within that structure turns it into a unlistenable noise.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Well, that’s a very interesting analogy, one that dovetails with my ambivalence towards both jazz and basketball: the structures of which you speak write are perhaps too subtle for me as an untrained observer to discern, so it often does seem like nothing but improvisation.

      It’s easier for me to see structure in basketball than jazz, though. Passing lanes, setting up an offensive line right around the perimeter of the three-point line, probing and feinting — I can readily see these tactics when I watch basketball. I’m less able to understand why there are things like key changes and tempo shifts in jazz. Plus the chords and harmonies often sound weird and dissonant and therefore unappealing.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        It’s probably best to approach jazz, even though this isn’t always the formal structure of the pieces themselves, from the perspective of the theme-and-variation structure. Usually the players present a theme at the outset in a typical lead-rhythm-bass arrangement, then take turns doing improvisational takes on the theme (variations in classical parlance), and then restate the theme together at the end. Obviously all manner of wrinkle to that exists, but that’s the classic jazz structure. In terms of the whys of chord changes, as a jazz fan and one-time-apiring (not jazz) musician, I genuinely think you don’t need to worry about that in order to enjoy and appreciate the music – it’s rewarding if you want to get into it, but it’s not at al necessary to enjoy jazz.

        Here’s a link on the form I describe (I didn’t know the terminology):

        As for the more modern forms that depart fully from that structure (and are usually the most dissonant and atonal), I won’t try to relate those to you. You need to be won over by more classic jazz for those to have a chance to speak to you (except of course when that happens not to be the case in any given instance, which is not this instance).Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I enjoy baseball but every time the Jonah Keri podcast pops up on my play list, I groan a little bit. And don’t get me wrong, I think Keri is one of the better guys in the business today and I’ve read one of his books. But somebody talking baseball for 55 minutes? No thanks. And yet I get excited when an NBA After Dark podcast comes on… even though it’s just a bunch of quasi-comedians discussing NBA players’ Instagrams and dating lives. I don’t know if it is because the NBA skews younger than the other major sports or draws from a more urban population (and I mean that in the true sense of the word… not as code word for black folks) or whatever. But I think if you are watching basketball today, you are probably more politically liberal than the fan bases of other sports.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Got a chance to watch the video this morning and read your post.

    First, the commercial: wow. I have long been an admirer of well-done commercials as a sort of art form. To be able to tell a story and evoke strong emotions in a short timeframe is a powerful thing that I think too many people take for granted because of its corporate associations. Additionally, I sometimes worry that my support for gay marriage and equality is something I only feel because of societal pressure and it’s not real. The fact that I choked up at the end of this commerical makes me brlieve that my feelings are true and I am thankful for that.

    Second, the association with the NBA. While I’m not a watcher of pro basketball, I do think you are on to something here, and that is a positive that shocks me just a little. I assumed that conservatism towards gays in the black community would drive the NBA’s willingness to associate. Clearly I was wrong. Does this mean that blacks are softening their stance or something else? Curious to explore this idea a bit more.Report