With the basketball world championships currently under way in China and Australia doing well, The Bug’s senior sports writer took in some local top-shelf games to see what all the fuss is about.
A certain rugby league writer for a top metropolitan newspaper – no, hold on, come to think about it, it might have been The Courier-Mail – had what he thought was the perfect putdown for basketball: “Why don’t they just give each team 100 points and play for five minutes.”
Such a simplistic, sarcastic view of what is actually a fast-moving, highly skilled sport is why I won’t mention the journo’s name here.
But clearly Barry Dick, as a rabid devotee of the sissiest of the three main pear-shaped ball codes played in Australia, knows very little of how the round-ball game of basketball is played.
Not every team’s turn at attack ends in a bucket, you Dick, as can be seen by the final score (right) in the game I took in last weekend when the Brisbane Capitals outscored the Gold Coast Rollers almost two to one to take out the Queensland Basketball League’s men’s title for 2019.
Now that’s not to say that I’m fully hooked on basketball either.
And some things that happened at Auchenflower Stadium in Brisbane had me wondering if it’s all just a little bit too Americanised for my liking.
Such as the jingoistic, patriotic practice of us all standing as they played the national anthem before tip-off. Not The Star-Spangled Banner unfortunately; it’s a much more rousing anthem. I’ve never been a fan of Advance Australia Fair being played any time, anywhere, being one of those old-fashionistas who think it should be reserved for international events.
Haven’t been to an NRL game for yonks: I must ask the Dickster if they play that at Lang Park before the Brisbane Drongos get flogged by the Manly girls.
But played Advance Australia Fair they did. Eventually. They started off with some other tune and quickly realised their error.
Fortunately, in more ways than one, it was a shortened version for I had made up my mind to shout out “except if you’re Sri Lankan” when it got to the bit about Oz having boundless plains to share for those who’ve come across the seas. I mutter it anyway as that girt by sea bit washed by and I think got away with it.
Caution was called for because while I’ve got some idea of the politics of basketball fans, it’s not set in stone. Rah-rahs are right-wing toffs, right? Ladies all dressed up to the nines, all jewelled up and shouting but never in a coarse or vulgar way “Played Tristian!” down at Crosby Park.
League was a breakaway code for poor people in north England and you only have to look at a closeup crowd shot at Lang Park to realise a lot of league fans wouldn’t have two dollars to rub together. Or probably brain cells for that matter.
You only need some flat ground, a ball and a hoop to play muck-about basketball. Or sneak into a school grounds. Cricket, swimming and tennis are for rich folk, tennis especially for rich white folk. Remember how big the news was when that tall black chap eventually won Wimbledon with some borrowed rackets?
No, at first glance your typical basketball crowd leans towards the battler look but that’s no sure guide to political leanings, is it? They might be this decade’s equivalent of Howard’s Tradies – most if not all of them Morrison’s Morons who clamped their utes during the last federal election.
But I digress. The Americanisation continues with the music played at various breaks as the game unfolds. The Beach Boys with a tune from Pet Sounds. The Village People with YMCA; Neil Diamond thumping out Sweet Caroline.
Bloody hell! Where’s something from ACDC or Jimmy Barnes? How about Johnny Farnham’s Sadie, the Cleaning Lady for when they’re mopping the sweat off the court, or when it’s becoming clear the Capitals are wiping that same floor with the poor old Rollers?
At least we didn’t have a tribute to our nation’s serving men and women at half-time. Would there have been a dry eye in the house if we had all stood there, hands on hearts, singing away to Redgum’s I was only 19?
Then there’s the game itself. I’m not saying the rules are as complicated as rugby union but it’s close.
Taking it in turns, each team has some 24 seconds to get the ball up the other end and score a bucket. They can dribble the ball but can’t travel with it.
Once at the other end, and a player goes for a basket, a foul is called if any one of the opposing five players are on court at the time.
And any player hoping to have an offensive foul blown against a marauding opponent has to take a dive that would make an Italian football player at a World Cup fixture blush.
Fouls build up steadily in each quarter and if a side has five team fouls with five minutes or more left to go, it’s time to ring the babysitter because a free-throwfest is about to unfold and you’re not going to be home before 2am.
Then if a player misses his first free-throw, his teammates have to step forward and give him a handslap by way of congratulations. Yes, I’ve got no idea either.
I can’t recall a time when a batsman has taken an embarrassing agricultural swipe, missed the ball by miles and ended up sprawled all over the turf only for their batting partner to feel obliged to run down the pitch for a “well done, chap” gloves punch.
At least I now know that basketball is simply not cricket.