Saturday, December 20, 2008

Takes one to know one: Two minutes for unoriginality!

Anyone who uses a word such as "breastophobic" shouldn't get the time of day.

One is loath to link to something which has been Deadspinned. Long story short, it's hard not to laugh like hell seeing the American reaction to some Vancouver columnist named Mark Hasiuk calling the NBA "ghetto garbage," especially after you read his eponymous website.

It all comes back to a basic principle of writing online, not to be a pedantic putz about the whole thing: Consider the source. Ten minutes of Googling reveals that Hasiuk, God love him, seems to be a big of fan of wingnut tropes. Siding with hatemongers on the principle of free speech? Check. Warning of Canada becoming a Third World country due to immigration and the erosion of a "Euro-centric" culture? Check. Invoking the slippery slope -- that's a classic -- whenever possible, such as in a column about a clothing store in Vancouver allowing customers to breastfeed on the premises:
"But what about H&M's duty to its other customers? The staunchly religious, whose particular sect forbids public nudity. The squeamish or breastophobic, who prefer a definitive line between off-the-rack retailer and nursery. What about their expectations of comfort?

"H&M also set a dangerous precedent and exposed itself to future aggrieved groups of all stripes and persuasions that may choose H&M outlets to practice their own brand of necessity. Imagine a group of Salafi Muslims kneeling before Allah in H&M's men's clothing section. Or a woebegone narcoleptic who seeks shelter at H&M for his afternoon nap."
He used the word breastophobic without even a hint of irony. Far be it to wonder why he would go from the phrase "dangerous precedent" to the image of Muslims kneeling for prayers. For Allah/Buddha/Christ's sake, even George W. Bush conceded that Islam is a religion of peace. Question: In exactly what scenario are a group of Muslims going to end up needing to pray "in a clothing store known for two-for-one T-shirts and Madonna-inspired design," in Haisuk's phrase?

Way to think it through, sir, while you were busy crawling up your own arse.

Believe it or not, this is written in sympathy. The writer in question seems to be a fairly young guy who hasn't learned two basic rules of opinion writing. One comes from Don Henley -- "the more I know, the less I understand." The other is from W.B. Yeats -- "the best lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity."

This is written with full awareness that it's hacky to fall back on someone else's pithy phrase to back up your own bias. Haisuk seems fond of it, and you have to communicate with people in language they understand.

It is amusing to see someone drag out the same tired stereotypes -- "NBA players wear saggy shorts, roll in posses and cuss on camera" -- and people become indignant. Consider the source. For pity's sake, the man called Allen Iverson the greatest basketball talent of his generation, which sort of overlooks Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Brandon Roy and Dirk Nowitzki, who obviously grew up in the ghetto in Germany.

It's understandable if people in Canada turn up their noses at the NBA. The season runs concurrently with the NHL, where half the players and 20% of the teams are Canadian, as opposed to a handful of players and one team in Canada witht the NBA. That is plenty good reason to make a decision and say, hey, time is valuable, there's only enough of it to follow one league. That's acceptable, although could people please stop saying they "only like college basketball," it's annoying.

At the same time, don't hate on it and call it the "worst of America." Look at the NFL. It doesn't offer guaranteed contracts or look after players who leave the game with a permanent disability -- ask Brian DeMarco.

Boxers have nothing to fall back on once they're past their best-before dates -- no pension plan, nothing. Evander Holyfield is still fighting, that's obscene. Basketball players, starting from about age 12 or younger, get shuffled through high schools and colleges. They might end up with their degree in communications, but are on their own when it comes to how to learn (aren't we al). Michael Lewis' The Blind Side laid out the student-athlete hoax in big-time college football.

None of that is any reason to become NBA fan. The point is, get some perspective. As an entertaiment venture, the NBA is doing pretty well. It's hilarious someone would rather focus on the "thug culture" than on what Van City might have had if the Grizzlies had not left in 2001. They would have got to see Steve Nash play meaningful games in his home province. Chinese-Canadians would have had two visits a year from Yao Ming.

It's just too bad all those African-American players had to wear those saggy shorts, eh Mark?

NBA: a ghetto gutter run by money grubbers (Mark Hasiuk, Vancouver Courier)

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