Thursday, June 11, 2009

Steve Nash could rule the world, and he's damned funny

There is another viral video of Canada's greatest Steve Nash in addition to the one of him on Letterman last night.

The one for his new not-for-profit social business, Football For Good, seems just as worthy of attention, as is the fact he will be involved in an ESPN documentary about the life of the late, great Terry Fox.

Steve Nash - 'The Player' from meathawk on Vimeo.

Football For Good speaks the whole notion of how the two-time NBA MVP from Victoria, B.C., is a sports hero for Generation X. From afar, he comes across like a guy who would be the last one to describe himself as the leader of a social movement. Like he told Chuck Klosterman for that Esquire piece in 2005, "I don't even like to use the word philosophy when describing what I do for a living; I don't want to glorify the idea of playing basketball. But if you give of yourself, you do get things back." Taking a simple step like soliciting $5 donations to build a football academy in a war-ravaged region of Africa fits right in with the notion of a "hundred million solutions." It's one of just many small ideas that can take what works in our culture and improve what doesn't.

Improving the world isn't going to come from the top down or big, sweeping ideas, policy changes or mission statements the highers-up at your work like to issue periodically (and please, forgiveness if this sounds way too sincere). As Gordinier said in X Saves the World, change comes in stealth. Steve Nash kind of embodies that, or at least does for these purposes. He can do the spotlight stuff, sit in the chair and joke with Dave, ask's Jeff Van Gundy if his brother Stan, the Orlando Magic coach, "got laid in high school," but all of that would be mental dross if it wasn't backed by the change in thinking he represents.

He stepped up to sponsor youth basketball leagues when NBA rules kept the Raptors from doing so outside of a certain geographical radius. That's important, since with divorced-from-sanity cost of hockey, it's important to introduce girls and boys to an affordable athletic option which cuts across cultural lines. He's invested in Women's Professional Soccer, which seems to be gaining some traction in the face of tough economic times. Others can speak better to this, but it's a fair bet that when — not if — WPS expands into Canada, Nash could end up having something to do with a Vancouver team which will (ahem) probably end up beating the pants off the Toronto team. Starting a football academy in Africa with $5 donations from well-off, middle-class North Americans, well, it's a simple idea: Build better stuff for people in need. And anyone who wants to help can. It's a very Generation X idea. Meantime, you respect who came before, as he's doing by, as Jonah Keri noted, "leading the effort on a documentary about Terry Fox."

Getting back to Nash ... The easy way out is to say, "Well, it's not hard to do all that when you're paid obscene amounts of money to play point guard." That might get the point upside-down and backwards. Nash needs that platform. He wouldn't be sitting next to Letterman, getting Dave to go heh-heh-heh, if he was a hockey player or was the central midfielder for the New York Red Bulls. It's as if, on a subconscious level, something told him that if he wanted to make a difference beyond playing a sport , he should play basketball. It's a relatively global game which also is popular in the United States.

A lot of what Nash does is purely for amusement, whether it's playing basketball or his Letterman appearance. The latter probably shows it's better to appear casual, since painfully earnest can backfire. Seeing what Steve Nash is up to raises hope any of us can have a small, goofy impact on our corner of the world. In this day and age, if you're going to have a hero, it better be a guy who can laugh at himself:

P.S. Incidentally, here's an update on the next Nash, Toronto point guard Junior Cadougan, who's going to Marquette:
"Cadougan's greatest strength, however, may be his high basketball IQ. Similar to Canada's most famous basketball product, two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, Cadougan exemplifies complete body control and court vision. Whether it be a crossover dribble, pull-up jumpshot or pick and roll, seldom will you see Cadougan rush into an offensive set or force a play that is not there."
(Nash clip via Ben Rycroft at It's Called Football. Ben talks the footy talk regularly with Duane Rollins on a podcast of the same name.

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