Cultures of Basketball
Cultures of Basketball
(Residential College Humanities 334; Winter 2015 Version)
Hundreds of UM students wanted to be in this room.
They are not. You are.
What will you do with the opportunity?
Will you treat it as your blow-off for this semester? When things get hectic in your biology/business/engineering/economics classes? When you have practice/work/a concert/a game or meet? When it feels like something has got to give, will it be this class? Will you be that student who thinks, “After all, it’s only hoops and Yago seems cool – How serious can it be?” Is this what you’ll do?
Or will you treat this opportunity as a sacred blessing from the gods that normally require us to separate what we love to do from what we ought to do: working from playing, thinking from enjoying? Will you accept their holy challenge and opportunity to blur these boundaries? Enjoy thinking deeply about something you love, so that you know it and love it even more? Will you make work play and play work?
This could be the most unforgettable academic experience of your college career, but only if you do all of what follows and outspokenly contribute your own ideas about how to shape the course as we go along. So, now you can choose:
Blow it off and set yourself up to feel a nagging sense of guilt that you will bury down deep inside until it bursts to the surface somewhere down the line like a popped zit exploding all over your complacent middle-aged, middle-class existence.
Treat it like a heart attack. Treat it like a religious service. Treat it like game day. Treat it like your grandmother. Treat it like your job interview. Treat it like a party. Treat it like anything that you throw all of yourself into – all your smarts, all your wisdom, all your experience, all your effort, all your energy, all your doubt, all your uncertainty, all your fear, all your courage, all your desire – and make it count.
The syllabus below is in two parts: “I. Class Schedule” and “II. Course Requirements.”
I Class Schedule
Note on Reading and Viewing Assignments in the Class Schedule:
- Textbook You Must Buy:
- FreeDarko Presents the Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History
- Videos you must gain access to (buy, rent, YouTube):
- “There’s No Place Like Home” (ESPN 30 for 30, Vol. 2, Ep. 2)
- “When the Garden Was Eden” (ESPN 30 for 30, Vol. 2, Ep. 24)
- “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals” (HBO)
- “Allen Iverson: The Answer” (Universal Studios)
- “Fab Five” (ESPN Films)
- All other reading and viewing materials will be provided on CTools.
M 1/12: Course Logistics
- Read: course syllabus [CTools]
W 1/14: Learning from ‘Sheed, December 2, 2012
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie, pp. 9-28 [CTools]
MYTHS OF THE BASKETBALL REPUBLIC, 1891-1949
W 1/21: The Creation, December 21, 1891 (Myth and Genealogy)
- Watch: “There’s No Place Like Home” (ESPN 30 x 30: Vol. 2, Ep. 2; Directed by Josh Swade and Maura Mandt; available on iTunes)
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 30-45 [CTools]
M 1/26: The Creation, December 21, 1891 (Invention)
- Read: Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History, pp. 13-15
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 46-53 [CTools]
W 1/28: The Foundation, June 6, 1946 (Myth, Genealogy and Invention)
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 54-73 [CTools]
- Read Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History, 16-31
MYTHS OF THE BASKETBALL STATE (1949-1991)
M 2/2: The Rivalry, November 7, 1959 (Myth)
- Read: Bill Simmons, The Book of Basketball, pp. 57-83 [CTools]
- Read Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 76-84 [CTools]
W 2/4: The Rivalry, November 7, 1959 (Genealogy),
- Read Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 84-91 [CTools]
M 2/9: The Rivalry, November 7, 1959 (Invention)
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 91-97 [CTools]
- Read: Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History 34-51
W 2/11: The Garden, May 8, 1970 (Myth)
- Watch: “When the Garden Was Eden” (ESPN 30 x 30: Vol. 2, Episode 24, Directed Michael Rappaport; available on iTunes)
- Read Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History 74-80
- Read Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 98-104 [CTools]
M 2/16: The Garden, May 8, 1970 (Genealogy)
- Read Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 104-111 [CTools]
W 2/18: The Garden, May 8, 1970 (Invention)
- Watch “Long Shots: The Life and Times of the American Basketball Association” (HBO Documentary) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0OuHgr18Cc)
- Read: Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History 83-90
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 111-118 [CTools]
M 2/23: The Amateurs, March 26, 1979 (Myth)
- Watch: A Courtship of Rivals (HBO Documentary, Directed Ezra Edelman) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtykEHPRO1Q)
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 119-126 [CTools]
W 2/25: The Amateurs, March 26, 1979 (Genealogy)
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 127-133 [CTools]
- Read: Boyd, from Young, Black, Rich & Famous, pp. 45-69 [CTools]
M 3/9: The Amateurs, March 26, 1979 (Invention)
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, 133-138 [CTools]
- Read: Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History, pp. 113-117
MYTHS OF BASKETBALL EMPIRE, 1991 – Present
W 3/11: The Greatest of All Time, June 13, 1991 (Myth)
- Read: Colás, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 140-148 [CTools]
M 3/16: The Greatest of All Time, June 13, 1991 (Genealogy)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 148-154 [CTools]
W 3/18: The Greatest of All Time, June 13, 1991 (Invention)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 154-161 [CTools]
- Read: Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History 118-122 [CTools]
M 3/23: Blackness, March 12, 1997 (Myth)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 161-167 [CTools]
- Watch “Allen Iverson: The Answer” (Universal Studios; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TCjK4jRDfw)
- Read: Todd Boyd, from Young, Black, Rich, & Famous, pp. 125-160 [CTools]
W 3/25: Blackness, March 12, 1997 (Genealogy)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 168-174 [CTools]
- Read: Jeffrey Lane, from Under the Boards, pp. 27-66 [CTools]
- Read: David L. Andrews and Michael L. Silk, “Basketball’s Ghettocentric Logic,” American Behavioral Scientist 53.11 (2010) [CTools]
M 3/30: Blackness, March 12, 1997 (Invention)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 174-180 [CTools]
- Watch “Fab Five” (ESPN Films; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ys3nxx0ogE)
W 4/1: The Right Way, September 4, 2002 (Myth)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 181-187 [CTools]
- Read R. Scott Kretchmar, “Basketball Purists: Blind Sentimentalists or Insightful Critics?” [CTools]
M 4/6: The Right Way, September 4, 2002 (Genealogy)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 187-194 [CTools]
W 4/8: The Right Way, September 4, 2002 (Invention)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 194-199 [CTools]
M 4/13: The Man, July 8, 2010 (Myth)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 200-206 [CTools]
W 4/15: The Man, July 8, 2010 (Genealogy)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 206-213 [CTools]
- Read: Lisa Guerrero, “One Nation under a Hoop: Race, Meritocracy, and Messiahs in the NBA” [CTools]
M 4/20: The Man, July 8, 2010 (Invention)
- Read: Colas, Ball Don’t Lie!, pp. 213-219 [CTools]
II. Course Requirements
What is attendance?
In this course, the stuff most important to your learning will be done in class: watching, reading, thinking, talking and listening together with your classmates and me.
Think of our class as a team. We each have to show up. We each will have to discover our role and play it to the best of our ability for our class to succeed.
How will attendance be graded?
If you come to class you get full credit (i.e. “100”) for that day’s “Attendance’ grade.
If you don’t come to class you get no credit (i.e. “0”).
If you miss class because of illness, family emergency or university-sponsored extracurricular activities, you must provide documentation.
Whether or not you are able to attend class, you are still responsible for all viewing and reading assignments as well as for viewing and reading notes and lab writing assignments.
10 % of overall grade.
In this course, effort consists of three parts: preparation, attention and participation.
What is preparation?
If our class is like a team, then our class meetings are like games.
Success in games depends upon the time, effort and focused attention athletes bring to preparing—training, nutrition and sleep, practice, film study—for each game.
In our class, you’re prepared if you’ve done the following things before each meeting:
- you have watched and/or read required viewing and reading material is assigned by class time on the date that it appears on the class schedule.
- you have taken notes on what you’ve watched and read and posted them to our course CTools site by 8 pm the evening before class. I don’t care how polished these notes are. I don’t care how disorganized they are. I don’t care how long they are.
- The purposes of these notes are:
- to show me that you have done the assigned viewing and reading
- to help you collect your thoughts about what you’ve watched and read before we meet to discuss the materials
- to help you see and learn from how your classmates are reacting to and thinking about the assigned materials.
- consider any or all of the follow questions in composing your notes:
- What did I feel as I was watching or reading? Why?
- What moment or passage most jumped out at me? Why?
- What did I find confusing? Why?
- What did I find boring? Why?
- What did I find exciting? Why?
- What did I like or dislike? Why?
- Be specific in your notes when identifying the scenes or passages or lines that you are referring to in your notes.
- you have reviewed the notes posted by your classmates.
- you come to class with the assigned reading material available to you either in print form or on an electronic device.
How will preparation be graded?
There are 25 class meetings with assigned viewing or reading material.
You should post your viewing or reading notes to CTools by 8 pm on the evening prior to each of those classes.
To Post: Click “Forums” > Click the appropriate date > Click “Start A New Conversation” > Type your name into the “Title” Box > Post your notes in the text box (you can also add attachments) > Click “Post”
If you post, you get full credit (i.e. a “100”) for that day “Preparation” grade.
If you fail to post, you get no credit (i.e. a “50”) for that day’s “Preparation” grade.
If you post late, you get partial credit (i.e. a “75”) for that day’s preparation grade.
25 % of overall grade.
What is attention?
Can you learn anything if you are not paying attention? Really?! Well, no, many studies have demonstrated that you cannot.
But so what? If you aren’t learning that’s your business, right? Well, no. Because many studies have also shown that in group settings one person’s failure to pay attention affects the learning capacities of others.
So what does paying attention mean?
- actively listening with your full attention and respect and with an open mind to whomever is speaking.
- your cell phone is turned off when you enter the classroom. If this becomes a problem, I will simply collect them at the beginning of class and return them at the end.
- you are only using electronic devices for class purposes. All other applications are closed. And the device itself is closed when you are not reviewing assigned materials
If this seems confusing, imagine an athlete texting, posting to social media, or checking e-mail in the middle of a game. Would that be okay?
See “3. Participation” below for details on how I will be grading attention.
What is participation?
In addition to attendance, preparation and attention, the success of our team in each game depends upon each member’s active participation in our discussions.
My lectures will be rare and brief. The heart of this class will be our discussions. What you each get out of them will depend in part on what you put it into them and in part on what your classmates put into them.
Because you’ve done the viewing and reading ahead of time, taken notes, looked at your classmates’ notes, listened actively to them in class and have a brain you will always have feelings, opinions and thoughts during class.
Participation means having the respect for yourself and the class and the courage to share those, regardless of whatever insecurities you may have.
How will participation be graded?
0 = You weren’t in class and did not follow the University’s student absence policy (see “Attendance” above).
60 = You were in class, but you didn’t participate or appear engaged or prepared; maybe you slept, texted, used your computer or ate in class without permission of your instructor. You were there, sure, but you actively disengaged from discussion.
70 = You were in class, but didn’t participate constructively or appear engaged. You were basically just a warm body trying to stay awake.
85 = You attended class. You didn’t participate constructively, but appeared engaged. You may have been present, but silent or you may have spoken, but if you did speak it was just to make sure I knew you were there.
100 = You attended class, participated constructively. You spoke to add substance to our discussion.
15 % of overall grade.
Whether or not it is an art form, basketball is undeniably creative and provides both players and observers with aesthetic experiences. Also from its beginnings, basketball has inspired creativity in different media. Early newsletters, filled with illustrations, rules, and descriptions helped spread word of the new game and spurred its popularity. Today, of course, the game is inseparable from a multi-billion dollar media industry. At the same time, throughout its history, basketball has been the subject of critical reflection and serious artistic representation.
Your creative projects will invite you
- To draw inspiration from the creative, improvisational risk-taking of basketball players
- To engage with the different forms that the media culture of basketball have taken
- Allow you a creative means for showing me what you’ve learned
- Provide you with the opportunity to work both alone and in collaboration with others
You must complete five creative projects, chosen from the menu below (or, if you have an alternative idea, in consultation with me) over the course of the semester.
- At least two must be chosen from the “Writing Menu” below.
- At least one must be chosen from the “Audio-Visual Menu” below
- At least one (but no more than three) must be completed in collaboration with others in class.
- All audio-visual and participatory projects must be accompanied by a 1-2 pp. written analysis relating your project to course themes or materials.
- Friday, February 6th
- Friday, February 27th,
- Friday, March 20th,
- Friday, April 10th
- Sunday, April 26th
I will grade you on a scale from 0 to 100, with roughly equal emphasis given to:
- Originality of idea
- Polish (spelling, typos, grammar, or presentation if audiovisual)
- Clarity and coherence of argument (for all writing)
- Interest of style and voice
Each project counts for 10 % of your overall grade.
The Creative Projects Menu
- Organize, stage and participate in the now-legendary, annual Cultures of Basketball Intra-Class 3 on 3 Tournament (bring this up in class if you are interested)
- “Why We Watch” profile of any individual player, past or present (1000 words or less) [Go to http://theclassical.org/tags/why-we-watch to find examples to study. These are your models.]
- Book or Movie Review (3 pp.) not just whether you liked it or whether it was good or bad, but why and how it is important in basketball culture [see me for possible book or movie ideas]
- Research paper (3-5 pp.) exploring in greater detail one of the individuals, teams, games, or phenomena we’ve covered in class [see me for help with outside sources]
- Illustrated Newspaper article on some key event, in the language and style of its time (1000 words or less) (e.g. the invention of basketball, the first NBA game, the first Chamberlain-Russell matchup, Jordan)
- Description of a play (not to exceed one possession) from any game past or present (500 words or less). Your description should emphasize at least one of the following:
- the beauty of the play.
- the cultural and social significance of the play.
- the personal importance to you of the play.
- the technical, tactical, or strategic importance of the play.
- Create a blog about your experience in the course. This one works a little differently. Minimum one post (no less than 250 words) per unit for a total of minimum of 10 posts. If you are interested in creating a collaborative blog for the course, please contact me.
- 6 minute mock studio round-table analysis (2 minutes each for pre-game, half-time, and post-game) for any basketball game played between 1891 and 1978.
- TV Commercial (1 minute, in which you or your classmates play basketball players advertising products or making public service announcements)
- YouTube highlight video set to music (3-5 minutes, featuring you or your classmates or your favorite basketball player)
- Mock 5 minute radio broadcast (featuring both play by play and color commentary) of any game past or present (please provide video clip or link to the action)
- Short documentary film (less than 10 minutes).
- Original poster, painting, sculpture or other artistic form.
93-100 = A
90-92 = A-
87-89 = B+
83-86 = B
80-82 = B-
77-79 = C+
73-76 = C
70-72 = C-
67-69 = D+
63-66 = D
60-62 = D-
0-59 = F