This China-NBA crisis — an inevitable TV money and merchandise crisis — brings to mind two things:
1) The paths to big-dough global markets are paved with unconscionable greed.
2) “The Three Stooges.”
Moe, Larry and Curly? Yes.
This has played out before. It took “The Three Stooges,” their producer/director Jules White, born Julius Weiss in Hungary, and Columbia pictures to be among the first in the American film industry to show not all were tethered to a price tag.
In 1933, the year White became head of Columbia’s short films, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany.
The Nazis, under propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, soon dispatched “diplomats” to the US to ensure Hollywood, under threat of boycott — the market for American movies in Germany was huge — included not even a sniff of anti-Nazi content. Those Nazi agents were not only heard, they were obeyed.
The American movie industry, much like the NBA in the past week, mostly caved and cowered, rather than risk a financial blow. The Nazi regime was not to be any of Hollywood’s big business.
And not until 1940, months after World War II began in Europe, were anti-Nazi films seen by Americans. Among the first starred the Stooges in “You Nazty Spy!” with Moe, who naturally looked like Hitler, as the unhinged dictator of Moronica, Curly appeared like Herman Goering, uniform and medals, Larry in top hat and tails as seen worn by Benito Mussolini.
And so, what has played out since Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet of support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong — Yao Ming made the Rockets mainland China’s favorite NBA team — was predated by “The Three Stooges ” pro-democracy activism.
Morey’s tweet was immediately followed by Nets majority owner Joe Tsai’s scolding of Morey (and most Americans) as naïve and misinformed, while Tsai claimed to know and represent the sensibilities and sensitivities of 1.4 billion Chinese.
Tsai, a Taiwanese whose large loaves of bread are baked and buttered by big business in China, including TV — he arranged that ESPN-televised 2017 basketball trip to China during which three UCLA players were arrested for shoplifting in Hangzhou, headquarters of Tsai’s Alibaba company — painted the Chinese as both news worldly and devoted to — as opposed to shackled to — their beloved government.
He also banked on the inability of Americans to read between his lines.
In an open letter, Tsai claimed, “Fans in China are calling for an explanation — if they are not getting it from the Houston Rockets then it is natural that they ask others associated with the NBA to express a view.”
Thus, Tsai would have us believe the government-controlled Chinese media immediately reported an independent overview of Morey’s tweet as it pertained to massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.
And all Chinese then demanded an explanation from the NBA? Of what? Why Morey wasn’t placed in a re-education gulag?
Tsai graciously conceded that Morey is entitled to his opinion — what a guy! — but added, “The one thing terribly misunderstood and often ignored by the Western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. The issue is non-negotiable.”
What issue? Democracy? Aside from writing as if he were China’s John Sterling, how does Tsai know this? Those citizens have a choice? They have a voice in such negotiations? They’re free to support opponents of their rulers? That’s the point of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong!
“By now,” Tsai writes, “you have heard that Chinese fans have reacted very negatively to a tweet put out by Houston GM Daryl Morey in support of protests in Hong Kong.”
No, we haven’t. But if asked, would those fans be able to express anything other than what they’d be compelled to answer?
More from Tsai: “The Rockets, who by far had been the favorite team in China, are now effectively shut out of the Chinese market as fans abandon their love for the team, broadcasters refuse to broadcast their games and Chinese corporates pull sponsorships in droves.”
What a can of garbage. The Rockets are banished? By whose decree, fans or the government? Tsai knows China’s government doesn’t allow, let alone suffer, dissent. So does NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Tsai also cites the 1900 Boxer Rebellion and Japan’s 1930s mass-slaughter incursions into China as historical proof of foreign threats to China’s sovereignty.
But he fails to note the more recent: Throughout the Cold War, communist China eagerly hosted the Soviets, and in 1953, the end of the Korean War, tens of thousands of North Korean and Red Chinese POWs fought repatriation because they feared being shot for surrendering or renewal as slaves under totalitarian regimes.
Silver knows he must serve the financial interests of team owners, now known, as per silly social semantics, as “governors.” And he inherited the “globalization” of the NBA as a primary business project.
So he’s stuck in Ralph Kramden mode — “Hummina, humma, humma, humma.” How could Silver not personally back a pro-democracy multitude? But how, with millions, billions at stake, can he say such?
He’s stuck. He can benignly support a despotic regime that dominates 1.4 billion humans, the my-money-first propagandizing of NBA team owner Joe Tsai and profit-sharing team owners who have chosen the safety of silence.
Or, regardless of his previous pandering to protesters of alleged but debatable American social issues, he can choose to back the pro-democracy, basic human rights forces as now demonstrated in Hong Kong — and before that even by Moe, Larry and Curly.
Smart strategy: Make CC field ball
Not that many big leaguers know how to bunt, but what if CC Sabathia, unable to field his position or run from the mound to first in time to beat the runner due to bad legs and excess weight, pitches in the ALCS?
Do you bunt toward him or first base? Do you do whatever it takes to force him to field or cover first? Do you take less advantage of Sabathia than you would an outfielder with a weak arm?
As for another Yankees pitcher, none has disappeared and been forgotten as quickly and thoroughly as Domingo German after accused of domestic assault. German may as well have been 18-4 — 18-4! — for the Dry Gulch Buzzards of the Adobe Desert League.
‘Crooked’ numbers are not required
During Yankees-Twins, Fox’s John Smoltz repeatedly spoke of the importance of “putting up crooked numbers.” Where, asks reader Timothy Lyons, “did that stupid affectation come from?”
Answer: Bernie Madoff.
And reader Artie Yannaco noted that in scoring 10 runs in the first, one in the second to lead 11-0 Wednesday in Atlanta, the Cardinals still had not “put up a crooked number.”