The crisis in Canadian basketball

Here is my first and last “letter to the editor”, sent to the Halifax Daily News, 15 June 2007, at the request of colleague and prominent sportswriter A.J. Walling. I’m told by Alex that numerous other letters were also sent. The Transcontinental Inc.-owned Daily News is a media sponsor of the Halifax Rainmen franchise of the American Basketball League. None of the letters were published. – TONY SEED

HALIFAX – SOME sober questions arise from Alex J Walling’s well-researched and provocative article on the American Basketball League which is desperately trying to expand into Canada (“The ABA is a league full of holes,” 11 June 2007). Mr Walling is a veteran sports journalist, independent freelancer and columnist. He carried this investigation entirely on his own initiative and time.

Why has it taken so long for these astonishing facts to see the light of day in the powerful sports media in either the US or Canada?

Mr Walling has depicted a real dog’s breakfast of competing financial interests. Perhaps the ABA should change its slogan from “our balls bounce higher” to “our cheques always bounce higher.” This self-serving operation is highly predictable because the ABA is a private basketball empire that has expanded into Canada for its own narrow interests. Its aim seems to be to use sport to expand its private capital as much and as fast as possible. This is hardly unique: Wikipedia lists 27 defunct US basketball leagues that have come and gone.

Secondly, why are Canadians once again subject to the prey of such carpet baggers? Private narrow interests inevitably become annexed within the most dominant Empire, which at this time is the United States. US continentalism and other factors have overwhelmed Canadian sport, is wrenching it from its national base, and destroying its connection with the social fibre of the country.

Basketball and sport, like everything else in Canada, needs renewal, and people should demand changes.

Basketball Canada, instead of leading the way, has signed a “strategic partnership“ with the ABA with a vague commitment “to having local representation involved in all Canadian ABA teams” (five franchises are promised!). What does this “representation” involve? A few token Canadian athletes subject to the vicissitudes of the “dysfunctional” ABA?

Basketball on the national plane has been reduced to a few ad hoc “national teams” brought together in advance of international competition. Making it in the US NCAA is celebrated by the media as the quintessential road to stardom. Why must the “cream” of Canadian athletes travel “down south” to the land of opportunity and dreams? Why is the USA the greatest importer of young foreign athletes and Canada the greatest exporter of this invisible human flow of youth? These heretical questions, which are never raised, should be debated with gusto.

The Halifax Rainmen should immediately campaign for the formation of a genuine national league, and demand that the Government of Canada provide appropriate travel subsidies through Air Canada to ensure the growth of national sport, rather than oversee its destruction. The exorbitant cost of travel within Canada was one of the factors leading to the demise of the National Basketball League in the early 1990s, and is a serious obstacle for all amateur sport bereft of capital. How can Canadians build a country if they cannot even hold national youth tournaments, national competitions and national leagues? Genuinely national leagues in our different sports would ensure a venue for the thousands of talented young Canadian athletes instead of the present neo-colonial setup. It speaks volumes to hear that it is left to a Canadian expatriate, a resident of Arizona, Steve Nash, an individual, to finance youth basketball development on a national level across Canada. Far from a feel good story, it is Canada’s shame.

Tony Seed

President, Nova Scotia Cricket Association

31 Hilden Drive, Spryfield, NS B3R 1KI

Source: Shunpiking Oline, June-August 2007, Volume 4, Number 5


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