Basketball is also a very physical game where players recognize an opponent’s weakness to exploit it. It’s a game where equal parts aggression and finesse create a beautiful balance when done right. On occasion, though, the balance gets tipped and the aggression takes over and all hell breaks loose.
In those cases, the catalyst for the altercation rarely has to do with the game itself.
And that’s what happened in Beijing this week when a brawl broke out between the visiting Georgetown University basketball team and the Bayi Rockets (whom I must add are drawn from the People’s Liberation Army, the largest military in the world).
I’m no expert in international politics but I think it’s safe to say that the fight was about more than basketball.
Most of the Georgetown players are big, young, black men and for me it was strange to see them so handily taken down by the smaller, thinner-looking Chinese players. But then I remembered the Chinese players are soldiers and the Georgetown players are civilians and it all made more sense.
I refuse to look at the incident as a race thing, even though most of the people involved were black and Chinese. The perception of black basketball players in America is that they are thugs in basketball shoes, but in the video of the incident, it’s the Chinese players that look like they should be restrained.
Reports say the game was heated the whole time. Georgetown is known for their lockdown defense and both teams refused to back down. The Chinese team was given 57 free throws to the American team’s 15, so either the Georgetown players were playing a really aggressive game or the officiating was one-sided toward the Chinese home team. I think it’s safe to assume both to be true.
The fight started when a Chinese player fouled one of the American players, leading to a dispute and then a melee. From the video of the fight, it appears that the Georgetown players are out-numbered and really far from home. In the swarm of punches and kicks there were a few people trying to break it up, but with no luck.
It’s easy to say we have a great relationship with other countries and I think as Americans it’s hard for us to fully grasp the anti-American sentiment that exists in other parts of the word. Seeing how smiley Joe Biden has been on his trip to China isn’t really indicative of the way some Chinese people may feel about Americans.
And there’s also some ambiguity about what Americans may feel about themselves. After all, when Americans journey to other parts of the world, we’re expected to represent the whole country even if there are parts of it that we may not agree with ourselves.
I think the Chinese team and the fans who threw chairs and bottles at the American players saw those Georgetown boys as everything wrong with the world and completely indicative of the evil imperialist America they may hate.
But the reality of the situation is that the Georgetown players are college students with loans and scholarships who back home in America are normal everyday young people trying to secure their future through hard work and perseverance. Since most of them are black, even at home they have to deal with hate and unequal opportunity.
They are not American ambassadors or soldiers: they are basketball players.
The Chinese players on the opposing team are drawn from the military and it’s no stretch to say that they have a different skill set than the college hoopers who will most likely go pro in things other than basketball back at home.
At one point in the video, you can see a Chinese player sitting on an American player’s chest, just whiling away the time until finally one of the American player’s teammates comes to his aid and the swarm of people consumes them all.
Truthfully, I’ve never seen anything like that before in basketball and I don’t think there is anything someone could do in a basketball game to deserve something like that. It makes me think that for the Chinese players the anger stems from much more than that, and our relationship with China is more tense than the politicians are letting us know.
The game ended in a tie, but in reality it was a loss for both teams.
The perception around the internet is that the Chinese players overreacted and the American players resorted to the level that was necessary to make it out of there with their lives and dignity.
The politics of our country can sometimes leave the people in it out to dry and have to fend for ideas that might not belong to us when we’re abroad. It’s too bad the Georgetown players had to be the target of an apparent hate which they are not responsible for.
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