Category Archives: Basketball

Getting the Job Done in Hoosiers

After several months of starts-and-stops, finally I finished watching David Anspaugh‘s 1986 basketball film Hoosiers.  Starring Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, and Dennis Hopper, this sports-inspirational applies the triumphant underdog storyline to demonstrate how small-town Hickory Huskers goes all the way to the top in high school basketball under the guidance of Coach Norman Dale (Hackman) in 1951 Indiana.

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During the first pep rally, before the first game depicted, Norman Dale tells the student body that the team will play twenty-three games over four months.  The film includes basketball game-play via two practices [meeting the team and meeting Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis)] and nine+ games (including a montage that likely represents two or three games).  Although Hoosiers foregrounds the significance of turning the team around, specifically, convincing Jimmy to play ball again, it doesn’t impress me as a generic sports film.  Basketball could be replaced with hockey, football, futbol, and possibly baseball through much of the film and I would still perceive the plot as showcasing a man just trying to do his job.

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That is until the last two games (the sectional finals and then the Indiana High School Basketball Championship game) when the sports film conventions become clearer as does the reasoning for why it has to be basketball.  Each of the games leading up to the championship acquaints the viewer with an aspect of the team member’s personality/athletic traits.  For instance, Rade (Steve Hollar) thinks he knows it all; Strap (Scott Summers) takes his time with ritualistic pre-game/play prayer; Ollie (Wade Schenck) is insecure about his height; and Everett (David Neidorf) is simultaneously ashamed of and desperate for the support of his oft-drunken father, Shooter (portrayed exquisitely by Hopper).  The nature of basketball mandates that each player plays together not just effectively in their unique roles in unison.

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The way writer Angelo Pizzo shapes Norman Dale and Hackman’s portrayal of the purposeful and quick-tempered, new coach and history/civics teacher as well as what he endures to gain the town and the team’s respect and trust culminates in a supremely satisfying visual spectacle as the Hickory Huskers begin to win games.  Moreover, Barbara Hershey’s Myra Fleener doesn’t understand why basketball means so much to everyone.  Her character is not a hindrance to attempts to play ball, but she just doesn’t get it.  She’s holding an armful of folders (or wielding farm tools) throughout the majority of the film and isn’t enthusiastic about Jimmy returning to basketball, but she’s not functioning as a source of conflict per se (the “worst” she does is find a newspaper article elucidating the trouble that Coach Dale got in that led to his having a falling out with the NCAA).  Thus, when it’s time for the final two games and the camera goes in for a few close-ups of her watching intently, you know she’s starting to comprehend.

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The cinematography and editing of the game-play in the championship game consists of slow-motion, close-ups, and other compositional choices that make me wonder if they were inspired by televised basketball of the 1980s.  The film is set in 1951 and was released in 1986.  What do you think?

The last pre-game peptalk is phenomenal because it is so short, sweet, and to the point.

Coach: We’re way past big speech time. I want to thank you for the last few months. It’s been very special for me. Anybody have anything they want to say?
Merle: Yeah, let’s win this one for all the small schools who never had the chance to get here.
Everett: I want to win for my dad.
Buddy: Let’s win for coach. You got us here.
Coach: Thank you.

Here’s the full scene:

~ Find more clips here.
~ For additional information about the film, hop on over to Hoosiers Archive.
~ Check out this Bleacher Report piece on the real Jimmy Chitwood, whose basketball talents were instrumental in helping his teammates to victory.
~ Dennis Hopper talks about the film with AFI.

Miscellaneous Musings:

1.  Once I noticed Barbara Hershey holding folders and papers in so many scenes, I became somewhat preoccupied with what she did exactly at the school.  Was she a teacher? an administrator?  She became interim principal halfway through the film, but what was she?  Did I miss it in a dialogue scene?  Ultimately, it’s so trivial as to not be worth my curiosity, but I need to know if the film reveals her job title.

2.  I like watching movies with subtitles even when I understand some, most, or all of the spoken languages.  The Hoosiers DVD that I have only comes with French subtitles, which is fine because I took four years of it in high school and I’ve always been better at reading and writing it than listening comprehension.  Usually, when I read French, I automatically “translate” it into English in my head.  In this case, though, when I read the French and compared it to the audio, I gained a better appreciation for the art of translation.  For example, there’s a snippet of the National Anthem before the championship game.  The English lines of “Oh say does that Star-Spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” becomes “Oh, c’est la banniere etoilee qui danse au dessus de la terre des hommes libres et du foyer des valeureux” in French.  Literally, “Oh, it’s the starry banner that dances under the earth of free men and the fireplace (hearth) of the valorous/valiant.”

3.  Hoosiers is based on a true story.  The Grueling Truth provides some historical/social context from someone who grew up in Indiana in the 70s and 80s.  CBS News details some of the differences between film and reality.

Let Me Lead You

You can lead me to water
but you can’t make me drink,
You can lead me to higher earnings
but you can’t make me believe
I have what it takes
to turn your paper crane
into a 3-D printed one
or the solution
to your predecessor’s mistakes.

You can teach me to fish
but you can’t make me eat,
You can teach me the virtues
of patience and reverence,
but you can’t make me believe
I have what you think it takes
to turn my playbook sketches
into a game-saving use case
or the antidote to my predecessor’s biases.

Let me lead you to water
I won’t force you to drink,
unless you’re thirsty
Let me lead you to higher earnings
I won’t force you to believe,
in your own potential.

Let me teach you to fish
I won’t force you to eat,
unless you’re hungry
Let me teach you the virtues
of slowing-down and kindness,
I won’t force you to believe
if you’re not ready.

Let me lead you,
if you’re willing
to try something new.

— yiqi 23 July 2020 3:44 pm

Chevaux

© Soledad Lorieto

The above poem was inspired by a musing on transferable skills and leadership that I read the other day.   The post begins by noting that “the problem with hiring (not recruiting) is this: Those who tend to get hired are those with the most direct experience…’Those who have will get even more while those without will have even less.  [Therein] lies the reason for lack of representation and diversity.“*

It makes sense.  If considering resume criteria alone, a violin player with five years’ experience in the city symphony will likely be chosen to play for a film score over the violin player with one year of high school experience.  The latter will likely be chosen over the music enthusiast with some childhood piano lesson memories but zero violin time.  If budget is a concern, however, the high school violinist probably has the best shot because not only will they be the least expensive, but they already have basic violin-playing skills.  (Whether or not they still remember how to sight read is a whole other issue).

The post then addresses the idea of transferable skills and that “it is still a seemingly far fetched [one] as hiring managers want people who can do the job on day 1.”  The pace at and the way in which technology, consumer/client habits, and marketing trends change across industries necessitate potential new hires to possess the knowledge and skills to enter a new organization with minimal instruction AKA “we’ll show you how to reserve a meeting room, how to navigate the employee resources portal, and someone will probably tell you which bathrooms and parking spaces to avoid**, but we’d prefer you already know how to use all of the productivity tools, relevant software and web applications, and social media platforms ever made because time is money and we have very little time and just enough money to justify hiring someone who can do everything we require.”  Consequently, companies find themselves in “the recycling of talent” or “hiring from the same pool over and over again.”

Sticking with our stringed instrument hypothetical scenario, the recycling of talent would consist of the same half-dozen violinists hired for any number of jobs where the employer does not want or cannot afford to (or both) teach anyone how to play said instrument.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with making hiring decisions based on time and money constraints, and yet, as more employers keep maintaining this type of status quo, the breadth of talent and skill potential serving those employers stagnates.

The post ends with a suggestion for the implementation of “development programs,” “[taking] a home-grown approach,” for “[leaders…to become teachers,” “[and for] companies… to transform and become learning institutions.”  The follow-up comments touch on examples of when transferable skills work (made by yours truly), how to diversify potential employee pools and re-evaluating job descriptions, and what good leadership entails.

Boats

© KOBU Agency, Faro, Portugal

What does effective leadership entail? Even if a company were eager to go beyond its modus operandi comfort zones and take a risk in hiring someone who doesn’t check off all of its “must have” boxes, how should it hire?

Perhaps one can begin by knowing who not to consider?

Rethink company priorities, thereby allowing for a wider range of leadership styles and dispositions? ***

Effective leaders should trust employees and not tell them how to work (within reason) or make unfounded assumptions about their motivations (or lack thereof)?

At the very minimum, balance the ratio of extrovert-to-introvert leaders or consider more ambiverts? ****

The consensus among these videos is that effective leaders are good listeners and mentors.  They don’t pretend to know everything and don’t belittle nor patronize their staff.  When the companies they own, the departments they oversee, or the teams they manage reach or exceed business objectives, are they automatically congratulated with such achievements or do they acknowledge credit where credit is due?  Likewise, when the companies they own, the departments they oversee, or the teams they manage not only fail to reach those goals but also bring external negative publicity or internal criticism and shame, are these leaders unequivocally held accountable for whatever happened to incur the wrath of public opinion or workplace disappointment?

In thinking about these matters, I was reminded of an entry I wrote a few years ago where a friend and I discussed the role of football coaches and the degree to which the numbers on a scoreboard is more or less attributed to the coach rather than the players.  Spectator sports are greatly affected financially by the number of wins and losses incurred over a season or series of seasons (depending on a team’s reputation).  As often as the roster changes to reflect a dire need for better athletic skills, better chemistry between teammates, or simply to put backup players on the active list to compensate for injured starters, coaches come and go with comparable levels of frustration and hope on the part of athletic departments, booster clubs, fans, and team owners.

Whether it’s the college game or the professional game, a lot of people have invested money and faith in a particular team’s ability to win.  Coaches are entrusted with the expertise to break out of losing streaks and maintain winning streaks.  They do their best with what the players and assistant coaches offer, nevertheless, the best data available is no guarantee of victory.  And as more reported stories of student-athletes or professional athletes misbehaving on or off the field circulate through media outlets and social media platforms, coaches may be unfairly blamed.  Furthermore, when a head coach is new to a team and isn’t experiencing a real-life redemption narrative, he can apply the same strategies from his last coaching job and not be sure that the players will perform as expected.  What brought accolades before won’t necessarily bring accolades again, but as long as they are good listeners and mentors, and don’t pretend to know everything, they’ll have more chances to prove themselves.

Hiring the right coach to turn a losing team around certainly involves a unique set of criteria that isn’t immediately analogous to finding an effective Senior Director, Team Lead, or CEO.  No combination of characteristics fits all, and for a company to make the correct hiring decision, it has to know both its end goals and the idiosyncrasies of the journey.  If Company A needs a charismatic leader in its sales or employee engagement departments, why shouldn’t it hire one?  If Company B has a global presence and needs guidance on making eleventh-hour decisions without resorting to rousing people from deep sleep, why not hire a centrally located night-owl or two (one near the Prime Meridian, the other on the west coast of the continental United States)?

~!~

* “Lack of representation and diversity” doesn’t have to be limited to visual differences between people (skin color, wardrobe choices, hairstyles, mode of transportation, body language, gait, et al) and protected classes (religious affiliation [or lack thereof], physical or cognitive disabilities, gender identification, sexual orientation).  Differences between people and their life experiences also involve pop-cultural tastes, dietary choices, philosophical beliefs, coping mechanisms, vices, sources of joy, sources of duress, and all the other characteristics that make no two people alike.

** In a pre-coronavirus world certainly, but in the current state of the world, the equivalent would probably be a note about which types of backgrounds to avoid using in virtual video conference calls.

*** As idealistic as this proposition might be that prioritizing kindness and treating employees well positively correlates to business success and a happy sales/finance department, if a company can monetarily afford to try it, why not then?

**** Is it “extravert” or “extrovert” and what is an “ambivert?”

I came across this article about financial scandals in pro sports.  Fascinating stuff.

 

Pic creds: Unsplash

Off Topic: 50 nifty United States part 7

It’s been about four years since I last made a post about the goings-on across the United States.  With all of the shite-has-hit-the-fan news all over town and reddit posts about employers not taking the current world-wide situation seriously, I wanted to know what good, uplifting, and reassuring things are happening across the country.  I don’t mean the ignorance-is-bliss sort either.

carteUS

 

Alabama – Ghost Train Brewing Co. and curbside beer

Alaska – Cargo shipments continue (for now at last I imagine)

Arizona – Holiday lights are coming back (good idea or bad idea?)

Arkansas – Businesses help with free WIFI and PBS education materials

California – Netflix’s $100 million fund and look at all the non-traffic

Colorado – Free eggs in Loveland

Connecticut – Distillery making hand sanitizer

Delaware – Doghead Fish also making sanitizer

Florida – Miami Dolphins donate $500,000 and Omari Hardy

Georgia – Arthur Blank Foundation donates $5.4 million, Atlanta Hawks donate food, Atlanta Braves’ relief fund

Hawaii – Seal pup birthrate in 2019

Idaho – free 5-pound dog food

Illinois –  Jazz band practice virtually  Also, stay at home.

Indiana – Niles factory and light medical equipment

Iowa – Cats (not the musical)

Kansas – sending KS love

Kentucky – More distillery sanitizer

Louisiana – Crawfish farmers and Chili‘s (they could do more especially since not everyone who gets CV19 has symptoms, and people can get sick for other reasons)

Maine – Adopt this dog and a skunk takes a swim

Maryland – Helping the homeless

Massachusetts – Hannaford Supermarkets donate food

Michigan – GM and more hand sanitizer

Minnesota – Wanting to make masks not bags

Mississippi – Foster cats

Missouri – Christmas reappears

Montana – Make art

Nebraska – Art for seniors

Nevada – Gotta keep building (I get why it’s not the best idea but what better time to build when street closures or traffic won’t be a hindrance, n’est-ce pas?

New Hampshire – Teen meets his rescuers

New Jersey – Governor on party-goers

New Mexico – Getting creative

New York – Good question

North Carolina – Carolina Hurricanes doing good

North Dakota – Woman organizes meet and swap of goods

Ohio – Coaches talk

Oklahoma – National guard activates

Oregon – PSA: stop flushing non-flushables

Pennsylvania – Conserve energy

Rhode Island – Masks donated

South Carolina – And stop lying

South Dakota – Protecting the homeless and the definition of community

Tennessee – Good on the owner (but he should probably save the beard)

Texas – Billy Bob Texas

Utah – Even more hand sanitizer and don’t be this guy

Vermont – Resort donates food

Virginia – Trying to get people jobs

Washington – Getting creative as well

West Virginia – Horse racing (but should it still go on, really?)

Wisconsin – Fire departments need help

Wyoming – Animal shelter needs help

Washington DC – Don’t be like these people

Puerto Rico – Curfew crackdown

Guam – Meanwhile

US Virgin Islands – Meanwhile

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Map cred: usgs

Things I Didn’t Know About Basketball

The Fung Bros love basketball, sneakers, and their latest video about the popularity of basketball in Asia is fascinating and educational!  Of all the points that they bring up, the social, community-building aspects are probably the least unique to basketball, since they are applicable to other team sports such as baseball, football, futbol, hockey, kickball, and dodgeball.

Basketball’s Artistic Merit

The Fung Bros.’ video on NBA Moves got me thinking about the artistic nature of the athletic performance of basketball moves and scoring.

Even though the ultimate goal is to win by outscoring one’s opponent, it isn’t enough that the players just get the ball into the hoop as many times as possible.  Methodology necessitates that players try to keep the other team from scoring by getting the ball back or “fouling” them.  In baseball, the pitcher strikes out the batters; in football, the defense keeps the other team from getting another set of downs, sacks the quarterback, or intercepts the ball; in hockey and futbol, and I imagine to a similar extent basketball, each team tries to get the puck/ball to score.  Hence, the back-and-forth quality of these three sports compared to baseball and football, where the former is more stationary and the latter consists of a series of stop-and-go’s.

In addition to the technique and skills required to put the ball in the hoop, though, does a player have to execute these plays with ostensibly intentional rhythmic and complex footwork?  Is the footwork a byproduct of trying to get the ball close enough to the hoop to dunk?  The more I watch a variety of basketball plays, the more I see artistry in the physics of that choreography no matter how (co)incidental.

Basketball game-play impresses me as being more unpredictable than football.  The gridiron is a much larger stage and the fluidity of certain plays contributes to the notion that every outcome is planned.  It seems that basketball invites and involves more improvisation down the court.

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