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Metaphoric Playoffs

“I’m not playing for other people. If I start thinking in those terms I would put too much pressure on myself. I play basketball because that is what I love to do.” — Jeremy Lin

This year’s NBA (National Basketball Association) regular season is over and the so-called second season is upon us—the playoffs. I will not be watching any playoff games because I lack a television, but I will be watching the very brief highlights on my computer.

My lack of a television is less about television being a diabolical tool used by our overlords to control (and destroy) the world, and more about my sense of the shortness of life and my desire to write and garden and play the piano and commune with Marcia and my friends as much as I can before I die. I know if we had a functional television in the house I would watch the playoffs and lots of other programming, too. I am weak in this regard and my only viable defense against television is to do without.

The Houston Rockets made the playoffs this year and I’m particularly interested in the Rockets because Jeremy Lin is on that team. I am fascinated by Lin’s career and what I think his experience reveals about professional basketball, cultural mediocrity, economic collapse and catastrophic climate change.

Why? How? To begin with, Jeremy Lin became a superstar by accident or through the intervention of unseen supernatural forces. In either case, ever since his wholly unexpected rise to fame and fortune, those who control mainstream media and professional basketball, which is a hugely important component of the media-industrial complex, have done everything short of assassination to reverse Lin’s ascendancy. So far they have failed, though not entirely, and thus his saga intrigues me. Having endured similar malicious people repeatedly wrecking my writing career, I identify with Jeremy Lin.

Lin’s story, briefly, is that after a successful stint on the Harvard basketball squad, Lin was not drafted by any NBA team but played his way onto NBA practice squads and eventually made the New York Knicks as a temporary backup to the backup to the point guard of the team. Astonishingly, all those players ahead of him were injured virtually at the same time, Lin got a chance to play in Madison Square Garden, and in the absence of the Knicks’ incredibly selfish star Carmelo Anthony, Lin led a previously moribund Knicks team to several stirring victories in a row and the global phenomenon known as Linsanity was born. Jeremy Lin is Chinese American, bright, funny, affable, and a superb team player, all of which contribute to his well-deserved success and international appeal.

However, with the return of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks lineup, Carmelo being a grossly overpaid, one-dimensional (scoring) prima donna, Lin was quickly marginalized and let go and ended up with the not-very-good Houston Rockets. That franchise subsequently signed the premiere center in the game today, Dwight Howard, and the talented guard James Harden. And then, in the words of Yogi Berra, it was déjà vu all over again, for James Harden turns out to be every bit the selfish ball hog Carmelo Anthony is. Ere long Jeremy Lin was coming off the bench instead of starting, and a team that had the potential to be one of the very best is now destined for elimination in the first round of the playoffs.

What does this have to do with societal dysfunction and global catastrophe? Everything! Four nights ago I watched the highlights from the Rockets’ first playoff game, an overtime loss to the Portland Trailblazers in Houston. Throughout the contest, an apparently brainless James Harden repeatedly tried to weave his way through multiple defenders to force up ridiculous shot after ridiculous shot while Lin was left unguarded within easy range of the basket.

Harden never passed the ball to Lin, nor did the coach of the Rockets ever call time out and suggest to Harden that since no one was guarding Lin while he, Harden, was smothered by the entire opposing team, it might be a good idea to pass the ball to Lin so he could make a few baskets and win the game.

Aye, there’s the rub. The people running the basketball division of Global Capitalist Greed, Inc. don’t want Jeremy Lin winning games. I don’t know why—maybe because he’s an upstart outsider who exposed the essential worthlessness of some of the game’s reigning superstars (otherwise known as lucrative commercial commodities)—but one has to be blind not to see the absurdity of how the Rockets play and lose to teams they could easily beat if not for the moronic antics of Monsieur Harden and several of his teammates who refuse to include Lin in their offense.

“I’m not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” — Charles Barkley

Alas, Sir Charles, you did raise our kids, millions of them. The shoes you wore and the soft drinks you sold are the shoes and soft drinks our children were brainwashed to believe they had to have. You were their God and they emulated you as they now emulate other cocky, selfish, cool, uneducated, wealthy young men who can dunk basketballs.

“I’m not comfortable being preachy, but more people need to start spending as much time in the library as they do on the basketball court.” — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

So…Jeremy Lin is metaphoric of excellent solar-powered public transit, a robust solar power program with a budget equal to that of the Pentagon, single payer healthcare, the imposition of a 90% tax on all incomes over a million dollars, ending all tax breaks for corporations and the rich, taxing the poop out of fossil fuels, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to next to nothing pronto!


James Harden and Carmelo Anthony are metaphoric of the ruling elite refusing to change their selfish and ineffective strategies leading to Team Humanity losing big time.

“What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.” — John Wooden

Last night I watched the highlights for Game Two between the Rockets and the Trailblazers, and after Jeremy Lin was shown making two fantastic passes to Dwight Howard for easy baskets, the rest of the highlight captured the Trailblazers’ easy victory over Houston because James Harden apparently has no understanding of the crucial importance of finding and feeding the open man, which is metaphoric of our rulers not knowing how to optimize the game for everyone. The anointed stars of our society do not understand how to wisely distribute wealth and properly husband our resources to regenerate rather than destroy life on earth.

Watching a great basketball team play unselfishly, passionately and creatively, fills me, however fleetingly, with hope that we might use such passion and creativity and sharing of the ball to overcome the selfish ones who have ruined our society and poisoned our earth. In basketball, ultimately, it is the best team that wins. Oh if only that were true in our government and society.

(Todd Walton’s website is

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