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Friday, December 16, 2005
Axis of Evil Baskets: Americans Playing Pro Hoops in Iran

Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor has an engaging piece on Iran's first attempt to create a national basketball association. (Peterson, "On the Parquet, 'Great Satan' plays for 'Axis of Evil,'" 12/15/2005). In an effort to bolster quality of play, teams are paying up to $15,000 a month to lure players from the United States, which Iranians sometimes call "The Great Satan."

Over the last two years, the number of American players has increased from three to 18, including former Boston Celtics guard Chris Herren and former Denver Nuggets center Garth Joseph (pictured to left). Teams are sponsored by an assortment of public and private entities. For instance, Andre Pitts, who played collegiate basketball at Houston-Tilotson, plays for Saba Battery, which is run by Iran's Defense Ministry.

It's interesting to observe reactions of American players in Iran, and how their initial stereotypes proved wrong:
Pitts's Iranian teammates say he was somewhat anxious about this when he arrived. But players of both nationalities say now that the first thing to fall away are the prejudices and misconceptions fostered by governments and the media.

"We clicked from Day One," says Pitts . . . who is often busy countering misperceptions among friends and relatives when he returns home to Texas for vacation.

Americans "think all Iranians hate America, or have a negative attitude to the US," he adds. "It's sad, because the news shows all the bad things [about Iran] but never the good things. It's wrong, but all states are the same: There are some bad things, and some good."

These comments seem to illuminate the absurdity of much of contemporary political rhetoric. We call certain countries part of an "Axis of Evil," while they call us manifestations of "The Great Satan." Really, how ridiculous have things become when our leaders engage in rhetorical debates over which side is evil and which side is Satan, as if people who happen to be born in Iran and those who happen to be born in the United States are inherently anything? For all of the flaws in professional sports, they seem to enable persons to rise above convenient rhetorical labels, and see that the world is bigger, more complicated, and less black and white/good and evil than is often taught.


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