Thursday, September 14, 2006

Yao calls out the CBA...again

People's Daily has the story again, as Yao Ming criticizes the CBA...maybe "slams" isn't the right word, but all Yao's previous "suggestions" (that's all they were anyway), are mere figurative drops in the bucket compared to now.

When I commented on this a few days back, I said "they need to play against European teams." Yao Ming thinks the same thing, and according to him China will not "be able to find strong opponents at that time. The quality is more important than quantity. So the 28-plus days will have little meaning if we can not compete with strong teams from Europe and America."

But to get to the real heart of the issue, you have to look at just one small sentence, tacked on at the end of a paragraph, overwhelmed by the rest of the text. In the fourth paragraph of the above article is the sentence, "CBA officials said the reduced number of games is a response to the decision of the General Administration of Sports."

Before I go into detail, let me say something first:

A. The CBA is not just a Chinese basketball league. They run not only the top men's professional league, they also run amateur competitions, junior leagues, and then the national teams, both junior and senior. So actually, it’s the NBA and USA Basketball combined.

B. Furthermore, it's a government organization, and subject to political whims and whiles (which is always changing, especially in China). It's not just basketball; it's politics camouflaged as basketball. The CBA's main purpose (although it won't say this) is to keep up the appearance of power, and, most importantly, promote and bring glory to the blessed Motherland. They can do that by doing well in the Beijing Olympics. Make no mistake; by the time 2008 rolls around, the Chinese propaganda machine will be in full force. It's an opportunity like none other, and the "higher-ups" in Chinese government aren't ones to sit on their hands doing nothing. Think the '36 Olympics, minus the blatant racism. This is supposed to be the crowning glory for Chinese sports, and a chance for the country to show how "open" it is.

Every Chinese fan knows that team sports are not China's strong point (volleyball being the main exception). Ping-pong, badminton, swimming, diving, and other obscure Olympic sports are the sports in which China dominates. Basketball is the most popular sport in China, and its league is the most watched in China. So success is crucial, and the CBA decides to sacrifice the top professional league, disregarding fans and sponsors alike. After all, no one in China dares criticize them, and anyone other than that can't do more than make inconsequential noises.

BAM, the other shoe drops. Yao's criticism of the CBA has been coming fast and furious this summer, and with yet another change, he didn't remain silent. So what happens? As I stated in my post a week ago, the CBA's hands are tied. They can't even lift a finger, because every fan in China has Yao's back. They can't even blackmail him into silence by threatening to kick him off the team, because Yao is way, way too important to the team. Furthermore, doing that would raise the ire of Chinese fans, and (so the Chinese thinking goes), those watching from the sidelines will take that as a sign of weakness. Being embarrassed and showing weakness will not bring glory to China, so they can only remain silent. Grin and bear it, and seethe inwardly.

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