The Game Board of Life
This is a hazardous subject, on two levels.
First, as Jeanine Cummins wore a target after writing “American Dirt,” a novel about migrants in flight from violence even though she is white and privileged, I am writing this as an outsider. While my association with the subject is close and personal, it is also as an interloper. Secondly, I suspect this is a subject many if not most FLT readers do not care about and imagine is foreign to them. Meh.
“Ballislife” is a contraction of three words into one, known worldwide among those passionate about basketball. Basketball has a culture unto itself that extends far beyond the game. In fact, for many it is a cultural silo in which to live a safe distance from the threat of the white Euro-centric superstructure that forms the scaffolding of every institution controlling our lives – including basketball. Its culture offers a restful illusion within which to live while the disinterested and hostile world of white dominance carries on with itself.
White ballers can be citizens of ballislife too, so long as they are real ballers. It is a world that makes room for all kinds of people who are totally passionate about basketball, so long as they are not living a double-life – urban by day and suburban by night (neither of which is exactly about the geography of where one lives). In its comprehensiveness, ballislife is akin to the military or various religious cultures as a world unto itself. Others can see into it from the outside but are unable to be in it without becoming a full citizen of it. Like any subculture, it is preyed upon by commercial interests marketing it with a vengeance, and in the process, extending its visibility to those on the outside.
Beyond the ballislife bubble, there may have been some confusion about the blanket of media coverage regarding Kobe Bryant’s sudden death. For anyone watching basketball games on Sunday, the pall was palpable. Grief slammed the ballislife world the way sudden death always does, with a disorienting shock from hearing the news while unable to believe it. To be alive without the deceased seems impossible. Life is still taking place, going on as if nothing had happened even though everything is changed. Such was the experience of Kobe’s passing within the ballislife world.
Kobe was a member of the Holy Trinity: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe. While theologians argue about which one was god, son, or spirit, there is no doubting each one’s divinity. Now one of them is dead.
So, for those of you looking on and wondering why all the fuss about Kobe, some of it cannot be explained without first understanding that ball is life. It is a moment in our national experience to remember that we do not all live the same reality – that truly, we are living very different experiences while breathing the same air. We cannot have civility and national cohesion without fully accepting and appreciating that we are very different from one another because of our circumstances and our choices. Those differences are not only beautiful, they have the potential to make all of us whole. We need to honor those differences instead of being repulsed or hostile when bumping into them.