Monday, June 2, 2008

Why I think CCTV stopped NBA broadcasts, and Monday afternoon links

I wrote about CCTV's moratorium of NBA broadcasts on ESPN the Magazine's website a few days back, but here's what I really think happened: the NBA thought they could ask for more money, and CCTV said, Uh. No. Here, let us show you how important you are to us:

[The sound power cords make when they're yanked from the socket.]

And that was that.

Blogging for China's open letter to the NBA is worth reading, but it's unnecessary. As some commentators on that open letter so cogently put it, if this was a political maneuver on CCTV's part, the channel would have given Ira Newble more attention than he could have possibly dreamed. A quick Google search will show you exactly how much more. And CCTV knows this. They know Ira Newble wasn't a household name, and I don't think they really cared what he said or did.

I believe CCTV's attitude towards the NBA is exactly as Tim Johnson of McClatchy Newspapers wrote in his China Rises blog: "You know what you did. Don't make me have to explain it to you."

It's a matter of principle, of course, as CCTV has more than enough money, one would figure, to meet whatever the NBA's asking price. But I could easily imagine the NBA thinking, with Celtics-Lakers on a collision course for the Finals, it could finagle a few extra bucks out of the Chinese government, and the government coming back with its gauntlet in hand and saying, "And who are you, exactly?" Thus the sly little maneuver to put the Americans in place, all with this brilliant PR tagline, "It's all in consideration of the earthquake." No, really, the NBA is too exciting for our too-excitable and grief-stricken hearts.

And how has China responded? On message boards, you'll find commentators saying -- and I paraphrase -- "If Ira Newble said those things and the NBA doesn't do anything, I'll never watch another game again." (Their words, you can let them explain it.) So the Chinese government has simultaneously put the Americans in place and reminded its citizenry that the Americans, with their loose mouths and anti-China biases, aren't to be trusted.

And maybe this too is a test for the NBA. Maybe China said to NBA's offices, You'll follow our company line about the earthquake or our relationship is over. And maybe that's why, for the past week, the NBA's minions have been tiptoeing on eggshells, hoping this situation blows over and organizations like Danwei, CNBC and Marbridge Daily (???) stop caring, fast, and stop with their goddamn calls. Just maybe...

Well, who knows?

And who really cares? This will blow over soon, as the NBA playoffs are returning to TV -- CCTV's been advertising the Finals for weeks, which makes me believe a broadcasting deal was in place long before this tempest brewed -- and no one will remember this last week and a half when basketball was preempted for kayaking and tennis. Life continues.

But one more thing, as long as we're talking about Ira Newble:

There's this idea popular among forward-thinking sports journalists that being "apolitical" is necessarily bad, same as "amoral." Take this quote, taken out of a Shelley Smith piece on LeBron James' "apolitical" nature:

"Within this group of young athletes, this whole age group, there is a huge vacuum of being apolitical on global issues," said Kenneth Shropshire, director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. "I am sure that many athletes today still look to Jordan and say, 'How did he do it?' and 'I can take those same steps.' It's not going to be helpful to whatever endorsement opportunities you might have to be politically active."

The information and Internet age (or something) has bred a generation of body-snatchers who believe they can inject ideas into others' mind, especially the minds of those who have access to soapboxes. Well, guess what? You start injecting indiscriminately and soon someone will pull a Sharon Stone (I've been avoiding this topic because why, really, should we care about a thing Sharon Stone says? Hopefully the NY Times has issued the last word). Presumed in this "LeBron James should support Ira Newble" line of thought is that China is necessarily wrong, somehow, and that this issue is black and white, with that other side (also presumed: this side is America) taking a morally superior stance.

About that presumption, however...
  • China Esquire points out some soft spots on the U.S.'s human rights record.

  • And as Tang Buxi writes in the comment section of his open letter, "Different informed people have very different opinions on the right solution for Sudan."
We can leave it at that for now.

Now onto other links:
  • ESPN on the number eight.

  • One more from Blogging for China: Signs from Sichuan.

  • Shanghaiist's best in May. And an interesting video -- life of a taxi driver in Shanghai.

  • Another Shanghaiist story: do Asians need deodorant? On Friday I went out to find some but came out of Xidan's humongous department story empty-handed. I asked some people what deodorant is called, showing them my empty Old Spice stick, and many of them had no idea. So, yeah, maybe China could use a little Unilever.

  • An incredibly informed rebuttal, via The China Beat, to a NY Times op-ed a couple weeks back (linked from this site) that essentially asked the Needham question of why China stagnated while Europe flourished around the time of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Newsweek's Countdown Beijing: on the media's earthquake coverage.

  • Poem of the day, from Wrender (excerpt):
    there is something under this china
    under the soft stares and
    vending machines where condoms outnumber snacks

    she's ancient
    ancient deception and censorship
    ancient oppression and wisdom

    in the hills where green things grow
    and soldiers hide underground
    she breaths.

UPDATE, 12:24 a.m.:
More Monday links, because the day was long.

  • Ohhh this is going to make Buzz Bissinger so mad: CN Reviews proposes a U.S.-China blogger meet-up, an ambitious and potentially historic idea. The China Vortex weighs in.

  • "He said that as an authoritarian state, China could implement changes and make improvements very quickly and that he wasn’t particularly worried about the smoggy skies. He noted how bad London’s air quality was in 1952, when in December of that year a cold snap forced Londoners to burn more coal. The resulting Great Smog killed thousands of people and gave impetus to a growing environmental movement." --Tim Johnson, China Rises.

  • "Because it is so long associated with bureaucratic control, local officials are rather successful at ensuring that corruption can be something of a win-win situation for all sides." --Richard Spencer, Telegraph blog.

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