We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Pickup basketball is a beautiful example of the spontaneous, emergent order that arises from voluntary interaction predicated on classical liberal principles of dignity, respect for the individual, and voluntary cooperation. Every individual who has ever played pickup basketball can enumerate the rules for forming a team, playing, and interacting regardless of location, age or ethnicity- African Americans in the poorest sections of Harlem play by the same pickup rules as do those on the playgrounds of the whitest, richest suburbs in America.

Trey Goff

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18 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Lee Moore

    I was deeply moved. I would have been even more deeply moved if I had had any idea what pickup basketball was.

    But now I know. I suppose the English version would be football in the park. My recollection (from a very long time ago) is that there was still room for disputes about whether the ball had gone just inside the “goalpost” (aka sweater) or just outside. Spontaneous order did not always sort that out smoothly.

    I also recall that a parental admonition that feeble four eyed totally uncoordinated Duncan MUST be picked to play at some point would rapidly lead to sulking, spats, and people wandering off and not wanting to play anymore. I suppose this must have been an early metaphor for the effect of government regulation and welfare spending on commerce.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Lee, well, find out what it means then!

  • Pickup basketball is a beautiful example of the spontaneous, emergent order that arises from voluntary interaction predicated on classical liberal principles of dignity, respect for the individual, and voluntary cooperation.

    That explains why leftists are so determined to demonize pickup artists…

  • Paul Marks

    Good.

  • Julie near Chicago

    For the straight skinny on pick-up basketball, especially as seen through the eyes of player Butch Karp, who also happens to be an assistant DA in the Manhattan DA’s homicide department — and a top-notch one, despite being a straight-arrow — read the legal-thriller Butch Karp/Marlene Ciampi books by Robert K. Tanenbaum and uncredited co-author Michael Gruber. Up through Book 12 or so they are absolutely ace, and still good through Book 15 . (Eventually the cousins — Tanenbaum, himself a former Manhattan prosecutor, and Gruber — had a falling-out, and the series, beginning with Book 16, Hoax, became no longer worth the reading, in my opinion and that of several other formerly-huge fans. But until the cataclysm, they are the all-time best-ever “thriller” series, in my opinion. Which I have held now for several decades.) :>))

    Butch, by the way, was PAC-10 in college, but his knee came to grief under the boards when B-Ball was becoming a Contact Sport (Butch severely disapproves of this evolution), so career B-Ball was out. He then chose Law as the nearest non-physical career to one in competitive sports.

    All that’s back-story, referred to in the books but not the subject of any of them.

    They are serious but still have, I think, a certain good-natured quality about them. Karp & Ciampi become Mr. & Mrs., Lucy is born, Sweetie enters the scene, and there are murder and mayhem and dirty rotten scoundrels in high places; all with no preachy tone at all, and plenty of excuses to laugh.

    “The series that asks the question: Can a secular but non-de-racinated Jewish boy from Brooklyn [?] and a mostly-practicing and only somewhat dubious Italian Catholic co-prosecutor from Queens find Happiness and Marriage Peace together, in the seamy world of NYC’s Bad Guys, Jewish-Arab unrest, and Politicians, while maintaining their grip on both reason and their consciences?” (Paraphrasing the intro to the old radio soap series, “Stella Dallas.”)

    Anyhow, Butch still does very well in his pickup games.

    See: https://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?search-alias=stripbooks&unfiltered=1&field-keywords=Karp&field-author=Tanenbaum&field-title=&field-isbn=&field-publisher=&node=&field-p_n_condition-type=&p_n_feature_browse-bin=&field-age_range=&field-language=&field-dateop=During&field-datemod=&field-dateyear=&sort=relevanceexprank&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.x=26&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.y=11

  • Julie near Chicago

    “Stella Dallas: The story that asks the question, ‘Can a ______* girl from a small mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?”

    *For the sake of rhythm, I think and hope there was an adjective of some sort here; but if so, it has escaped with my marbles after lo! these 65 or so years. Anyway, the intro was not demeaning to untitled, relatively innocent Americans: very refreshing.

    (It was broadcast for half an hour around noon, so I heard it when I was lucky enough to be home from school onaccounta Dreadful Illness.)

    .

    Perry — Thanks for putting up with my entirely-O/T dilations. :>)

  • RRS

    In his Invention of the Modern World ( ODD VOLUMES The Fortnightly Review 2014) based on his lectures at Tsinghua University (China) in 2011, Alan Macfarlane notes in Chapter 7 the significance of “games,” especially team sports in British (and American) culture.

    In what other cultures have there been such spontaneous social activities for the objectives of the individual participants?

    It probably does have a direct relation to the way individual objectives have led to “our” Modern World.

  • bobby b

    After a brisk game of ullamaliztli – the national Aztec sport – the winning team would all have their hearts ripped from their bodies in homage to the gods.

    This was one of the few civilizations which did not benefit militarily from its organized games for young men.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    So it payed to be a loser, in Aztecland! Wonder if that attitude filtered into modern Mehico?

  • bobby b

    It really put a whole different take on the end-zone dance. You’d only get one good one.

  • Alisa

    In what other cultures have there been such spontaneous social activities for the objectives of the individual participants?

    RRS, as you are probably well-aware, soccer has been played all over the world spontaneously and informally – for many decades, if not well over a century.

    Also, what individual objectives?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa,

    To be clear, I am not RRS *g* and certainly can’t speak for him; nor have I ever played basketball, not even in gym class, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to sign the contract with the Chicago Bulls when Mr. Jordan left a vacant slot, as I had to wash my hair that day.

    Still, it seems to me that the individual objectives that pick-up players hold include the sense of mastery when a play, or even merely a ploy, is successful; the sheer pleasure of physical movement that they experience; the sense that nothing of truly mammoth proportions is riding on the individual’s performance, beyond his own hopes for himself; simply the enjoyment of doing something that the player loves; sometimes at least, the knowledge that he will be acting in the company of others who, similarly, have their own non-cosmic motives.

    Also, for the pros who may turn up at such games, it’s a chance to practice in a different setting, which I imagine would enhance their professional performances as well.

    I daresay all that is obvious, but personally the issue would never have occurred to me, without the input from the Karp series I mentioned.

    “But,” one may say, “aren’t those things among the individual player’s objectives when he plays professionally?” –Well, one hopes so, on the theory that delight in executing one’s professional duties is a major part of one’s reward for his career choice. And of course, there are the money and perks and adulation, always welcome I daresay (at least the money part).

    But the professional activity exists only because in that venue, basketball is a team sport, and the point is to win (Lombardi!), come what may. And there is a coach for strategizing at various points — far less chance for free-form play in which the individual makes his own decisions on what to do.

    So, here the emphasis is on The Good of the Team, as far as actual play goes: which means, insofar as the player’s actions are necessarily directed toward that end, which takes precedence over the player’s personal satisfaction in his professional play, however desirable that may be to him personally.

    Thus my conjecture. I could of course be entirely wrong … but is this so different from the situations of musicians, amateur or professional, who play together as chance or the moment allows, pick-up style, vs. those of professional or semi-professional players in symphony or chamber-music set performances?

  • RRS

    Alisa,

    “Individual objectives” may not be the most adroit articulation, but what I have in mind is something like singing that is done for its impulse from the individual, not for any relationships with others as (e.g.)listeners.

  • RRS

    As to “Soccer;” like almost all games except Polo[?] and maybe an earier form of tennis, seem to have originated in the British or American cultures – particularly Naismith’s Basket Ball for indoors.

  • Alisa

    Thanks for clarifying, RRS.

    I know about soccer origins, but origins of any one of the many particular games spontaneously and informally played by many people around the world hardly come into it. One could even argue to the contrary, that only the in English-speaking world have the team ball games transformed into highly organized formal affairs, and only then have they been imported by other, non-English and non-Western cultures – although personally I wouldn’t read too much into that either.

  • Jamesg

    When I was a student I got mugged by a group of local kids. Later that day, in the equivalent of ‘pick up soccer’ the same group of kids turned up and me and my friends started playing footie with them. They clearly didn’t recognise me and I whispered to each of my friends that these were the kids that had threatened me with a metal pole a few hours before and taken my loose change. The game went on for quite a while until I thought this is too surreal and left.

  • RRS

    Alisa,

    I cited Alan Mcfarlane, for his notice to a Chinese “academic” audience of the cultural significance of “games” and individual participation as a differentiating factor in cultures.

    Mcfarlane is one of the few who have focused on the records of individuality (his term: “Individualism”) in the evolution of Western cultures. McCloskey does not seem to give much importance to individuality (and its expressions; Oakeshott does , but sees it as emerging, receding and suppressed (over periods).

    Perhaps we can observe in the “institutionalization” of “games” into MLB, NFL, and “World” Football, etc. how they ultimately atrophy into something quite different from what invited or resulted from the satisfactions of individual objectives in participation.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Every individual who has ever played pickup basketball can enumerate the rules for forming a team, playing, and interacting regardless of location, age or ethnicity- African Americans in the poorest sections of Harlem play by the same pickup rules as do those on the playgrounds of the whitest, richest suburbs in America.

    “play by the same pickup rules”? Bullshit. I’ve played plenty of pick up basketball. The rules differ very widely; I’ve played everything from no blood no foul streetball to strict enforcement of minimal contact. And everything in between. There’s a lot in between.

    And yes, I’ve played with highly diverse crowds – sometimes I’ve been the only white guy (and didn’t even know anyone I was playing with) and other times it’s been only rich white dudes. And again, everything in between.

    The article is wrong about many, many things:

    The process begins when 10 or more players gather on any given public court, as basketball is a 5-on-5 sport

    Not always. Usually starts 3v3.

    The first two individuals to make a three-pointer will be the team captains, and will then take turns picking their players.

    lel

    There’s no “taking turns picking their players” in streetball. You wanna play – you get a team together. Sometimes you have friends on your team; usually they’re strangers.

    After teams are selected, team captains negotiate for a scoring mechanism as well as the winning point total

    “negotiate for a scoring mechanism”? Is this a joke? If not then the writer should spend an afternoon in the Bronx to get reacquainted with reality.

    Fouls are called purely on an honor system, with the person being fouled usually calling the foul verbally as it occurs

    Well, sometimes this is true. But most of the time a third party has to call it or it’s no blood no foul.