It’s the off-season; which means it is the necessary time to look beyond the effective field goal % of Gordon Hayward (as important as that is) and get existential. We need to stop and look at our reflection in the Zoolandic puddle on the ground and ask, "Who am I?"
Nothing gets me in the mood for existential pontifications like one of my regular trips across the bitter sea to China (wait, you don’t have to change diapers like a sucker, you can just have a slit in the undies and hold the kids over a garbage can; wait you can actually field an entire basketball team that plays like John Crotty copying Allen Iverson; etc.). Having just returned from one of said business trips, I thought it might be interesting for the obsessive community that is SLC Dunk to hear some outside perspectives on our team.
I’m going to list 3 different translated interactions with native Chinese wherein the topic of our conversation involved the Utah Jazz.
Interaction the First -
Long-Hair Mole Man: Are you American?
LHMM: Where in America?
Me: Utah, it’s near Las Vegas (That is usually the only city they know that is nearby)
LHMM: Oh, like the Utah Jazz (he shadow shoots a ball)
Me: Nice. You got it.
LHMM: Didn’t McGrady leave there to play for the Rockets? (They love him in China)
Me: Nope. Thank goodness.
Things go quiet.
Me: You like the Rockets and Lakers, right?
LHMM: Yes! Kobe is great.
Me: It is actually a Utah state law that we can’t publicly like the Rockets or the Lakers. So sorry I can’t agree with you.
LHMM: Really? Not even Kobe? (I was surprised how easily he accepted this as fact)
Me: Yep, my brother has been in jail for 10 years because he wore a Kobe shirt downtown.
Then we both laugh.
Interaction the Second -
Me: Excuse me, do you know where Zhiqiang beiyuan lu is?
Shy Business-Suit Man: No. Maybe that way.
Me: Okay. Thanks
SBSM: Are you European?
Me: Nope. I’m from America.
SBSM: Where are you from in American?
SBSM: Like the Utah Jazz?
Me: Yes. I love the Jazz.
SBSM: I hate the Jazz (now appearing not so shy)
Me: Why? How can you hate the Jazz?
AngryBSM: They cost me 20,000 RMB.
Me: (laughing) Did you bet against them or for them?
ABSM: Against them. When the Rockets had Yao Ming and McGrady and they played in the playoffs.
Me: You know it wasn’t the Jazz’s fault you bet on a team that never passed.
Visibly FlusteredBSM: But the Rockets were just so much better! And the Jazz were just so average.
Me: Hey, the Jazz have been good for a long time. Why were so surprised?
VFBSM: But they just always lose.
Me: They’ve actually won a lot, but just have never won a championship. Mcgrady is the one that always loses.
SuspiciousBSM: The Jazz fouled Mcgrady always. I think the NBA wanted the Jazz to win.
DefensiveBSM: I’m serious. You go watch the video, I’ve got it recorded.
Me: (Still laughing) My friend, we say the same thing when when the Jazz lose. I’m sorry you lost 20,000 RMB, but that probably wasn’t the best life decision you’ve ever made.
Me: Walk Slow, Friend. And never bet against the Utah Jazz! (finger in the air)
Interaction the Third -
(High Speed Train from Beijing to Guangzhou; approximately 8 hours)
JadedBridgeEngineer: Going to Guangzhou?
JBE: Where are you from?
JBE: Where in America.
JBE: Utah Jazz.
JBE: I like the Spurs.
Me: Really? I’ve never heard any Chinese person say they like the Spurs.
JBE: Basketball is a team sport; it should be played like a team. A lot of people in China like Kobe and Jordan. But they are not athletic. So they still like to play like them, but are awful at it.
Me: I very much agree with you. Did you know that the Spurs emulated the Utah Jazz.
JBE: Why would they do that? They are way better than the Jazz.
Me: Well…yeah, but before they were good they used us as a model.
JBE: Like with Karl Malone and John Stockton that time.
Me: Wow. You know your stuff. Yeah, back then.
JBE: You know it is the Jazz’s fault that everyone Chinese person wants to be like Michael Jordan.
Me: How is that the Jazz’s fault?
JBE: If they didn’t play so bad Michael Jordan wouldn’t be such a ball-god (literal translation, doesn’t sound so bad in Chinese)
Me: Karl Malone and John Stockton were two of the best players ever.
JBE: Stockton didn’t ever do anything and all Karl Malone ever did was throw elbows.
Visibly Flustered Me: You take that back. I’ll throw an elbow right into your jaw. (laughs)John Stockton has the record for assists and steals and is just the best—you really need watch more videos on Stockton. And Karl Malone is the second leading scorer in the NBA history.
JBE (laughs): But he couldn’t make a free throw.
VFMe: He shot like 70 something percent. And he got to the free throw line all the time. Like more than anyone.
JBE: But it is a free throw shot. How do you miss free throws?
DefensiveMe: Lots of people miss free throws (pitiful excuse)
JBE: Because couldn’t make a free throw Michael Jordan became who he is. They made Michael Jordan into the monster he is in China today.
ConfusedMe: Sorry, did you say monster?
JBE: Yeah, Monster. He ruined the game of basketball in China.
Me: Wow. You really hate him, maybe even more than most Jazz fans. I used to really dislike him after we lost, but I’ve since just come to terms with the fact that was actually just really good. And we lost because he was really good.
JBE: Because Malone didn’t free throw shots.
Me: I guess that too. Do you want me to apologize on behalf of the Jazz.
Me: I’m sorry the Jazz inadvertently ruined the game of basketball in China.
JBE: (Nods and smiles)
As you can see our existence is defined in China by our negative role in relationship to some other cool-jock team. Is it better to be infamous or insignificant? I’ll take infamy I suppose. I would hope someday in the future, however, that we could be a team that is defined by our own success. And I hope Andrew Wiggins becomes the next Jordan and that Derek Favors blocks his buzzer-beater to win the finals. And I hope the Jazz at minimum add just a lick of scrap this season. I can bear many losses if an Adam Keefe gets a bloody nose off of some unathletic play to get a loose ball. And lastly, I hope that the Jaded Bridge Engineer downloads a VPN so he can get around the great firewall of China and watch YouTube videos of John Stockton playing Jason Williams into a 12-year-old school boy—I know that is the first I do when I get back to the States.