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Friday, December 16, 2005

Not-so proud moments in knob-slobbering journalism

I hear the 1936 Olympics ran smoothly. Hitler liked children and his dog Blondie. What a cute name, "Blondie".

Much is said of Hitler's dog, Blondie, who "meant a lot to him. He was immensely proud that she obeyed him." But gradually Junge recognised this was an abnormal man.

I wonder what clued her in?

On the parquet, 'Great Satan' plays for 'Axis of Evil'

Far be it from me to underestimate the importance of basketball. I love the hardwood, teamwork, defense, passing, dribbling, shooting, and dunking.

But articles like this make me want to search for articles about Hitler's Germany circa 1934. I'm sure some people liked him. That's a bit of a historical blindspot for me. I'm more familiar with Hitler taking power, what he legislated, ordered, and ultimately did to the world.

By Scott Peterson, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Thu Dec 15, 3:00 AM ET

TEHRAN, IRAN - During a time out, the Iranian basketball team huddles on the sidelines.

Amid the rising heat and scent of hard exertion, the Iranian coach tells the squad in English that he wants 30 points in the fourth quarter.

But from within the sweating cluster an excited American voice cuts in: "Let's win!" urges Texan Andre Pitts, who would lead the team to victory with 26 points. "Let's just win!"

In the quest to build a professional basketball league and bolster Iranian hoop skills, teams in the Islamic republic are paying top dollar ($15,000 a month or more) to lure players away from Europe and America, which is still sometimes called the "Great Satan." In the past two years, the number of Americans playing on parquet floors in the "Axis of Evil" has jumped from three to at least 18 in the 16-team league.

Along the way, something else has happened. The American players have become ambassadors of sorts, for both countries.

"People are people; and basketball people in America and Iran are the same," says Mr. Pitts, who is from Seguin, Texas. In the past seven years, he's played for teams in Syria, Lebanon, and now in Iran. "They really look after us a lot. My teammates are really good to me - in two years I have never had a problem. I get invited to their homes all the time."

Pitts plays for Saba Battery, which, ironically, is the team fielded by Iran's defense ministry. The other American on the team is Garth Joseph, a dual US-Dominican Republic citizen.

Together, the pair of talented foreigners shot 43 points on Sunday, well over half of those in Saba's nationally televised 77-71 defeat of team Peykan.

"We are sportsmen, not political men, and sport is a common language between all humans in the world," says Saeed Fathi, head coach of Peykan, which was the first team to import American talent, four years ago. "It's a good language," he adds.

Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, anti-American slogans have been a fixture of government-organized events. And Pitts's Iranian teammates say he was somewhat anxious about this when he arrived. But players of both nationalities say now that the first thing to fall away are the prejudices and misconceptions fostered by governments and the media.

"We clicked from Day One," says Pitts, who sports two diamond ear studs and headphones around his neck after a recent practice.

Living in Iran has taken some getting used to, however. Alcohol is forbidden, and there are no nightclubs. Players say that their American families worry - at least at the start - about their sons or brothers working in a country lead by a clerical regime that is vilified by Washington.

A "clerical regime...vilified by Washington"?

Why, it's like kicking Mother Teresa in the face with steel-toed boots.

But not everything is perfect in Mullah Land. Why, there's a ban on tatoos. Iran: like a nation with Conservative Christians in charge.

A ban on tattoos
While most here appreciate the American example, there are some aspects of the NBA that Iranian officials would prefer not to import.

Last month, the Iranian Basketball Federation banned its players from having tattoos, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported. "It has been noticed recently that some basketball players are copying foreign players and having themselves tattooed ... which is against the morals [of the Islamic republic] and unacceptable," the federation said. It called for players who have "committed such an act" to take rapid measures to "make them disappear so to avoid firmer measures" against them.

In dutiful compliance, during Sunday's game the Iranian Peykan center used strips of athletic tape to cover a large tattoo on his shoulder.

Of all the subjects - sharia, nuclear weapons program, stoning, flogging, executions, genocidal rhetoric, funding of terrorism, hostage takings, truck bombings, mine-sweeping children - Scott Peterson writes about basketball.

Remember Iran's children brigade sent out in front of regular troops to clear minefields during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war. The children were armed with Islamic fervor and promises of a place in paradise. Close to a million people died in that conflict.

This is the kind of adversary the United States military is likely to face in an open confrontation with Iran, if it ever comes to that. And now, with 148,000 American troops serving in Iraq, the U.S. finds itself sharing a 1,215-mile border with the Islamic Republic of Iran —a porous border across which thousands of Revolutionary Guards can easily infiltrate and instigate trouble.

This sort of 'journalism' makes me pine for the days CNN's Eason Jordan was covering up Saddam Hussein's murder plots and crimes against humanity.

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