Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Basketball on a Football Field

Basketball Played on a Football Field
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, October 24, 2023, p. A6

“How ‘bout that Iowa women’s basketball team!” Playing basketball on a football field – and before a crowd of 55,000 no less.

Where will they perform next? Perhaps a Broadway theater? There’s been real basketball on stage recently. My son in law, Jason, recently played the foul-mouth coach in the basketball play, “The Great Leap.” [Photo credit: Iowa Women's Basketball Twitter/X page.]

Maybe they could play basketball on the Moon – or inside a modified Space Station.

How far women have come since the fight for Title IX began in 1972. Iowa’s Christine Grant spent much of her life effectively responding to the male opposition that continues to this day – leadership producing benefits beyond Iowa to the nation and world.

Clearly the highlight of the sports law class I taught was the hour she was willing to come and mesmerize the students.

No one else was willing to teach sports law and I felt, when students are begging to learn something, a faculty has an obligation to respond.

My teaching it was otherwise a peculiar choice. In a small high school (U-High) a six-foot-three, 195-pound male was required to participate in all sports: football, basketball and track. In Austin I was urged to play football for Texas. (I declined.) I liked the Green Bay Packers primarily because of its non-profit public ownership.

In my Washington jobs I thought the demands required a self-imposed “maximum work product per unit time” (something I’m not proud of).

And so it was, when reading the L.A. Times on a return to Washington, I flipped over the sports section to the business pages. Though unmarried at the time, I hadn’t noticed or spoken to a woman my age next to me. A tap on my shoulder. “Yes,” I responded. “Would you marry me?” she asked. “Anything’s possible,” I replied, “but the plane is full of men more handsome and wealthy. Why me?” “All my life,” she said, “I’ve been looking for a man who doesn’t read the sports pages.”

As Maritime Administrator during the Vietnam war, I had some responsibility for “sealift” of military materiel, using refurbished World War II cargo ships. Although based in Washington I needed to visit our office in Saigon. The White House requested that, while there, I write up my observations about the war.

The startling lesson I learned was that whatever one thinks about wars in general, there are times, places and circumstances when they are impossible to stage.

For example, when locals have lived through centuries of invaders and we’re just the latest; it’s an ongoing civil war; we don’t know the native language, history, culture, or tribal relationships; we wear uniforms but our enemies don’t; we can’t distinguish enemies from the locals we employ; our efforts increase rather than decrease chaos; and there’s no frontline, as territory is gained only to be lost again.

And what’s this got to do with women’s basketball?

I had summed up my report with the concluding line, “You can’t play basketball on a football field.”

Nicholas Johnson is a fan of Iowa women’s basketball, no matter where played. Contact mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org
Basketball on football field. Photo of Kinnick Stadium on Iowa Women’s Basketball Twitter/X page, Oct. 15, 2023, https://twitter.com/intent/follow?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1713635989443211478%7Ctwgr%5E65118809a1d92563651fedba1888f0a1f4bba9ac%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.si.com%2Fcollege%2F2023%2F10%2F15%2Fiowa-womens-basketball-game-kinnick-stadium-coolest-scenes&screen_name=IowaWBB (scroll down about 2/3ds of page)

Madison Williams, “The Coolest Scenes From Iowa Women’s Basketball Game at School’s Football Stadium,” Sports Illustrated, Oct. 15, 2023, https://www.si.com/college/2023/10/15/iowa-womens-basketball-game-kinnick-stadium-coolest-scenes

On-stage basketball and “The Great Leap.” Ben Brantley, “Review: Basketball Meets Tiananmen Square in ‘The Great Leap,’” New York Times, June 4, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/04/theater/the-great-leap-review-bd-wong.html

A.A. Cristi, ”Farmers Alley Theatre's Regional Premiere Production Of THE GREAT LEAP; The time: 1989. An American college basketball team travels from San Francisco to Beijing for a ‘friendship game’ against a Chinese squad,” Broadway World, Jan 5, 2023, https://www.broadwayworld.com/michigan/article/Farmers-Alley-Theatres-Regional-Premiere-Production-Of-THE-GREAT-LEAP-20230105 (“Our production stars . . . Jason Grubbe (as the hard-driving American coach ‘Saul’) . . ..”)

Title IX. “History of Title IX,” Women’s Sports Foundation, https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/advocacy/history-of-title-ix/

Christine Grant. Josh O’Leary, “How Christine Grant Changed the Game; On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the University of Iowa celebrates the legacy of the athletics administrator who helped level the playing field nationally and sparked a women's sports revolution,” Iowa Magazine, Feb. 15, 2022, https://magazine.foriowa.org/story.php?ed=true&storyid=2168

Sports law class. Nicholas Johnson, “Sports-Related Online Resources,” last updated June 2017, https://www.nicholasjohnson.org/sports/sla12resources.html

Nicholas Johnson, “Syllabus; Sports Law, [91:346], University of Iowa College of Law, Iowa City, Iowa. Spring 2012,” https://www.nicholasjohnson.org/sla12/sla12syl.html

Table of Contents of Weiler 4xth edition casebook, https://www.nicholasjohnson.org/sla12/Weiler4th-TOC-full.pdf

Green Bay Packers. “Green Bay Packers, Inc.,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Bay_Packers,_Inc. (“Green Bay Packers, Inc. is the publicly held nonprofit corporation that owns the National Football League (NFL)'s Green Bay Packers football franchise, based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The corporation was established in 1923 as the Green Bay Football Corporation, and received its current legal name in 1935.

The Packers are the only publicly owned major professional sports franchise in the United States.[1] Rather than being the property of an individual, partnership, or corporate entity, they are held as of 2022 by 537,460 stockholders.[2] No one is allowed to hold more than 200,000 shares,[3] which represents approximately four percent of the 5,011,558 shares currently outstanding.[4] It is this broad-based community support and non-profit structure[5] which has kept the team in Green Bay for over a century in spite of being the smallest market in all of North American major professional sports.[a]”)

“Will you marry me?” There is no source for this story other than the memory, seemingly firmly implanted in some neurons. For the curious, there is no memory of what happened thereafter, aside from the absence of any record of our marriage. I’m assuming there was nothing worth remembering from any subsequent conversation during that flight, and relatively confident we never saw each other again.

Maritime Administration. For a description of how I came to be Maritime Administrator, see, “Thinking Outside the Cubicle: Business Skills in a Wider World,” Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity, University of Iowa, Nov. 9, 2005, https://www.nicholasjohnson.org/writing/akp51109.html (scroll down to the four sections beginning with the heading “Called to the White House”).

“National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF); American Ships. American Crews. American Jobs.” Updated March 26, 2022, https://www.maritime.dot.gov/national-defense-reserve-fleet (“As part of its Strategic Sealift operations, MARAD manages and maintains a fleet of inactive, Government-owned vessels known as the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF), which provides a reserve of approximately 100 vessels -- mostly military-useful cargo and tanker ships -- ready to support national defense and emergencies. The NDRF also includes the military-focused Ready Reserve Force (RRF) and facilitates vessel loans, donations, and disposals, as well as artifact management and merchant marine training.”)

“The Maritime Administration’s First 100 Years: 1916 – 2016,” U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration,” last updated Feb. 25, 2022, https://www.maritime.dot.gov/history/historical-documents-and-resources/maritime-administration%E2%80%99s-first-100-years-1916-%E2%80%93-2016 (“During the Vietnam War, 172 NDRF vessels supported sealift operations and transported military cargo to Southeast Asia between July 1965 and June 1970. The majority of the NDRF ships activated during the war were World War II-era Victory ships, and activating the old vessels was one MARAD’s biggest challenges. Further complicating matters was the largescale ship activation required to coincide with the sudden troop escalation in Vietnam; between July and December 1965 MARAD activated 76 ships. MARAD employed shipyards on every coast to help activate ships that had not operated in years.”)

Vietnam. Nicholas Johnson, “The Futility of War and the Path to Peace,” Remarks on Armistice Day, November 11, 2018, 11:00 a.m., Veterans for Peace, Chapter 161 event, Pentacrest, Iowa City, Iowa, https://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2018/ (scroll down page to find text, and then, within it, the sub-heading “First, Lessons From Vietnam”)

“Viet Cong Uniform,” National Museum of American History, Smithsonian, https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1272957 (“The Viet Cong were a guerilla force that fought against the United States and South Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict. Viet Cong could be a farmer, a woman, or a child and they were indistinguishable from the United States' South Vietnam allies. They used makeshift weapons, had a variety of uniforms, and avoided traditional combat, making it difficult to know who exactly the enemy was. Their orders came from the North Vietnam Communist party.”)

White House-requested report and concluding line. I cannot recall, and so far as I know there is no record of, who in the White House passed along this request. Nor do I know where, if anywhere, there might be a copy of that report. I do not have a copy. I do recall including that final line, thinking it a good way to make my point in a context that should be entirely understandable to anyone.

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