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    Dance vs. Hoops

    Some very, very serious thoughts about Arts Funding.

    by Bill Ross

      Like the perpetual rising and falling of the curtain, the debate over the proper role of government in supporting the arts is one that will never come to rest. But before discussing whether the Feds and states should even be funding the arts, while there are still some arts left, it might be instructive to first ask ourselves what value the arts have in our own lives.

      Perhaps we can make some strides towards calculating that value by comparing dance, one of the artiest of the arts and heavily dependent on handouts, with basketball, a fast-growing young sport which requires no federal funding. (True, pro sports owners will continue to angle for taxpayer-funded stadiums; but note that we specified it requires no funding.)

      To definitively compare the game of basketball with the art of dance, we need only look at the Spin. When a dancer twirls around two or three times, what has really been accomplished by this action? Yes, fans have reported sensations of excitement or upliftment; but as we know, the testimony of ordinary folk can't be believed - eyewitnesses are regularly unable to agree on the most obvious details of events, etc. So all a spin move in dance can show for itself is a lot of fuzzy, circumstantial evidence.

      In basketball, on the other hand, when the performer spins around, it is to put the ball through the hoop, or to deliver the ball to one of his teammates for an open shot. The value of that spin is quantifiable - it is potentially worth two points, and maybe an assist. Further, if that spin, that head fake, that shake-and-bake does not get you a good look at the basket, or the first step so you can blow by your man for the easy lay-up, ultimately taking a bad shot and missing, you are considered to have lost your team two points.

      Thus, a move to the basket can be evaluated as a success or a failure, which increases the sport's accountability to the public. Further, when you score, you win the game, become a star, sign a big endorsement deal, make money, create jobs, which in turn stimulates capital investment and generally fertile conditions for widespread economic growth. Just remember to work on your free throws.

      Dance lacks this clear demarcation of value, and due to this, sufficient popularity to survive as a business. How many gym shoes did Mikhail Baryshnikov ever move? Not just compared with basketball's All-Time Sales Champion, Mikhail Jordan, but almost any NBA player? It logically follows that once Congress finally, completely pulls the plug , dancers should turn to gymnastics, martial arts, or modeling, and help get this economy back on track.

      It's the same case with music; listeners purport to "feel" things from the music, even though sound vibrations can only be physically detected from unnaturally boosted bass; to have emotional experiences, and even claim insights and understanding can come from listening to music. Absurd! If people "understood" anything through music, how would performers like Britney and Madonna ever have found an audience?

      Now, with a Battle of the Bands, there you're on the right track - there we're talking about spoiled winners (because the spoils go to them,) and sore losers. In this arena, the emphasis is off elitist, purely musical considerations and vain emoting, and more healthily focused on striving and competition, crowd-pleasing stunts, etc.

      If the arts survive, let's at least appoint someone to head up the National Endowment for the Arts with an orientation that'll really turn the ship around. Our candidate is available now, working only as a rude, egotistical television commentator. He's a solid Republican, with political aspirations, public recognition, and plenty of relevant experience: Charles Barkley.

      © 2005 by Bill Ross

      (Permission is given to reproduce this article
      with attribution and a link.  Thank you.)








      (As long as we're on the subject of the basketball business --

      (We still hear people referring to the "strike" that turned the '98-99 season into the only the "-'99" (or "asterisk") season. We hate to get technical about such matters, but that wasn't a player strike - it was an owner lockout, remember?

      (We agree, of course, that the star players make a truly absurd amount of money. But why is it that people don't complain as much about owner profits as they do about player salaries? Would the owners pay those salaries if they didn't make a profit overall? And, more importantly, does anyone go and pay those outrageous ticket prices to watch the owners deal?)


      Of related interest:

      Phil Jackson for President!

      With his running mate, from North Ca-a-a-arolina... HE CAN'T LOSE!

      Greatest Names in Sports

      It's always those same names playing and winning, no matter how unlikely it looks

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