By Ron Coody
Good ole' James A. Naismith. Don't feel too bad if his name doesn't ring a bell. You still undoubtedly know him by his enduring gift to local and international sports. He invented the game basketball.
James Naismith, himself a gifted athlete, wanted to make a positive difference in the world. His first steps in that direction took the form of theology studies, thinking that he might become a minister. In the early 1890's he held a post in the Young Men's Christian Association Training school in Springfield, Massachusetts. During this period he began to sense that his desire to help young people develop strong, moral character might better be served by his athletic rather than his pastoral gifts. (He also later became a M.D.) At the same time he received an invitation to work at Springfield College. The school needed an interesting and healthy game for the students to play indoors during the long winters. Naismith gave them a slam dunk.
Okay, Hoosiers didn't invent basketball, but no one else loves the game in quite the same way. And what better game could a person love?
Naismith probably did not guess the level of popularity his game would reach. The upcoming 2002 World Basketball Championship for Men in Indianapolis (August 29-September 8) testifies that this game can even bring nations together on a friendly basis. For more info or tickets check out the official web site at www.2002worldbasketball.com.
The teams headed to Indianapolis have proved they know how to play with enough fervor and fury to endear them to the most seasoned Hoosier fan. Along with their prowess on the court, these international guests will also provide exhibits of their native cultures during the course of the tournament. For example, representatives traveling with the Turkish team will perform folk dances and music, offer traditional cuisine and give Hoosiers a personal introduction to their country.
Basketball probably won't settle the world's problems, but this fall in Indianapolis it will certainly give Americans and peoples from dozens of other countries a great chance to reach across the divide. Naismith would be proud.