I am a Bill Simmons fan. Many of the conceits that I have used when writing in the past have been directly stolen from him, like the Running Diary of 2012 Olympic Final. Others have been directly inspired by him, like the Spike! Interactive Guide to Doug Beal book Spike!. Mostly though I am inspired by his absolute, unadulterated love of basketball in general but the NBA in particular.
This afternoon I was listening to a podcast of his in which he talked about how the NBA, under the leadership of David Stern, actively embraced the history of the league to create a community that ultimately becomes self sustaining. A huge part of this strategy has been the use of past players. Old stars have been promoted individually as part of history the league, and the history, with its old stars, is then used to validate the and promote the current league. The NBA looks after its old players when they are in trouble and uses them as ‘Ambassadors’ to be introduced to fans in Arenas and interviewed on TV.
Which brings me to volleyball. I have written countless times that volleyball as a sport has such a poor regard for its history, and by extension its old stars. Apart from some appearances by Giba, even recently retired players are not widely known. One of the amusing occurrences I often have is talking to a Canadian or German or (there are a few) professional player who knows nothing about their own National Team history.
History, and specifically shared history, is what creates communities. Volleyball fans may have some connection to their local teams through local history, but globally we don’t have those touchstones in the same way that NBA fans do. To promote volleyball, celebrate its history and build not just new stars but old ones as well.
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