From January through April of 2011, I taught for the first time an undergraduate course at the University of Michigan called “Cultures of Basketball.” From the first day, the experience was much more than I bargained for. I knew going in that basketball, which I began to play at a very young age and continue to play and to follow to this day, was emotionally important to me. And I guessed that it would be emotionally important to my students. But I wrongly assumed that these emotions could be managed so as to lend just a bit of energy to a primarily intellectual enterprise. Instead, the course became a rollicking, sometimes overwhelming, adventure; a not always successful experiment in trying to focus on our academic subject with intellectual seriousness while accommodating unpredictable surges of emotional intensity and unexpected attention from bloggers and journalists around the world, all culminating in a three on three tournament initiated and organized by the students themselves.
I hadn’t planned on keeping a course diary. But after writing the first entry just as a means to cope with the surprising emotional intensity of the first day, I found myself eager to maintain the practice. Over time, as you will see, the emphases in the entry for any given day began to vary, shifting from narrative’s of the day’s events to emotional introspection, from considerations on basketball history viewed through the lenses of literature and philosophy to reflections on the challenges, failures, and successes of teaching.
I’m currently working on a book called: Loving the Art of Game: A Historical Guide to Freeing the Life in Basketball.