It's been almost a week since former wrestling promoter (and there's Red Flag No. 1 right there) Don Lewis decided America was craving the basketball of the 1930s, right down to the crewcuts, the short shorts and, yes, the color line, and a fascinating thing happened.
The story died. Died dead. Everyone laughed at it, except for the people who hated it and then laughed at it. And the people who hated it and wondered how such an offensive idea would ever get traction, and then laughed at it.
It was a civilized nation in action, a sign that America does work when we only take the time to craft the right set of responses, namely:
Racism is evil. Racism is also stupid. Racism needs to be fought, and stupidity needs to be mocked. Mockery is a form of fighting. And the nation is better for it.
The All-American Basketball Alliance, as it was called by Moose (yes, he goes by Moose) Lewis, would return us to a time when there were fundamentals, and passing, and devotion to duty, no thuggery, no melanin.
Which -- once you get past the original point, which is that he either is a racist of the 1930s variety or wants to tap into the 1930s racist market -- really is more stupid than evil.
And because people figured that out, the idea shriveled in a cascade of disgust, laughter and jokes about "Do black folks only have to pay three-fifths of the price of admission?"
For one, the notion that only whites understand fundamental basketball basically denies the existence of the Boston Celtics of the 1950s, a neat trick in and of itself given that the Celtics -- Bill Russell, Sam and K.C. Jones, Satch Sanders as well as Bob Cousy, John Havlicek and Frank Ramsay -- are still the shining light of that "fundamental" basketball.
For two, basketball has been fully integrated for 60 years now, which means Lewis' target audience seems to be racists aged 75 and up, a subset of people who are largely either dead, infirm, crazy or reclusive. In short, anyone who thinks basketball was better in the old all-white days is either no longer among us or stopped liking basketball during the Eisenhower administration, which means there cannot possibly be an audience for Lewis' idea.
For three, anyone who has spent any time reading about the history of the NBA knows that there were regular on-court fistfights between players, coaches and fans in the '40s. The "Malice in the Palace" riot, in other words, was a fairly common occurrence back in the "good old days." In other words, Lewis is selling nostalgia for a time in which all the things he says white folks hate were routine.
And for four, he tried to start another basketball league nine years earlier that was integrated, but it failed at birth. He wanted to recreate, if such a thing ever existed, a new ABA, only with crossovers to "the best of the Harlem Globetrotters, the XFL and its cheerleaders, and pro wrestling." In other words, this guy is nuts.
Or he's perpetrating the lamest hoax ever, since everything about it reeks not so much of evil as it does stupidity. Evil is subtle, pervasive and to be truly feared, while stupidity issues a news release the day before Martin Luther King's birthday to announce a whites-only basketball league that nobody ever asked for, needs or would ever consider spending money to nurture.
And because Lewis' background is in pro wrestling, the chance that this is just an elaborate publicity stunt ("Look at me belittling black people with my pants at my ankles!") crossed more than a few minds.
But the point here is that people figured it out fairly quickly, confronted it with the derision and mockery it deserved, and now the story is gone, dead for lack of air.
Of course, maybe Lewis is serious, at which point he will find out just how quickly people can shift from laughter to action. But we doubt it. The All-American Basketball Alliance is too stupid to be evil, even if it is a hoax, and stupidity requires a more measured response.
Or a more appropriate release date. Like, say, April 1.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.