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Basketball North and South

Honestly, Beckley Mason and Ethan Sherwood Strauss at HoopSpeak dedicate the most obvious of their writing efforts to laugh lines, and photoshopping Paul Krugman's head onto the head of a monster.

But their minds are intricate, and floating in the stew of their conversations are some chunks that floated up from the way deep.

For instance, in their latest edition of Mama there goes that Meme, they started out talking about contraction, but Strauss quickly gets into the politics of North, South, black and white that appear to govern how sports fans see professional basketball.

He references research that shows most sports fans are predominantly Republican, but NBA fans are a notable exception. The stands at NBA games are filled with people who are, on average, well left of football and baseball fans. It is also noted that the NBA has kept the D-League from the dozen states in the Southeast corner of the U.S. That leads to some talk about why NBA teams that do poorly at the box office skew South, (or, are you know, the Sixers). Strauss writes:

I’d cite Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels (by way of Paul Krugman), who made the case that white men as a whole have not fled the post-1960′s Democratic party: The demographic’s donkey departure is confined to the regional South.

Regardless of how you feel about Red vs. Blue, Democratic civil rights support was the major propulsion behind this Southern political shift. And it leaves us with an odd situation where disproportionately black states vote against the Democrats, whom black people tend to vote for.

Contrary to popular urban myth, the majority of poor white Southerners don’t vote Republican -- upper Southern classes overwhelmingly do, enough to swing elections. And the middle-to-upper classes comprise a great percentage of a team’s viewership, and an even greater percentage of its attendance base. My uncle used to say “Vote with your feet, vote with your wallet.” Buy an NBA ticket and you’re making an unconscious social statement about who you are and how you likely vote.

Perhaps politics and race have nothing to do with hoop in this modern era of African American presidential leadership. But, “bad” basketball towns mostly exist in a certain region. The Grizzlies, Bobcats and Hornets often wither on death watch. The Hawks have had team success amid numbing local apathy.

This issue is more complex than “racism.” Tradition, tribal identity, and subconscious thought patterns are involved. But it shouldn’t shock us that a league constantly at war with unfair depictions of “thugs” and “gangsters,” finds ears deafest below the Mason-Dixon portal. As for Philly, I don’t know. Philadelphia does have something in common with Memphis, New Orleans and Atlanta, though: African Americans make up the city’s largest ethnic group.