Georgetown's basketball team had the best of intentions in making its trip to China. It really did.
Before leaving on its preseason tour of China, coach John Thompson III and his players sat down with a U.S. State Department official from the East Asian and Pacific Affairs bureau for a lesson on diplomacy.
The players took time to promote the trip by appearing in a series of humorous videos, one of which had them trying to order oolong tea on campus and pay with Chinese yuan.
Before the Hoyas' game on Wednesday in Beijing, Vice President Joe Biden and newly appointed Ambassador to China Gary Locke visited with the team after which freshman Jabril Trawick tweeted about Biden, "He's a real funny & good dude!"
Just one day later, though, there was ugliness in the form of a benches-clearing, chair-waving, bottle-throwing brawl between Georgetown and the Bayi Rockets. As video of the incident (courtesy of SportsGrid) showed, things got so completely out of control that Georgetown left the court for good.
It's undoubtedly an unfortunate episode for a Georgetown program that has a long history of international engagement. John Thompson, the father of the current coach, took his team to tour Taiwan in 1976 and Israel in 1993.
After the Hoyas lost in an exhibition to the Chinese national team in Washington in 1978, Thompson told the Washington Post, "The game program had a saying, 'friendship first, competition second,' and we took it literally."
Georgetown's game on Thursday didn't show signs of friendship.
But make no mistake about it: NCAA basketball will keep a presence in emerging basketball markets.
Duke is there right now showing off its new-look team in front of adoring fans and a television audience. So is Hawaii, which last week had a wild postgame scene of its own captured on video.
In this scene provided by Warrior Insider, the Hawaii players are treated like rock stars after they lost an exhibition game in the final seconds. Fans couldn't get enough of the Warriors -- pulling them aside for hugs and photos.
Indeed, American basketball players are typically respected in China, and one day, more Chinese players could be looking to play for American schools. Just this week, Fresno State announced the addition of a 6-foot-8 forward it believes to be the first Chinese player to make the jump to Division I before first getting acclimated at an American prep school or junior college. Hawaii, which has had Chinese players at its program in the past, wants to go even further.
“When the next Yao Ming is looking for a place to play college ball in America, we want the University of Hawaii to be the first place he thinks of," Hawaii coach Gib Arnold told Warrior Insider. "And getting our name out on a trip like this can only help toward that goal."
So after watching Thursday's international incident, let's keep it all in perspective. Whether the fighting was caused by cultural misunderstandings or downright overaggressiveness, college basketball's international appeal isn't going away in China, where the World University Games are currently being held.
It's sad if the brawl in Beijing leads anyone to believe that.