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Sunday, June 14, 2009
Iran on the Mind


Regular people all over the world mostly want the same things: Some dignity, a roof over their heads, hope for their children, good drinking water, and a reasonable shot at success.

That's why you'll never convince me that there are groups of millions of people who are just, you know, bad.

That's how Iran has been portrayed in America sometimes, and that's how America is often portayed in Iran. But if you talk to people who have been to Iran, they'll tell you that despite the rhetoric of politicians and extremists, the vast majority of Iranians are easy to know and like.

There are a zillion such stories. (For instance.)

This evening, I'm lucky enough to be in Orlando, watching great basketball. But I'm very aware that in Iran, a lot of those regular Iranians are in a very tense situation indeed. Cars on fire, students beaten, leaders arrested, tanks in the streets, communications and electricity dispensed politically ... As a regular person, I can't help but feel a little like this entertainment endeavor is not the most important thing happening on the planet right now.

Iran is a country as big as Alaska, with a population more than twice that of Canada. Here's to hoping they get things sorted out quickly and without too much bloodshed.

In the NBA, one of the people watching things most closely is the owner of the Utah Flash, Brandt Andersen. The Flash hosted the Iranian National team in Utah last year, and was scheduled to visit Iran this past Memorial Day, but the trip has been postponed.

I spoke to Andersen this afternoon, and he makes clear that his mission is not political at all. It's almost the opposite -- sports, he points out, are a way for regular people to get along without involving politics.

He just wrote on his blog:

I have always believed that sports can help to soften differences. At the age of 11 I moved to Bordeaux, France. I did not speak French, which made getting to know people and making friends very difficult. That all changed when I started playing basketball in a French league. I was no superstar, but as an American who played basketball I quickly made friends. My luck continued at school when I joined school teams. There was no political agenda on the court or on the field. I ended up making friends with kids from all over the world. This happened when I lived in France, it happened when I moved to Switzerland and in the US. In almost all cases these forged friendships started with a mutual love for sports.

Struggle often brings improvement. I hope that the struggle in Iran is one of those studies. For now the Flash will have to wait on our trip to Iran. Postponed but not cancelled.