Letters From London

Heaven On Earth

Heaven On Earth

London’s gay men scoop up the hot Olympic ticket, and a BBC basketball commentator gets very angry at a basketball.

By Ellie Gibson • August 10, 2012

Many of us on the Gameological crew like the Olympics. Eurogamer’s Ellie Gibson, on the other hand, does not care for them (or so she claims). Naturally, then, we’ve invited her to be the site’s sole correspondent for the London 2012 Olympics. She does live there, after all. During the two weeks of competition, Ellie will be providing periodic updates to her running diary of the Games, in a feature we’re calling Letters From London.

Thursday, August 9—Men’s basketball, Brazil vs. Argentina

Well, thanks a lot, Olympics. Britain was quite happy being miserable until a few weeks ago. Then you came along, with your tricksy winks and your fancy ways and your making us feel all united with the rest of humanity under one global banner of friendly competition and mutual respect. And soon you’ll be gone again, leaving us with nothing more than a broken heart and 15,000 portable toilets we don’t need.

I almost wish I’d bothered to get tickets for some of the events now. Especially since talking to my friend Jon, who went to see Iran and Russia compete at the Greco-Roman wrestling. He thoroughly enjoyed it, though he was a little mystified that the organizers had decided to accompany a celebration of this most classical of sports with music by Cheryl Cole and the Chemical Brothers.

“But that made it fun, and everyone had a lovely time,” Jon told me. “There were as many gay men from fashionable parts of East London as there were Iranians and Russians put together. It was a full-on party. They sold out of beer. Totally. In the first hour. It was like Heaven in 1996.” That’s Heaven, the legendary gay London nightspot, not actual heaven. Although perhaps that depends on your point of view.

As Jon put it: “The world’s oldest sport turned into a gay club night? London at its best, surely.”

I’ve had to be content with staying at home and watching the action on telly. Last night, I tuned in to watch Brazil play Argentina at basketball. As podcast listeners will know, I have a special connection with the Brazilian basketball team, having recently eaten lunch at a table adjacent to one of the player’s wives.

Up until last night, my entire experience of basketball extended to playing NBA Jam on the Super Nintendo with my brother in 1994. Imagine my surprise to learn that in the real sport, the players can move their arms into more than two different positions.

I also noticed they kept bouncing the ball in between throwing it around. I can only assume this is because they were adhering to some kind of rule, but it seems extraneous and showy-offy to me. It’s like the little hand twiddles the gymnasts do—we all know you can do that, now get on with the impressive stuff.

The game kept stopping and restarting for reasons I couldn’t fathom. I eventually concluded that the bouncing and the pauses are a smokescreen, designed to make spectators think the players are working hard when really they’re just fannying about and having little rests.

If you’re going to be lazy, at least be honest about it. This is why Britain invented cricket. A game of cricket is basically one long rest, punctuated with very small expenditures of energy by two or three people at a time.

The best matches are of course those that last for five days. That’s five days of lazing about in the sunshine, with tea, beer, and sandwiches on tap. With basketball, I’d imagine you daren’t go to the toilet for fear of missing some crucial moment. With cricket, you can grab a bite to eat, take in a movie, visit Ikea, give birth, whatever, and return to the match to find that nothing has happened.

I can’t remember who won the basketball game in the end. I was too tied up in the drama of the commentator’s outrage at being hit by a rogue ball. “Some idiot in the commentary’s throwing basketballs around!” he exclaimed. “What? Oh, it came from the court. Excuse me.” So it’s fine if you get smacked in the head by a professional, just not an amateur. I do not understand this sport.

“My head is all shook up,” the commentator went on. “I just took a basketball right to the side of my head. It crushed my headphones to the side of my ear.” Whatever, you big girl’s blouse. If this were a game of cricket, you’d be dead.

(Basketball arena photo: The UK Department For Culture, Media, And Sport)

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944 Responses to “Heaven On Earth”

  1. Effigy_Power says:

    I am constantly disappointed how little BBC commentators adhere to long-standing stereotypes of being British.

    “Now, look here, old chap. Someone’s knackered me with a ball and I’ll be damn well in a mood to challenge them to a duel. So, steady on there.”

    Something like that… instead they just curse like we do.
    -sigh- You just can’t depend on preconceived notions anymore…

    • Captain Internet says:

      “You just can’t depend on preconceived notions anymore…”

      It’s just progress. I mean, as an American, you’re clearly now sat in a saloon with your shootin’ irons, Stetson, and sippin’ whiskey, and yet you have access to WiFi.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I just put 30 pounds on the back of my pickup truck, so there’s plenty WiFi for the whole saloon.

        PS: I live in Canada now, so all of that, but with hockey.

      • Maudib says:

        Out West, we tie our thoughts to gerbils and send them scurrying through burrows until they reach the internet tubes, where upon they laboriously type them out and post them for us.

        Then we wait for badgers to bring us whistling pigs who sing to us the thread of conversation in a melody so beautiful that we cry ourselves to sleep in our campfires. Half of us don’t live to see dawn, but they make a mighty fine breakfast for the survivors.

    • PiratePrentiss says:

      Actually, some American guy seems to have been bussed in to co-commentate on the basketball, so it may well be that this was one of his contributions. If it’s any consolation, some of the British pundits are perfectly capable of living up to any stereotypes of periphrastic politeness you can imagine.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         That is good to know. I mean, what’s next?

        A mustachio-less Parisian NOT driving a humorously undersized scooter to a corner cafe playing Edith Piaf, NOT holding a single baguette and a bottle of Vin Rouge in his hands, all while NOT smoking a hand-rolled cigarette and NOT wearing a beret or striped turtleneck sweater?

        I mean… these are basic images we can all agree on while we shoot bottles off a fence from our trailer window… Seriously.

  2. PaganPoet says:

    Is that Turkish oil wrestling an Olympic event? ‘Cause I gotta say…that’s pretty hot.

  3. doyourealize says:

    So “Heaven” the night club gets capitalized while the “heaven” the place in the clouds does not? It’s not religious question. I have only heard of both places and seen empirical proof of neither, and therefore believe in neither. However, proper nouns deserve proper respect, imaginary or no.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Actually the club is all caps and the letters are made from pure light. That’s how I imagine it.
      “heaven” in comparison only ever sounds like a high altitude version of Branson, Missouri.

    • trilobiter says:

       I can’t think of any sound reason not to capitalize “Heaven,” except when you explicitly use it metaphorically or to describe a state of being rather than a location.  For example, “a beer on a cool summer night is heaven” clearly uses the word in an alternative sense.

        But if you are talking about that fancy place in the clouds, whether you believe in it or not, it’s definitely a proper noun.