I keep an eye out for American popular cultural references to ancient Chinese philosophy. So, imagine my surprise when I chanced upon this story from ESPN: "Amare Stoudemire, Taoist?"
It seems that the Phoenix Suns basketball player has gotten into a classical text - only it's not a Taoist book, but Sun Tzu:
It's not clear why the writer then links Sun to Taoism. True, the notion of "winning without fighting" does have Taoist-like subtlety to it. But Sun Tzu is a man of action, a man who tells us we must engage in exhaustive planning and preparation before we enter battle. Wu wei - doing nothing - is decidedly not his way of thinking. Sun Tzu, I think it is safe to say, is not a Taoist.
OK, maybe I should not expect an ESPN writer to get these distinctions. But I think the journalist he cites goes too far when she crticizes Stoudemire's invocation of Sun Tzu. Apparently, the star player is suggesting that he might leave the team after this season, and the journalist comments:
Surely somewhere in the Chinese general's book, The Art of War, is a
chapter that says conjecture about your possible departure a month
removed from Suns training camp is not the right approach to unifying a
team, let alone a fan base.
Sigh. Stoudemire has done it again, irking some with his comments Tuesday that the 2009-2010 season "might be my farewell tour." Poor timing? You bet. Worthy of an uproar? Hardly...
... So although the Sun Tzu bit might seem contrived to some, it's Stoudemire trying to flex his leadership muscles and, sure, maybe trying to market himself a little bit. This is the NBA, after all.
But maybe Stoudemire really does know Sun Tzu. Maybe he takes to heart The Art of War's injunction that "war is deception." Perhaps he is just saying that this might be his last season with the Suns in order to create a media commotion, to draw attention to himself and take the pressure off of his teammates....
Or maybe I reading way too much into this....