White Men Can’t Jump: A Theology

I do not recommend you watch the movie White Men Can’t Jump unless you can find the on-TV version, in which case you’d be insane to miss it.  It’s the best basketball movie ever for it’s quality of basketball, pro-level trash-talking, stereotype-busting, and Aristotelian levels of philosophical inquiry.  White Men Can’t Jump (WMCJ) is the story of two West Coast streetball hustlers — the stereotypical, flashy play, take-it-to-hole black guy Sydney and the stereotypical, fundamental, outside-shooting, white guy Billy.  Sydney is an aspiring entrepeneur; Billy is a gambling addict on a quick road to nowhere.

In the movie, Billy is dating Gloria Clemente (played by the incomparable Rosie Perez) whose own addiction is studying for Jeopardy, an appearance on which she’s basing her life (which she eventually gets on and ends up winning hundreds of thousands of dollars).  Getting to the point, Billy takes some stupid risks, makes a couple bad gambles, ends up winning the big game but losing Gloria.  Gloria says:

Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs.

I first saw this movie in high school and when I heard her say that I can remember thinking, “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”   Continue reading