The Court Supreme

A purely speculative story about basketball and nothing else: an epic game of 10 on 0 gets disrupted by the reverse-discrimination of rulebreakers.

The Court Supreme

Well the conservative judges in the Supreme Court majority—let’s call them the Supremacists—are really going to work this week. They’re doing their jobs, fulfilling their role in our government—which is, as far as I can tell, dismantling a budding modern pluralistic society in order to soothe the consciences of white christian fascists and to grow the bank accounts of the already hyper-wealthy, many of whom are also white christian fascists, and some of whom are friends with the Supremacists, and pay them with friendly gifts, like luxury vacations, like houses.

The supremacists first heard a case from a group that wanted to overthrow democracy in the United States, by making the argument that if a fascist block were able to capture a state government, as Republicans have in North Carolina, then in oh let’s say a presidential election they could simply throw out all those pesky votes and appoint whoever they wanted. The Supremacists apparently thought this was something worth considering, though they were very nice and split their vote, allowing the three actual judges on the Court to vote in a majority decision for once. Again, the topic up for discussion was whether or not we should still let people’s votes count in elections—whether or not we remain a democracy, in other words—and so, on a narrow margin, we still have something that people can call “democracy” without other countries laughing impolitely1.

This was good news, in the same way as it is good news that the drunken pilot at the controls of an airplane we’re all in, who is slaloming around mountains, just missed a mountain that it looked like they might hit. My point being, it’s still pretty bad news that the pilot of the airplane we’re all in is slaloming around mountains.

Then the Supremacists struck down affirmative action, which means that race can no longer be considered in things like for example college admissions, and not considering race is something that promoters/defenders of our structurally racist institutions would really like to do, because then their institutions can carry on doing what they are built to do—discriminating on the basis of race—without anybody having to admit it. The Supremacists’ rationale here is that bigotry is no longer active in this country, so countervailing measures are no longer needed against it. It was the same logic that led to the Supremacists gutting the Voting Rights Act a few years back, a decision which if you’ll recall immediately led to the return of insanely racist gerrymanders that disenfranchise Black people to this day, and in fact led to the Court hearing a case about whether or not to even have democracy, if the election results are a little ahem Blacker than the administrators were hoping for.

And then, after deciding that bigotry was no longer active enough in this country to require countervailing legal measures, they heard from a bigot who wanted to exclude certain people from being served by her business. She used a completely made-up scenario in order to claim damages, which is what is known in legalese as a “truth oopsie” and therefore shouldn’t be allowed, but that was no problem for the Supremacists, who declared that Jim Crow is now officially privatized, so long as your bigotry is a matter of religious conscience, and so long as your god is white and christian and just as bigoted as you are.

So: the court has, in the same day, decided that the targets of bigotry are not afforded any protections under the law because bigotry’s effects are no longer systemic or pervasive, and also has decided that the constitution provides systemic and pervasive protection to the bigotry of bigots, protection from even hypothetical infringements upon any expression of their bigotry.

Then they decided the president can’t forgive billions of dollars in predatory college loan debts, which just so happens to disproportionately harm people who are not white, on the basis of That Hurts Our Rich Friends Who Bought My Mother A House.

Not sure what to do about all that. It’s upsetting.

I’m a storyteller, so I can maybe tell a story. Stories help people escape grim realities for a moment, is what I’ve heard. Happy to help.

Let’s just tell a nice escapist story.

A story about sports.

The hometown fans loved basketball, because their team was the greatest team in the history of sports, and they played in the very best stadium, and because of this, the home team’s fans were confident that they were the most exceptional fans in the history of the world. And because they were so exceptional, they only ever allowed a hundred or so fans from visiting teams into the stadium, based on the merit of the applying visiting fans, according to their ability to be entertaining fans, as judged by an appointed panel of home team fans.

The home team, as befitted the greatest team in the history of sports, played on the greatest court in the world. Being the greatest court made it supreme, and “the Court Supreme” is what all the basketball fans called it. When something happened on the Court Supreme, that result was precedent-setting, binding, and permanent, as far as basketball was concerned. To win on the Court Supreme was to be a winner. To constantly win on the Court Supreme was to be the greatest. And the home team always won on the Court Supreme, which is how their fans knew they were the greatest team in the history of sports.

The rules of basketball are very simple: If you are on the court, you get to play. If you play, you try to put the ball through the basket. Each time you do that, no matter who you are, your team gets 2 points, unless you were far away when you made your attempt, in which case your team gets 3 points. And you try to stop the other team from putting the ball through the basket, as long as there is another team making the attempt.

There are some other rules, too, but basically that’s it.

Oh, one other thing: there can only be 10 players on the court at any time.

The home team’s referees, having been appointed by the home team, were as excited about the home team as the fans, and also very excited about the bonuses that some of the wealthier among the home team’s fans would give them in the way of friendly gifts, which were expressions of friendship, and as totally unrelated to their position as basketball referees as they were massive.

Before every game, the referees, who were empowered to decide such things, let the home team’s coach decide which players could play on the court.

After brief consideration, the home team’s coach decided to put 10 of the home team’s players on the court, leaving 0 starting positions open for the players from the visiting team.

The visiting team’s coach complained that this represented an unfair advantage for the home team. The home team’s coach pointed out that the rules of basketball clearly state 10 players on the court, and there were 10 players on the court, and if the visiting team didn’t like it, they should probably stop complaining and work harder at basketball. After all, the coach of the home team reasoned, we both get the same number of points for a basket, don’t we? And yet in my career my players have scored a massive number of points, and your players have scored none. There seems to be something intrinsically wrong about your teams: either you must be utterly incompetent, or your players uniformly unskilled, or perhaps both. In any case, the home team’s coach demurred, I don’t see why that would give you preferential treatment in the matter of starting positions.

The referee, responsible for adjudicating conflicts of this kind, sided with the home team’s coach, and the ruling was final. It must be said that, while the visiting team’s coach was disappointed by this decision, he did not seem particularly surprised. Ten home team players and zero players from the visiting team took to the Court Supreme.

The home team quickly took a massive lead, and their crowd went wild at this clear demonstration of the home team’s obvious superiority.

By halftime the score was 78-0. It could have been much more, but the home team players had quickly gotten tired with all the sprinting back and forth, and taken to scootching around on their butts, and smacking each other with their jock straps, and so forth, and every so often they would take a shot, many of which would go in, and then the crowd would roar its approval, inartfully copying the extraordinarily entertaining dances and cheers they had learned by watching the visiting team’s fans.

But today something unusual happened: when the home team came out of the locker room, celebratory beers in hand, to take the Court Supreme for the 3rd quarter, they found that all of the visiting team players and fans had occupied the Court Supreme and refused to leave until the referees agreed that some of the visiting team players also be allowed to play on the Court Supreme during the actual game.

This was unprecedented. It created a lot of problems.

It was also against the rules of basketball.

The home team fans were livid at the effrontery of the visiting team, who had come to their stadium and were now acting like they owned the place. For a while it seemed as though violence would break out, but the referees restored order, gathering the two coaches at center court.

There were two sides to the argument.

The referees of the Court Supreme listened to both sides.

The visiting players demanded to be allowed to play basketball in the same game with the same rules as the home team, with starting positions permitted in proportional numbers.

Most in the crowd agreed he could have phrased things far more politely.

The home team’s coach, his face beet red, screamed that doing that would be horrendously unfair, taking away starting positions from members of his own team who had earned those positions through effort and hard work and skill, and whose fathers and grandfathers had held those places before them, besides, meaning that tradition was endangered along with the all-important concept of merit. He ended by pointing out that keeping a home player off the court in the interests of fair play was just as discriminatory as keeping a visiting player off the court in the interests of fair play—in fact, “reverse benching” was even worse than benching, because if “fair play” were to be determined by skill (as surely the referees must agree it should), one needed only look to the scoreboard to see that the visiting team had not managed to score a single basket in two quarters of competitive play.

But the visiting team and their fans refused to leave the Court Supreme, even though this was clearly in violation of the rules of basketball, so the referees, faced with a potentially ugly situation and wanting to ensure the smooth progression of the game, allowed two players from the visiting team to take starting positions upon the Court Supreme against the home team’s eight.

The visiting team’s coach chose his two best players, who happened to be the very best players he had ever seen in his many decades of coaching basketball, and with whom he had been working without cease for their entire lives in preparation for this moment.

The home team’s fans jeered the two visiting players, deriding them for having been gifted their places on the Court Supreme not by their own merit, but by a referee’s decision. And they derided the referees as the worst kind of traitors, and demanded that they be replaced, lest they be permitted to make any more unacceptably biased decisions in favor of future visiting squads. After all, starting positions were a matter of merit, and the home team’s fans knew their team was supreme, exceptional, the greatest in sports history.

There were many reasons the home team’s crowd knew that their team was the greatest in the history of sports: for example, none of the home team’s players or fans had their legs or arms broken, while the visiting team definitely had players and fans with broken legs and arms—and the home team’s crowd knew this, because as soon as the visiting team had started making trouble, the home team’s fans had started breaking the arms and legs of all unlawful disruptors, tearing up seats and other parts of the stadium to use as weapons.

The hometown fans, noticing that there had never been violence at any of their other games, saw the incontrovertible proof that the visiting team was intrinsically violent, and didn’t have the same respect for property or reverence for the great sport of basketball as they, the most exceptional fans in the world, did.

The second half was something the world of basketball had never seen before: where there had always been a totally fair game, in which the best 10 players of the home team scored baskets with ease, there was now a totally outrageous referee-manufactured battle of 2 on 8.

It was a battle that the visiting team lost.

The two visiting players were clearly exhausted, but by the end of the quarter they had only shrunk the home team’s lead by half: the score stood at 96-43.

This was to the great satisfaction of the home team’s crowd, though that satisfaction did not temper their righteous outrage.

The home team’s owners and fans, faced with this unprecedented and absolutely unfair advantage for the visiting team, had spent the entire 3rd quarter looking for new referees, and as the 4th quarter began, the new referees came out to hear arguments on the matter of starting positions from both sides again.

The visiting team’s coach pointed out that, very observably, the most fair solution would be to play 5 on 5—a state that had yet to be achieved. He petitioned for 3 more players from his squad to be added. The home team's fans shouted obscenities at this outrageous extremism.

The home team’s coach insisted that all spots on the Court Supreme should be based not on the color of a player’s jersey, but by merit of their achievement. He then pointed out that his team, which was up by over 40 points, had clearly proved itself to be the most meritorious, yet two spots had been unjustly stolen away from two deserving players, by two people who had only played one quarter of competitive basketball in their lives.

The visiting team’s coach pointed out that his two players had, in one quarter, all by themselves, nearly halved the lead established in the first half.

At this the home team’s coach nearly lost his mind. I used to have ten players on the Court Supreme, he screamed. And then I was forced to play with eight. Of course the lead would shrink under those circumstances. Any lead would shrink with such unfair and biased disadvantages. And my guys are exhausted now. There wasn’t even time to scootch around on our butts and smack each other with jock straps. It’s never been harder to be a home team player in the history of basketball.

The hometown crowd, seeing their coach’s antics, began once again to riot, and for a while it looked like the game was going to have to be forfeit—but at last the home team’s coach calmed himself, and (after decrying the visiting team and its fans for fomenting violence and riot) he explained himself again in a speech that moved the referees to tears and brought the fans to their feet.

It’s not that I object to a game of 5 on 5, he said. I don’t care what color jerseys are out there. In fact, I don’t even see jersey color. I just want the best players out there. I can sympathize with my colleague, the visiting coach, for wanting to play 5 on 5, but by focusing so much on the basis of jersey, he’s really the one who is discriminating here.

My main objection, the home team’s coach went on, isn’t so much the suggestion that we play 5 on 5, but the fact that my opponents just arbitrarily decided, with disruptive extremist tactics that are not found in any rulebook, to force us to change in the middle of the game. There is a time and a place for everything, said the home team’s coach (he was really getting emotional now), and this was neither the time nor the place. The right time is another time. The right place is some other place.

I’m willing to accept that maybe there were mistakes made at the beginning of the game, said the home team’s coach in a voice quivering with joyful outrage, but we can’t focus on the past if we want to move into the future, and we can’t fix any mistakes made in the 1st quarter by enacting reverse discrimination in the 4th quarter. Look at what a mess the 3rd quarter caused.

And now (a single tear hung like a jewel upon the cheek of the home team’s coach), now, by making this change in the middle of the game, the biased referees had actually called the qualification of the visiting team’s players into question. Visiting players will always play with an asterisk beside their name, he mourned, unless they manage to win the game, which (a wry chuckle now) didn’t seem very likely.

Also, the home team coach said, if we let these visiting players play, it wouldn’t be fair to visiting players from other teams, who never got to play at all.

Even more also, the home team coach said, what about Asian players? We don’t let them play either, and if we have to let you guys play it will only make it harder for them.

Nobody knew what to say about this last bit, which really seemed to come out of nowhere, and was something that everyone agreed probably made more sense in the home team coach’s head. Nevertheless, when the home team’s coach finished his argument, his fans greeted him with thunderous applause and screaming approval.

The visiting coach said something as well, but the crowd couldn’t tell what it was, because the visiting coach, unlike the home team’s coach, hadn’t been foresightful enough to have been given a microphone. The hometown crowd all agreed that it was doubtless a bunch of bullshit.

The new referees made their decision. They didn’t deliberate for long.

The 4th quarter began with everything back the way it should be, with players chosen only on merit, based on historical performance during the game, regardless of jersey. This made it a game of 9 on 1 (one visiting player had been just too good in the 3rd quarter to deny), and the home team won the game handily, with a final score of 163-52.

Since the game had taken place on the Court Supreme, the result was final, and binding, and set a precedent. Going forward, all starting positions would be decided only on merit, based on performance not during the game itself, but drawing from the league’s deep rich statistical history of 10 on 0 games.

The injured visiting team and their fans went to the hospital to get their broken bones set, while the rest returned to their rented homes, which were located in the blocks surrounding the stadium.

And the home team’s fans—who knew they were the home team because they owned both the stadium and the visiting teams’ homes—drove to their own houses on the outskirts of town, many miles away.

And they slept well, knowing that after a brief and disturbing outbreak of discriminatory bias against them, justice had been restored on the Court Supreme.

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A.R. Moxon is the author of The Revisionaries, which is available in most of the usual places, and some of the unusual places, and is co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media which goes in your ears. He can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh, soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie.

  1. For now, they usually laugh politely.