Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Spy Who Loved Basketball

Fascinating story today in the LA Times about Shabtai von Kalmanovic, one of those guys in Russia with lots of money and not much to do with it. Apparently he has decided that he wants Russians to get excited about American basketball.

Women's basketball.

He hires superstars from the WNBA and pays them - get this - 10 times what they make in this country. Not that he is making any money.

"On the contrary, it's better described as an extravagance than a business: Kalmanovic has to pay Russian television to air the games, and they often end up being broadcast in the middle of the night. Nobody even bothers to sell tickets to the games."

OK, so my title might be a little misleading. It's not clear whether or not he is or was a spy, but he did spend some time in an Israeli jail because someone there thot he was. You just can't make this up.

The obvious question is: why? My guess is that it's a matter of getting value for your money. It sounds like a lot, but, hey, compared to the cost of buying, say the Lakers, or another NBA team? The man has snagged himself a great deal. And American women are benefiting. This is one thing that absolutely no one, in their wildest dreams, ever thot would be an outcome of the end of the Cold War.

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