Basketball was invented in Springfield, Mass., in 1891, and for most of its history, Spalding Inc., also of Springfield, produced the balls and equipment that go with the game.
Of course in this age of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and SHAFTA (Spurious Hypocrisy of American Free Trade Agreements), I didn't expect the portable hoop I bought at Walmart to be made in America, even though it bore the name Spalding. No, I expected it came from China, where the owners of the business had built their factory to take advantage of cheap labor.
And I wasn't wrong.
I also thought that assembling this behemoth would be a trial, but it was worse; it was torture. With a crew of three, it still took a half-hour to run carriage bolts through four holes in the brackets that hold the rim.
"Give me the hammer," Uncle Chet muttered. "I'll see if I can tap the thing through, or we'll be here all day."
"The book says you're supposed to rock it," Hon said.
"I've been rocking it," he said.
"It says: `To ensure optimal playability of this backboard system, a close tolerance fit between the elevator components and hardware is required. Test fit large bolts into large holes of elevator tubes, backboard brackets and triangle plates. Carefully rock them in a circular motion to ream out any excess paint from holes if necessary."'
"Give me the hammer," Uncle Chet reached out impatiently.
I complied, and he tapped several times, each a little harder, until the bolt slipped through the hole, and we were able to attach a nut on the other side of the bracket.
"Now what?" I said.
"It says, `Insert bolt through left side upper elevator tube (35) then stretch spring (33) onto bolt (29) though right side upper elevator tube (35) and secure with nut (31)."'
"Let's have coffee before we even try to figure that one out," Uncle Chet said.
"Sounds good to me," I said.
"I made a big pot, so we have some left over from breakfast," Hon said and led us to the kitchen.
"Look at this sewing machine," Uncle Chet remarked, going into the living room. "They don't make 'em like that anymore."
"Singer, from the '70s, and you can read the instructions, too," Hon said. "The book is very clear."
"Back when America led the world in manufacturing and the instructions were written by Americans," I said.
"Of course I don't blame the Chinese workers," Uncle Chet allowed. "They were offered jobs and took them, same as we do when anyone dangles jobs at us. It's our captains of industry who sold us out, deserting their homeland, shifting all that capital out of the country."
"And the rich got richer," I said.
"The rich got richer, the workers got more desperate, and the immigrants and Muslims are being offered up as scapegoats," he said. "The Arizona law that makes it hazardous to look Hispanic, the birther crackpots, this created mosque controversy -- they're all part of the same propaganda campaign to keep us from focusing on real problems."
"I haven't followed the mosque stories," I said.
"They want to build a Muslim community center about two blocks from where the World Trade Center stood," he said.
"That's not so close," Hon said.
"And not that big, either," Uncle Chet said. "It's going to stand 13 stories tall, or 97 stories shorter than the towers."
"What's the big deal?" I asked.
"There is no big deal," he said. "It's like getting people riled up over gay marriage, even though it will have absolutely no effect on their lives. The mosque is a wedge issue, designed to distract us and disguise who's really swindling us in an age when we don't make their backboards and rims anymore, and even our balls come from China."
Cooperstown Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week. For more of his columns, visit www.thedailystar.com/tomgrace.