ISSN 1016-1007 GPN2005600032
頁數:113﹣167 運動媒體複合體的文化中介: NBA在臺灣的早期擴展歷程 The cultural intermediaries of sports/media complex: The early expansion of NBA in Taiwan
Hung-Chia Chen
cultural intermediaries, globalization of sports, National Basketball Association, sports/media complex, Tzu-Li Chu
With the broadcasting of sports events and the outstanding performances of national heroes, the sports/media complex has successfully expanded worldwide. For example, Major League Baseball entered the Taiwan market, because of the excellent performance of “Taiwan’s glory”, Chien-Ming Wang. However, before Jeremy Lin’s rise in the National Basketball Association (NBA), Taiwanese audiences had already been watching NBA games broadcasted on local television six days a week in 1998. In other words, even without a Taiwanese national hero, NBA was already one of Taiwan’s most important sports/media cultures in the late 20th century. One may thus ask: If national identity is not the critical factor behind the NBA’s expansion early in Taiwan, then what has been the process of the NBA culture entering Taiwanese society? This study aims to answer this research question by reviewing and analyzing relevant literature, secondary data (e.g., newspapers, magazines, etc.), and Taiwan print media’s NBA texts.

First, as a sports/media complex, the NBA relies on broadcasting basketball games to expand its market, which is theoretically a direct and effective approach. However, NBA games were broadcasted consistently in the early 1970s by China Television Company (CTV) in Taiwan, but were eventually suspended due to a lack of advertising revenue. From this perspective, broadcasting sports competitions does not automatically make a foreign culture acceptable in local society.

Second, taking the process of the NBA’s expansion in the United Kingdom as an example, the culture of the sports/media complex has to be localized so that it can penetrate various local markets. The beginning of the NBA’s localization in Taiwan occurred around the 1980s. The pioneer of cultural intermediaries, Tzu-Li Chu, began producing NBA texts that integrated local cultural elements in three dimensions.

1. The narrative style of martial arts novels

According to journalistic principles, in order to report a basketball game a journalist may simply describe how the teams score points, the important turning points in the game, and the key players of the winning team and their performances in a neutral manner. However, news reports written by Chu in local magazines were not like that.

2 minutes 44 seconds to go in the second half. Jabbar lays it up; it's good! Lakers lead 106-103... Philly with the ball. Malone is fouled; he makes one of two. Lakers lead 106-104. Jabbar catches the ball in traffic; dishes it out to Cooper; knocked away by Dr. J before the blink of an eye! Dr. J comes out of nowhere and knocks the ball loose. Dr. J and Cooper hustle after the ball; Dr. J catches it; takes off and glides in the air; slam dunk!... Philly’s first tie of the game at 106-106 (Chu, 1983, June).

Unlike straight news that reports scores and players’ performances in a simple tone, Chu used storytelling to portray the competition between the two teams. When describing a man-to-man defense, he also vividly stylized the NBA players’ excellent offensive skills as in martial art novels, immersing readers in the scenarios.

Score tied at 60-60 in the first half. Dr. J picks up the ball on the right and is trapped by multiple defenders, pushing him three feet behind the backboard. Dr. J pushes back and drives; takes off from behind the backboard; spins in the air; lays it up and in! Yes! The crowd loves it! (Chu, 1983, March 10)

2. NBA players were talked about elegantly and genteelly in Chu’s coverages.

6’2” guard Ennis Whatley from the University of Alabama decided to drop out of school and declared himself for the NBA draft. His reasoning was not unprecedented: he had a number of mouths to feed in his family, and he wanted to make life better for his mom (a-bú). (Chu, 1983, June)

The phrase “a number of mouths to feed” indicates that the journalist did not adopt a verbatim translation of the player’s words. Instead, he used the local language to present the verbal context of the player without losing the original meaning. The term “a-bú”, (meaning Mom) in Taiwanese Hokkien and spoken by most Taiwanese people, was used to help local readers immediately understand the player’s concern about his mother’s hardship.

3. Using localized metaphors to describe the NBA culture

Chu also introduced the operation and organizational culture of the NBA. Such an introduction often used metaphors following the customs and culture of the local society.

Between NBA teams and their players, there is no such thing as “giving favors”; teams will always strive to save every dollar, while players will strive to make every dollar. However, when business is off, friendship remains. After all, it’s nothing personal; it’s strictly business.

Players often get traded to other teams, only to come back after a few years. These things happen so frequently that players do not feel embarrassed, because of the thought that “a good horse doesn't come back to the same pasture.” Likewise, the teams do not worry that “water spilled on the ground cannot be retrieved.” (Chu, 1983, December)

The NBA teams and players were used to such a “business is business” culture. However, for the Taiwanese who long ago emphasized comradeship and loyalty to friends, it may be difficult to understand that players were taken as products to be weighed on the negotiation table.

Chu used the phrase “business is off, but friendship remains” to explain that the NBA is a business seeking profit. The trading of players is just a business involving no personal emotion. Therefore, the players do not have to feel embarrassed when “going back to the same pasture,” and the teams are also not hesitant about “retrieving spilled water.” Using these metaphors allowed the Taiwanese readers to easily understand the NBA culture.
Chu also gathered a group of NBA fans and established the NBA Club, where they held regular events to watch NBA videotapes together and discuss games. Furthermore, those NBA fans who were enthusiastic about NBA information also had the potential to be NBA writers like Chu. The NBA Club published two issues of NBA Magazine every month. Although most of the reports were written by Chu, the club members were invited to write NBA stories. As such, Chu led the trend of NBA research in Taiwan, attracting more young people interested in the NBA or basketball writing. Some of these new-generation cultural intermediacies even worked in major media in the 1990s, further developing the NBA culture in Taiwan.

In conclusion, this study finds that the textual environment featuring local cultural characteristics that cultural intermediaries construct exerted a critical effect on the introduction of the NBA culture into Taiwan. It provides empirical evidence to prove that the dominant culture does not necessarily enter into the local society directly and quickly. The perspective of glocalization is indeed more suitable for understanding the encounter between Taiwanese society and the NBA; otherwise, we cannot explain why information about the MLB and NBA both appeared in the print media in the early 1980s. Still, the MLB did not gain popularity among the Taiwanese people until the “Chien-Ming Wang fever” in 2006~2007. Thus, we contend that when discussing the globalization of the sports/media complex, the analysis perspective of the cultural intermediary might better explain why the NBA is a significant subculture in Taiwan.
2024/ 冬