“There’s fans, then there’s Kansas fans, then there’s Josh,” says Daymion Mardel. He’s Josh Swade’s friend, according to his credit in There’s No Place Like Home, and his description frames the story of Josh’s efforts to bring James Naismith’s original “Rules of Basketball” to Kansas University. Because Naismith coached and taught at KU for 40 years, Josh reasons, the Allen Fieldhouse is the document’s rightful home.
Or so he decides when he learns that the Naismith family is putting the Rules up for auction at Sotheby’s on December 10, 2010. A chatty self-narrator, Josh is never exactly doubtful, though he does admit that his obsession might seem. Well, obsessive. “Some people will look at me and say, ‘That guy’s priorities are really messed up,’” he says, “I get the ridiculousness of it, but I don’t care. This is what makes me happy.” At which point he heads to Naismith’s gravesite, with camera in hand. Here he leaves a basketball and one of the t-shirts he’s had made to support his project. The soundtrack music swells.
Josh’s sense of himself carries through the film, as he begins a campaign to raise the money, appearing on local TV and sports talk radio to raise small donations. The project escalates when he gains access to wealthy KU alumni by saying he’s making a documentary on the Rules. Once in their living rooms or offices, he lets slip that he’s actually looking for money. It’s an unusual gambit, to be sure, and his first two visits produce no promises. “I’ve got discuss it with my wife,” says one millionaire. “She’s more in favor of doing things for little kids than for tradition,” he winks. Undaunted, Josh gains the blessing of Mark Allen, grandson of legendary KU coach Phog Allen (“It was clear to me after talking to him that he could sell ice cubes to Eskimos,” says Allen), and then he approaches investment firm CEO David Booth, who agrees right away to back the effort with $1 million.
The film doesn’t leave much doubt which way it will go. Premiering this month on ESPN’s 30 for 30, There’s No Place Like Home never loses sight of Josh’s own guiding principle, that he is irrepressible.