Tuesday, January 21, 2003

QUESTION: Lang Whitaker's correspondent Myung in the ATL sent this in (to Lang, not me):

I agree with what you wrote here:
"If a 7-5 guy with a sweet jumper came along, they'd sign him up, even if his skin was green and covered with blue polka dots."

But the question I got, Lang, is this: what if he ain't 7'5? What if he's just 5'7" like Spud Webb? Or Earl Boykins? You think a yellow kid got the same shot a white kid or a black kid has of making the L? Or how about playing D-1 ball? Or how about even playing NAIA ball? Me and my friends used to run the courts up at UGA. You think anyone came to watch US play? How come Bronnie's games are on national TV and how come coaches are all over 8th grade white and black kids, but when it comes to high school Asian kids, no one even cares?

You know why? Because there's a stigma that Asians are good for programming computer software, being doctors, running grocery stores, and dry cleaning your clothes.

So in a sense, Yao Ming IS our Jackie Robinson. As dumb as this sounds, when we play pick up ball after church on Sunday's, some of us WANT to be Yao Ming. It used to be Money, Kobe, and AI. Now we emulate Yao. In all fairness, our trailblazer should be Wang Zhi Zhi. =) But I ain't even going to go there. But for real, just like Tiger gives hope to black golfers, he's equally Asian, and he gives us hope too. Hines Ward's mom is full Korean. Byung Hyun Kim, Chan Ho Park, Michael Chang, Michelle Kwan, Paul Kariya. These people are the ones blazing trails for other young Asians. In the States AND over seas. We all know the best athletes play here. Europe? Asia? Please. It's all about making it big in the States. And Yao Ming has done that. And in that sense, he IS our Jackie Robinson.

So why is the Asian Jackie Robinson (Yao) coming after the Asian Michael Jordan (Michelle Kwan)? Probably because Yao is a taboo-breaker--Asian people are supposed to be good at figure skating, so her dominance is not unexpected, whereas an Asian guy being really good at basketball is something new and different and represents the breaking of an unwritten color line, which is not the actual and much more racist color line that Jackie Robinson crossed. So Yao Ming is a possible Jackie Robinson, defying stereotype in an era after the civil rights revolution. It was an interesting question to me, anyhow.

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