Football season is upon us and Basketball season is about to start. Excellent. Muuuhahahahaha.
I love sports: The tension, the drama, the aspirational aspect. Not to mention the excellent cardiovascular fitness benefits.
As a kid, I was the definition of nerdy bookworm. Yet contrary to the stereotype, I was physically coordinated and a bit of a tomboy, playing the occasional recess pick-up games of basketball, flag or touch football (I skinned my knee pretty bad once), baseball, volleyball, handball, played tennis afterschool, skied, rode bikes on weekends and all those running around things – tag, monkey bars, etc. that kids did. And I LOVED watching football on TV, especially the San Francisco 49ers.
I would get all my homework finished by the time the 49ers game came on during football season on Sunday afternoons, and would watch every play and every penalty with intensity. I even asked for 49ers apparel for Christmas. My family had immigrated to San Francisco and so all my aunts and uncles were diehard 49er fans, and I folded right into the family formation around the television when special group watching occasions arose. I, too, would get completely involved with the wins and losses and feel as apoplectically anxious as the coaches and players on the field. I was a FAN as in, fanatic. When I left for college, I sort of lost touch with the sport and TV watching as I got all ‘artsy’ and bohemian and couldn’t afford a TV.
Flash forward to meeting my future husband: D is a Lakers fan. A true Lakers fan, he likes to say: “I’ve been watching the Lakers since I was kid, when they sucked.” He’s a season ticket holder and I remember that during one of our earliest conversations where I talked about basketball teams and players I liked, was end-punctuated with his saying: “We’re Lakers fans, baby.” I retorted back, “If you really want me to be a Lakers fan, consider yourself warned. My passion has been looking for a vehicle for years. There will be no turning back.” (Exhibit A: I’m currently working on a quilt for baby using D’s Lakers playoff giveaway t-shirts that he’s collected over the years.)
But I digress… because really, the most important, exciting thing that has transpired since the emergence of my love of basketball is…. Jeremy Lin.
Initially, I just thought it was cool that there was an Asian American dude playing at Golden State! My home team! But the Warriors have always sucked and make stupid trades with their players and he barely played and sucked when he did and so who cares. But then he got traded to the New York Knicks and he didn’t suck! He had the most amazing, inspirational, never-give-up-can-do-Cinderella story ever. And he was a nice guy who was sleeping on his brother’s couch. And did I mention he’s Asian American? And the whole world was watching! And Spike Lee was cheering him on. And all of Asian American Facebook was exploding with love for this guy.
Holy cow! A highly visible, Asian American role model! In this world where money talks, how much more of a statement can you make than singlehandedly changing the economy of Madison Square Garden. Linsanity, as it was dubbed, was born. And while it has calmed down since Jeremy Lin’s injury and subsequent departure from the Knicks to the Rockets, his effect on the American psyche, particularly the Asian American psyche remains.
And speaking of psyche, let’s take this moment to reflect on PSY and his “Gangnam Style.” (Currently No 2 in the US Charts!!!) Ok that was enough. I have absolutely no idea why the song, dance and video have exploded onto the American pop cultural landscape the way that it has, but I am tickled to no end when I see a Korean American mom and son dance the shit out of it on Ellen Degeneres’ show.
What the hell am I getting at? The answer to the question: What do heroes and role models look like? And who do we look up to? The heroes that pepper America include Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs…. Jeremy Lin…PSY? Have there ever been Asian/ American celebrities who crossed cultural boundaries and have taken America by storm? Bruce Lee – but that was ages ago. How about today? And why is it important?
Liz W. Garcia, a Hollywood screenwriter and producer writes in Forbes that “Women Can’t Gain Influence in Hollywood because Women don’t look like Men.” She basically theorizes that women don’t get to call the shots because they don’t look like directors because directors are almost always men, and women don’t look like men.
Asians don’t look American to a lot of people and when you don’t look American, you don’t get to be an American hero and role model…wait, YES YOU DO!
It is AWESOME when Asians and Asian Americans are touted en masse. It means the image of an Asian American is normalized – it means the Asian becomes less other, less foreign, less scary, more accepted, more American.
We need more heroes!
Let me start by touting some present-day ones:
These are my friends. They are uber-smart, accomplished people who are a Harvard double grad lawyer, a sales and marketing exec, a computer programmer. They could continue to work for a buttload of money. But instead they are following their dreams and building a rock climbing gym. And not just any rock climbing gym, but a state-of-the-art facility in collaboration with climbing rockstar/god Chris Sharma with the potential to hold national sporting events. Did I mention that they are Asian? And American? My kind of heroes.