Revenge, the Coldest of Dishes

missinginactionThis year, I have been blessed to see three live NBA basketball games, witnessing Lebron, Kobe, and Melo. As a result, I have made a resolution with my future self: the expendable money that future me makes will be spent on going to NBA games, with the goal of attending a game in every arena.

The NBA, more than any other American professional sport, thrives on the marketing of their superstars. Unlike football, where their players are helmeted and only a handful of quarterbacks or skill players are known, most people recognize NBA players, largely because there is little separation between the players and fans (editor’s note: NBA players also sell and endorse everything under the sun). NBA players wear tank tops and shorts and periodically dive into the stands. After a big shot, they interact with the fans, who are a few feet away from the court, reducing the space with their outreached hands, hoping to touch a player at some point throughout the game. Even the fans seated on the periphery, nearly touching the arena’s rafters, are able to see the player’s winning smiles and ever-changing emotions via the jumbotron. While this close proximity encourages a euphoric, if only fleeting, connectedness, the monetary cost of experiencing it can be costly for some families.

Enter billionaires and millionaires and their egotistical feelings.

On November 29th, Greg Popovich, who I think is a phenomenal coach and does not receive the national attention he deserves because he coaches in a small market, decided to send his top four players home, even though they had a game against the Miami Heat that night. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobilli, and Danny Green went back to San Antonio on a commercial flight, instead of suiting up and playing the scheduled game. This move caused understandable uproar because Popovich did not inform the league of his decision until shortly before the start of the game. More importantly, the Miami Heat fans, who paid top dollars to see what many believe to be a NBA finals preview, were unable to see San Antonio at full strength. Remember, the NBA, more than any American professional sports, makes the bulk of their money on the marketability of their superstars, of which Duncan, Parker, and Ginobilli are. As a reprimand, the commissioner fined the Spurs organization a quarter of a million dollars. A gentle slap on the wrist for an organization that makes over $135 million in revenue annually.

Last night, the Miami Heat returned the malicious favor to the San Antonio fans by sitting both Dwayne Wade and the superstar amongst superstars, Lebron James. Each were sidelined with an injury. Interestingly, the league will have a difficult time fining the Heat because, unlike the Spurs, they followed protocol and reported that their players would be out due to injury. However, even a blind man can see that this move was also motivated by  revenge; the Heat organization wanted to payback the Spurs and their fans for the indiscretion and insult to the Heats fans back in November. For example, if the Heat’s winning streak was still intact and they were still chasing immortality, Wade and James, regardless of injury would have played. But the circumstances allowed for them to “take a night off” against the team who “robbed” their fans the pleasure of seeing the Spurs’ top players.

Lost in all of this tit for tat egotistical, billionaire mind war are the fans, specially the families that save their money to treat themselves or their children to a special outing. The kids (and adults), whose San Antonio rooms are covered in Lebron or Wade posters and defend them to their friends, who belittle them for liking anyone else not named Duncan, Parker, Ginobilli, or some other Spurs player, missed out on an opportunity to see their idol(s) defy gravity, shoot jumpers, and play tenacious defense that would surely lead to a highlight worthy moment on Sportscenter. Those voices, though they blend into one cacophonous sound for the players and the owners, need to be heard and recognized.

For a player like Lebron, who is finally starting to shed the venomous hate that surrounded his decision to play for Heat, this moment pushes him backwards as he (re)gains fans. If only the fans could boycott the owners and not attend a game to physically voice their displeasure with such childish behavior among the one percent. Unfortunately, it won’t happen because the experience is worth the cost.

American Media’s Unapologetic Racialization of Jeremy Lin

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“C’mon Chinaman. Guard up!” I yelled at my middle school friend, while playing basketball at a neighborhood park. He heard me. The look of surprised hurt beamed in his eyes as he hurriedly ran to cover me on the baseline. I attempted to get around him with my patented lefty drive. Not this time. Afterwards, another one of my friends told me that I needed to apologize to him. For what, I thought, dismissing the racially insensitive comment that I hurled towards my Asian friend whom I would later call my twin as our relationship deepened during high school.

Jeremy Lin is an Asian-American point guard whose inspired play has led the New York Knicks to five consecutive wins. At Fort Knox the NBA offices, David Stern is contently smiling as the last of his big-market teams is finally playing well. And to think it did not take fixing the draft so that they could get a franchise player, which many conspiracy theorist agree argue occurred many years ago with Patrick Ewing. Just a week ago, Lin was buried at the end of the Knicks big-named roster. Now, after four impressive starts, Lin is at the center of the media in the nation’s media center, New York.

If you still do not know about Jeremy Lin, let me help you from under the rock with some quick stats:

New Jersey Nets- 25 points, 7 assists (off the bench)

Utah Jazz- 28 points, 8 assists (first start)

@ Washington Wizards- 23 points, 10 assists (sick cross over and dunk on soon to be elite point guard, John Wall)

Los Angeles Lakers- 38 points, 7 assists (in a nationally televised game against another big market team, he abused Derek Fisher so badly that the Lakers are reportedly evaluating out-of-work guard Gilbert Arenas because in a guard heavy league Derek Fisher can no longer defend against these young, quick guards, and out-dueled Kobe, answering Kobe’s question of “What has [Lin] done?”

@ Minnesota Timberwolves- 20 points, 8 assists (late free throw won the game)

Lin has scored more total points (109) in his first four starts than any other player’s first four starts in NBA history, surpassing scoring machine Allen Iverson.

With his strong play, aided by all the media attention, Lin has become an instant fan favorite, dominating signs at the Garden. In the wise words of Houston rapper, Paul Wall, Lin has the “internets going nuts.” Six days ago, Lin had roughly 3500 followers on twitter, now has over 208,000. At the same time, the pink race elephant in America is seemingly unrecognized. Let’s examine a few of these signs:

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This picture, while intended to be supportive of Lin and his ability to drive to the basket highlights the traditional Asian stereotype of bad driving.

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This picture, capturing Lin’s enthusiasm, becomes fodder for another racialized joke. The word, Haduken was a special move executed by Ryu, an Asian fighter, in the widely popular video game, Street Fighter. The only way to celebrate him seems to be through these stereotypical Asian lenses.

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Here, Lin is represented as the Mortal Kombat, another widely popular video game, character Liu Kang, while Derek Fisher has been imposed into the game’s screen. Once again, the intention is to support Lin and his dismantling of Derek Fisher, but pay attention to how it is being done.

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Here fans at the Garden support their rising hero with a poster, alluding to the popular 2000 martial arts film, yet substituting their Asian American point guard into its title.

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Lastly, here is a tweet from a black sports writer, Jason Whitlock, in which he assumes the stereotypically small size of Lin’s penis. He also assumes Lin’s sexual orientation. Unlike the other well-intentioned signs of support, Whitlock vehemently insults Lin by highlighting a stereotype about penis size, which can also be seen as an attack on his “manhood.”

From the examples, I notice that the only way America can seemingly understand the meteoric rise of Jeremy Lin is through the colored, Asian lens, which incorporate our socially taught and seemingly accepted racial stereotypes. I want Jeremy Lin to be great; I want him to represent for his community; more importantly, I want America to take this opportunity and look itself in the mirror of truth and ask itself, “Why can I only understand this basketball player through these lenses?” Similarly, one of the popular Lin nicknames is Super Lintendo, a poor play on Super Nintendo, the Asian video game console that revolutionized gaming. On the other hand, I prefer the nickname Linsanity, which acknowledges Lin’s skill and sudden rise, and more importantly does not poke fun, whether intentional or not, at his Asian American identity.

I apologized to my friend the following day for calling him out of his name, for disrespecting his Vietnamese ancestry and culture, and for following the lead of the neighborhood kids that did not know him and started to call him “Chinaman.” I, with the help of others, recognized my fault and held myself accountable.

Will others apology to Jeremy Lin and the millions of Asian American ballplayers who will undoubtedly be called Lin?

Follow me on twitter: @dashnkinght