I’ve flitted from sport to sport, but the mainstays have been college basketball, I’m a solid Duke fan (unfortunately I didn’t have the $40,000 a year to afford an education there); hockey, there’s something magical about how fast a play can happen on the other side of the rink; and the Olympics, I love hearing the American and the South Korean anthems being played. I’ve hated Texas teams, I’ve hated teams north of the Mason-Dixon, I’ve fallen in love with Texas teams, I’ve fallen in love with Southern teams, I’ve hate West coast teams, etc. but I’ve loved great games and moments (ie Ray Bourque finally winning a dance with Lord Stanley’s Cup, seeing Vladimir Konstantinov taking a turn on the ice after his forever life altering car accident, Jackie Joyner-Kersee crying on the podium with her bronze medal because the American flag was being represented by her, etc.). I’ve also been paralyzed with fears from what I just witnessed (ie Paul Kariya laying motionless on center ice, various American football players crumpling to the ground, etc.)
From the time that I can remember as a little girl, it has always been an odd experience to watch someone that kinda looked like me on the TV screen as a real live athlete, not a joke, but as an actual athlete. When I entered high school there was a huge hysteria of hype that a Korean guy (Park Chan Ho) could throw a fastball over 100mph, so much that he was the first Asian born MLB player to be prominently promoted by Upper Deck’s marketing campaigns. Then in either my junior or senior year of high school, Tiger Woods came to prominence in the world of sports and was proud of his Asian heritage. Then there was seemingly a surge of Samoan American football players in the NFL, and professional golfers. Slowly but surely more pitchers from Korea and Japan starting coming over to pitch in MLB, then the NBA opened its doors (or rather China allowed certain players the luxury, the privilege to play in the NBA) and most notably Chinese players (and one Korean) started careers in the NBA.
But for the most part, Asian looking athletes in the States were born in Asia or seemingly more closely tied to their Asian heritages than their American ones (the Samoan football players). Which don’t get me wrong, respect and loving your heritage is important but I think for younger Asian Americans, there really hasn’t been anyone that has even come close to starting the path that allows for dreams.
Jackie Robinson wasn’t the first black man to ever play baseball, he was the first to play in the MLB, he had people that he looked up to, that he had seen play baseball (which wasn’t even his best sport). So it was eye-opening, but at the same time it wasn’t to read this article on ESPN about Jeremy Lin and his quest to be seen as just a basketball player, to be taken seriously, and even more touching how he came about his love of the game.