I’ve had one full day in Shanghai, and can claim jet-lag recovery maybe for one more day. I’m watching my favorite CCTV station right now (CCTV 5), which is the sports channel. As expected, the Heat-Pacers game 1 was on. It’s tied in overtime right now.
While the NBA is popular in China, having basketball games aired during working hours must constrain viewing. Not something I can look into now, given that my task here is to find a new fieldsite for aquaculture research, and not sports.
I did meet with two students yesterday, and have an appointment later this afternoon to keep. In the meanwhile, back to Miami.
Update 11:52 pm- Lebron broke hearts in Indiana with a time-expiring lay-up.
Jay Kang has a provocative post on linsanity that brings out a lot about the current state of ethnicity in the United States:
The 2008 election set the groundwork for an aggressive sort of colorblindness — as long as you voted for Barack and/or can celebrate, say, Jackie Robinson, you now have the right to flag down anything that might shake us from our post-racial dream. Statements like “I see everybody equally, therefore everyone should just talk about him as a basketball player” and accusations of “playing the race card” have become even more ubiquitous. And although the former signals a nice sentiment, it also provides convenient cover for those of us who benefit most from the status quo, regardless of race. … But to strip Jeremy Lin of his status as the Great Yellow Hope not only seems dishonest and lazy, it also deprives the community he represents — willfully or not — of the unabashed joy of seeing one of its own succeed in the most improbable arena.
As an Asian-American anthropology professor in a small liberal arts college, I have to talk a lot about diversity. Yet Asian-Americans often get lost in the discussion, given the stereotypes held about us that place us in “model minority” and “perpetual foreigner” status aren’t all that bad. For those of you who have read the work of Derald Sue (Columbia) and “microagressions,” this may sound familiar (Davidson invited Prof. Sue to give a talk during our celebration of the MLK holiday). Here’s a brief summary of microagressions:
Linsanity (google it if you haven’t followed the issue) has perhaps galvanized the Asian-American community more than many people may be aware, and as teachers or students on a college campus, you may be seeing a change in how Asian-Americans see themselves. While it may be only basketball, Linsanity salves a raw nerve for many Asian-Americans, given yet another stereotype of hyposexuality.
While there have been many thoughtful articles reflecting on different perspectives of Linsanity. Here’s one from Gish Jen who uses Linsanity to talk about Asian-American parenting; David Brooks, on the other hand, wants us to think about Christianity. The Kang article goes back to the issue of race that no one really wants to talk about, from an Asian-American perspective. To see the significance for the author (an ESPN editor), you may need to read about the “Chink in the Armor” issue on ESPN. If you are not aware of the Private Danny Chen story, you should read more about that as well.
Kang has long been thinking about Asian-American identity, as seen in his previous articles on Ichiro and Yao Ming. Here’s an excerpt from his piece about Ichiro, which shows the pre-linsanity problem of thinking about Asian-Americans:
The irony of our multicultural education is that it provides us with only the vocabulary of the thoroughly entitled and the thoroughly disenfranchised. Asian immigrants stand somewhere in between, but lack the context and the words to express our place.
But we’re getting the vocabulary down, as wannabe-representative Hoekstra in Michigan found out (and like the UCLA woman complaining about Asians in the library, he also learned that video doesn’t disappear on the internet). I’ll close with the most telling part of Kang’s piece on linsanity, who I believe expresses the state of Asian-American ethnicity more persuasively than anything I’ve read recently on the topic. Read Kang’s linsanity piece for yourself, and prove me wrong.
In an earlier column, I said that it has become standard practice among high-achieving Asian Americans to dodge any questions about race. This impulse comes, I believe, out of guilt and a pervasive, irrational fear that if we talk too much about prejudice and act too indignant over insensitive comments, the powers that be will reverse the course of history and send us back to building railroads.
I’ve often had to explain to friends and colleagues here in the US the importance of the Lunar New Year in Chinese culture. This time of the year in China is the biggest culturally-synchronized movement of people in the world – see Fan Lixin’s documentary Last Train Home.
There also have been a number of stories about the NBA players who decided to go to China to play basketball, when the possibilities of the entire NBA season disappearing was high (see this WSJ article, for example). But now that the NBA season has resumed, there are a number of NBA players in China who would rather go back to the NBA, even though the CBA regular season will be ending soon.
Carolina native and NYT reporter Jim Yardley has an extended article on the NBA and basketball in China in this today’s Sunday Magazine. But what caught my eye was Kenyon Martin’s move described by Yardley in a different article. Martin pulled a fast one to get out of his CBA contract. Instead of petitioning to be released to the NBA, which was specifically negated in his contract, Martin petitioned to FIBA (the international basketball association) to be released from his CBA obligations – and he did it just prior to the start of the Lunar New Year chaos. FIBA granted Martin his release from the CBA contract, which the CBA officials did not counter-petition because everyone was on holiday. The lesson: understand Chinese culture, if you want to succeed in China.
As a former Division I athlete, NCAA men’s lacrosse referee, and sports fan, I do enjoy college athletics. And as a faculty member at a small liberal arts college, I can see many of the positive elements of sports in the development of young people – in how it instills discipline, builds leadership, and fosters a recognition of the value of teamwork. As a recent essay in the New York Times points out, however, many of the advantages accrued by incorporating sports into educational systems are gained by the scholar-athletes themselves, not by the wider student community. It is participation in sports, and not participation in the spectacle of sports that is of value. And as the article points out (not an earth-shattering conclusion – in fact, any sports fan would recognize it), big time college sports (i.e., football, basketball) are immense spectacles that may in fact have negative consequences for academic development.
“In China and other parts of the world, there are no gigantic stadiums in the middle of campus. There is a laser focus on education as being the major thing. In the United States, we play football.”
There are many people in the academic community who are struggling to solve this problem of the negative impacts of sports on United States college and university campuses. In this respect, we are indeed singular – there is no equivalent emphasis on sports in higher education in Asia or Europe. The thing to think about is the long term impact on higher education with this emphasis on sports as commercial spectacle instead of participatory engagement in developing life-skills. If higher education is crucial in molding future social leaders (or disciplining modern subjects, as others would describe it), what is the future outcome for American higher education?