Jeremy Lin’s NBA winning streak sparks “Linsanity” among Asian Americans


Asian Americans have slowly become visible in American professional sports — player by player, sport by sport. Some sports were conquered early. Most people know stars from the ice skating world such as Kristi Yamaguchi, Apolo Ohno or Michelle Kwan — even though a Seattle newspaper headline about Sarah Hughes winning the Gold over Kwan in the 2002 Winter Olympics read, “American outshines Kwan, Slutskaya in skating surprise” (for the record, Kwan is U.S.-born in Torrance, Calif and is as American as… er, Sarah Hughes).

Japanese-born baseball players have become more and more prominent in Major League Baseball since Hideo Nomo arrived in LA back in 1995, and then Ichiro Suzuki fired up Seattle fans when he was signed by the Mariners in 2001. But it took until just a couple of years ago before Seattle signed Don Wakamatsu, the first-ever Japanese American to hire on as an MLB team manager (he didn’t last long, unfortnately). (Read my friend Daigo Fujiwara’s excellent blog,, to follow the careers of Japanese playing in the Bigs.)

The NFL now boasts some prominent Pacific Islanders playing professional football, and a coupe of Asian Americans (some are hapa, or mixed-race) — Dat Tan Guyen, Hines Ward, Will Demps Jr., Kailee Wong, Yon Eugene Chung among them. (Here’s a good list from the blog Chinese Or Japanese.)

Golf has the ultimate superstar, albeit somewhat tarnished: Tiger Woods. The pro circuit now sports high-profile Asians such as Vijay Singh, Grace Park and a whole bunch of Korean women including Shin Eui-hang. Tennis has Chinese American Michael Chang.

But basketball…. Wow. The NBA has had few Asian stars, and even fewer Asian Americans. Few fans even know that the first player to break the NBA’s color barrier was Wat Misaka, a 5’7″ college star at the University of Utah who was a first-round draft pick in 1947 — 1947! — for New York and played a too-brief career with the Knicks. He was the first Asian, and the first player of color, to play for a pro team (back then the NBA was called the Basketball Association of America).

Yao Ming opened the door to other Asian import players when he was drafted in 2002. You can read a terrific 2009 blog post about Asians in basketball from 8Asians.

But there haven’t been many Asian American NBA stars. Certainly no role models. Nobody like us to look up to, even though Asian Americans are crazy about basketball. There’s a long-established history of intensely competitive basketball leagues within the Japanese American community in California, and even here in far-off Denver. Sure, here in Denver the JAs have thinned out a bit so non-JAs are welcome to play in the pickup games. But the point is Asians are crazy about b-ball, with no pro role models to follow.

So that’s why the emergence of Jeremy Lin as an NBA star (hopefully on his way to superstar status) has electrified Asian Americans. The AAPI blogosphere has lit up in the past week, since Lin has won three games in a row for the Knicks — yes, the Knicks; how’s THAT for karma? — as the team’s new point guard.
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Fox apologizes for racist Pac-12 sports video stereotyping Asian students at USC

Major props to University of Colorado ethnic studies professor Daryl Maeda for calling out the Fox Network for a racist video “report” that has since been pulled from the Fox website. The video shows comedian Bob Oschack, who’s identified as a “Investigative Reporter” and holds a Fox Sports microphone, interviewing Asian students on the campus of the University of Southern California, about Colorado and Utah joining the Pac-12 conference this fall.

It’s impossible to know how many people Oschack interviewed and didn’t include in the video, but the way it’s edited it looks like he only approached Asian students who are immigrants (they all have accents of varying thickness), and didn’t include any Asian Americans or non-Asian students. What’s with that?

As Maeda points out in an article in the Boulder Daily Camera: “This is demeaning to millions of Asian Americans who have put down deep roots in the United States, claim English as their language and root vigorously for their favorite sports teams.”

Instead, the report reinforces the idea that Asians are perpetual foreigners in America, especially when Oschack (whose ancestors presumably were European foreigners themselves just a few generations back) mocks these students accents and pronunciation.

The sole point of the segment appears to be to make fun of USC’s Asian students, who don’t seem to know or care about football,sports, the Pac-12, Colorado or Utah. It’s hard to deny that the video is about race, not sports.

Boo to Fox and to this lowbrow comic and his stupid, racist sense of humor. The network apologized through a spokesman and yanked the video from the Fox website, but I think they should punish Oschack — and the chain of command above him that approved this report and put it on the site.

Kudos too, to 7News and for picking up this story.

As Maeda wrote in an email to me, “It’s 2011, man. 2011!” Sigh.

UPDATE Sept. 8:

I have to give Fox News credit. The network’s apology was a sincere one that accepted responsibility for the inappropriate video, not a “non-apology apology,” where a company normally apologizes if something they ran offended you. And late yesterday, Fox simply canceled the “College Experiment” show that aired the offensive report.

A must-read: Thoughtful essay about race and the Fox series “Glee”

The cast of the Fox TV series "Glee."

Erin and I have come to love “Glee!,” the Fox TV series about a group of outcast students who join their high school glee club (remember how glee club people were always the nerds?). We enjoyed the sneak preview premier, which was shown last fall, and then waited with great anticipation for the season to start this spring. After several shows, though, we started to tune out the outrageous stupidity of some of the characters (faking a pregnancy to hold on to a husband; lying about the father of a pregnancy to hold on to a boyfriend) even though we really liked the dancing and singing, which are top-notch every week.

So we blew it off for a few weeks, then came back to it again one week and got re-hooked by the musical numbers all over again. The first season just ended and did a pretty good job of tying up loose ends, we thought. It also left unresolved the plotline of the evil cheerleader’s coach who wants to get the teacher who’s the glee club sponsor fired.

I just read a very good, thoughtful and laser-focused essay by Sylvie Kim of The Antisocial Ladder, which was also re-posted on Hyphen’s excellent blog, that I think everyone should read. Continue reading

Bo Dietl on Fox Business Network: “10 years ago, [Katie Couric] looked American. Today, she looks oriental”

Huh? Really? This is so wrong, on several levels…. First, it’s been years since I’ve had to explain to anyone that “People are ‘Asian,’ rugs are “Oriental.'” Second, Bo Dietl, a Fox pundit, actually pulls his eyes back on Don Imus’ show to mimic how he says Katie Couric’s eyes make her look “Chinese.” Third, he conflates “American” and “Caucasian” so that you’re only American if you’re white.

It’s ignorant — no, stoopid — and disgusting, and as Angry Asian Man points out, “that’s racist! Continue reading