Monday, May 4, 2015

The Great Asian Hope

Rarely, if ever, do we get the fairy tale, movie-like ending we want in real life. That was the case with Mayweather-Pacquiao. All the elements of a great sports film were there: the perfect villain: pompous, arrogant, and undefeated. An abusive, money-loving a-hole with pathetic sycophants (Bieber) who you wanted to see kicked off of his high perch (think Joffrey in Game of Thrones). 

Then you had the underdog, the kid from a humble background. Naive, but likeable. Goofy, but serious when it counted. If this were a movie, the final fight would've been explosive, back-and-forth, dramatic, with a surprising come-from-behind rally. The result in real life was somewhat more disappointing and the exact opposite. If you want dramatic boxing about an Asian boxer taking the world by storm, stick to the anime Hajime no Ippo

Mayweather even shed the villain routine and was actually gracious at the end when he knew the outcome was decided, leaving us with nowhere to direct our anger and disappointment. The entire fight brought about a slow realization that for whatever reason (Pacquiao thought he was winning, his injury during training, his age, or Mayweather's skill, or a combination of all of the above), Pacquiao wasn't going to pull out a miracle victory. Pacquiao is still one of the best and no one can take away what he's done over his career, but the stupid thing is that this is what people will remember of him: that he got knocked out by Marquez (in a match that he was winning until he got careless) and that Mayweather beat him in the most boring fight in the world... and that he probably won't get a rematch with either of them. 

Ever since I was a kid, I've rooted for Asian athletes in American sports. There aren't many. Remember Michael Chang? My parents loved him. Maybe there's something racist about Asians rooting for Asian athletes, but can you really blame us? Asian athletes are few and far between but it feels like when one does come along, there are lots of people who are happy to see them fail. The narrative I've taken away from my childhood is that Asians can't play sports. And there are people out there who are all to happy to reinforce this belief and tear down Asian athletes at the first chance they get. Take Yao Ming for example, who will unfortunately probably be best remembered for being blocked (fouled) by Nate Robinson. They'll remember Shaq's ching-chong comments. They won't remember the stretch of 25 games in 2006 after the All-Star break when he averaged 25.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. They won't remember any of his impressive playoff performances or that he had the potential to become an all-time great, had he not had so many foot injuries.

Remember Linsanity? Remember the detractors? The racial jokes? At the end of Linsanity, when they played the Miami Heat and Lebron James, he got outplayed by Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers all I can remember is a youtube video of a guy laughing and saying "See I told you he would get exposed for what he is." I was rooting for him to do well in Houston, hoping he would show up in the playoffs, but he disappeared in the Houston/OKC series, and many blame him for the loss against the Trailblazers the next year. While he's showing flashes of the Linsanity from time to time, he's disappeared in big games and he's never quite lived up to the high expectations we all had for him. He's still young though. Maybe he'll turn it around and become an All-Star. Maybe he'll still give us the storybook ending we desire.

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe the enmity for Asian athletes is as widespread as I make it seem. Jeremy Lin, Yao Ming, and Pacquiao are loved by adoring fans (as evidenced by the clearly pro-Pacquiao crowd at the fight against Mayweather and the booing of Mayweather afterwards). I don't believe that this is the last we'll see of Asian athletes in American sports, but only the beginning. 

One more thing I have to say: if you were rooting for Mayweather, who has been convicted of multiple counts of domestic abuse, what does that make you? What is wrong with you? Why would a decent human being root for a person like that? Maybe we shouldn't be looking to sports for role models, because the best athletes aren't necessarily the best human beings.

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