Friday, January 29, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The SOTU Liveblog Transcript—also visit the "official" post of this at http://bit.ly/sotublog
You can also replay this in the CoverItLive window. But head over to APAforProgress.org to read and comment on the official Liveblog Transcript post. Thanks to the 38 official liveblog participants we had, who submitted 140 comments during the l'blog!
8:54—Jeff Yang: Nancy just bunged the old Donkey Kong hammer to call the peanut gallery to order...
8:55—Jeff Yang: Wolf Blitzer: "He's not going to have a chastened attitude like Clinton was..." Well, the Dems didn't lose either house of Congress, and Obama hasn't stained any dresses, so...
8:58—Jeff Yang: I'd cheer for her too. I'm cheering for her pearls. Ohh...
8:58—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Peanut Gallery...sad but true....
8:58—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: A lot of cheering for Justice Sotomayor and the First Lady.
8:58—Jeff Yang: I can't help it, I'm a dead sucker for Lady Numero Uno.
9:00—Jeff Yang: The GOP has promised not to throw shoes tonight.
9:00—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: * snaps * to Secretary Chu.
9:02—Jeff Yang: I'm surprised they're not having Scott Brown deliver the GOP response...
9:04—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Better than Bobby Jindal right?
9:04—Jeff Yang: That's a mighty low bar to be setting, Erin...
9:04—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Have they promised to not shout back at the President in the middle of his speech? *crickets*
9:04—Jeff Yang: Yeah, if we can keep the GOP from delivering their response DURING the speech, we're probably ahead here
9:05—Jeff Yang: GSteph apparently said over on ABC that Michelle's purple dress is a "centrist gesture." UGH
9:06—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Lol it was a joke Jeff.
9:06—Jeff Yang: Heh, I know, Erin :) AND IT BEGINS!
9:07—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: They're starting super late btw...and I wish this feed was a little bit faster.
9:07—[Comment From S. Birdie]: This is why I'm watching this on C-SPAN
9:07—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Wow, GSteph really said that? I just think that any woman on the Hill wears bright colors and stands out from the sea of black and blue suits.
9:07—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: P.S. First Lady's guestlist for SOTU is very interesting, a lot of young folks (like 18 years old).
9:08—Jeff Yang: Well, Harry Reid's wearing a purple tie, too. That better not represent surrender, Harry.
9:09—Jeff Yang: I can't get over how much Chief Justice Roberts reminds me of Gary Sinise, circa Forrest Gump.
9:09—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Jeff Yang. Reid's vying for support from a lot of AAPIs btw.
9:09—Jeff Yang: @Erin: Do we like purple? :)
9:09—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Actually there's a LOT of purple the women are wearing up there (Michelle). Very interesting 'show of bi-partisanship'...lol I don't like purple much, I just think it's interesting that folks pointed it out.
9:10—Jeff Yang: And Madame Speaker's in lavender, and Joe has a purple tie too. Uh...is this related to Obama speaking out against DADT maybe?
9:10—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Jeff Yang. Actually come to think of it, Pelosi is wearing purple too...interesting coordination isn't it?
9:11—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Okay enough with the clapping. On with the speech!
9:11—Jeff Yang: On the right side of the aisle, the clapping does not match the facial expressions.
9:12—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ Jeff Yang. Those were my first thoughts initially, before you mentioned the blue+red party thing.
9:14—[Comment From S. Birdie]: I wondering how many Republicans will get caught paying more attention to the blackberries than actually paying attention to the speech this time?
9:15—Jeff Yang: Obama comes out hard and dark. This is going to have to turn tight to be an uplifty speech.
9:15—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ S. Birdie. Trust me last year in Congress during floor speeches there would be members (of both parties) that bring their iPhones/BlackBerries to the floor while they spoke, I wouldn't be surprised.
9:17—Jeff Yang: Okay, the turn to hope. and a standing O. Let's hope that's not sarcastic applause on the right there.
9:17—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ Jeff Yang. I heard that his speech was supposed to be slightly apologetic, but 'not that he was the one to blame, but one to take the responsibility'..think it was in the NYT. Yes, hard to sound 'uplifty' like his other speeches.
9:18—Jeff Yang: He's trying, though. Yeah, we'd like a gov't that matches our decency. Or maybe one that just gets off its ass and enacts some of the agenda we voted it in for? I'm looking at you, Senate.
9:18—Jeff Yang: Is that what unifies us as a nation? Hatred of the bank bailout?
9:18—Jeff Yang: Goldman Sachs loved it!
9:19—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Wow he just admitted to hating the bank bailout!
9:19—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: He wants to admit mistakes that were made?
9:19—[Comment From S. Birdie]: So did JP Morgan Chase!
9:20—Jeff Yang: Here's his clawback on the banks proposal.
9:20—Jeff Yang: I wanna hear some numbers. And some hard regulatory proposals.
9:21—Jeff Yang: The Republicans don't seem to be applauding, as the Prez notes :)
9:22—Jeff Yang: Love that reaction shot on the right...
9:22—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Cutting taxes
9:22—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: I thought some Republicans clapped when he mentioned cutting taxes.
9:22—Jeff Yang: I think he thought he'd get a little more enthusiasm from the drown-the-govt-in-a-bathtub crowd
9:23—Jeff Yang: Ah, the stimulus bill. Not, apparently, a bipartisan love fest for that one...
9:23—[Comment From S. Birdie]: I would like to hear about more jobs concerning infrastructure (sp?)
9:24—Jeff Yang: Problem with the stimulus: The states took a lot of the money to pay for stuff they couldn't afford because of their own mismanagement. And too much of it was tax cuts, rather than spending.
9:25—Jeff Yang: Jobs...our number one focus! New jobs bill tonight!
9:25—Jeff Yang: To be honest, when he said "Jobs," I thought he was about to trot Steve out to introduce the iPad 2.0. Now that might get some applause...
9:25—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Yay jobs bill! Hm..wonder how immigration reform will fit into this.
9:25—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Jobs Bill, hopefully he goes into detail about it
9:26—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: P.S. There's a White House Conference call with immigrant rights leaders on the SOTU tomorrow night to talk about how it immigrant rights fits into the mix.
9:26—Jeff Yang: I'm worried that immigration is going to get caught in the populist crossfire. When people focus on "jobs," and then hear "immigrants," they think, "that's why we're losing jobs."
9:26—[Comment From S. Birdie]: OT: iPad just looks like a very large iPhone/Kindle combo. I have no use for that.
9:27—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Side comment: Hmm...Obama's tie looks red and what other stripey color?
9:27—Jeff Yang: ObamaTie: Red and kind of a sizzling whitey-pink
9:27—Jeff Yang: Tax cuts! Everybody dance
9:27—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Jeff Yang. Right, I know, that's why folks need myths dispelled to show how immigrants actually contribute to the economy, it's an investment. Look at Silicon Valley for example...there are some of your AAPI folks.
9:28—Jeff Yang: "Yeah, why can't we have the fastest trains?" That's what Amtrak Joe is thinking
9:28—[Comment From S. Birdie]: He should have said "new plants in the U.S."
9:29—Jeff Yang: So far, this sounds like rebates and tax cuts...what about investment?
9:29—[Comment From S. Birdie]: I would love high speed rail in the Midwest (I live in Wisconsin)
9:29—Jeff Yang: @S Birdie: Milwaukee? Madison?
9:30—Jeff Yang: Okay, here's where the investment part comes in? Please? Education maybe?
9:30—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Milwaukee
9:30—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: I'm afraid when I hear "American" jobs that outsourcing gets all mixed up with immigrant rights and then there's a ton of anti-immigrant sentiment.
9:31—Jeff Yang: @Erin yeah, me too. Especially now that (ulp) we own much of the auto industry.
9:31—Jeff Yang: The domestic auto industry.
9:32—Jeff Yang: Obama's setting us up against China and India--kind of playing a jingo card here...not sure I like it.
9:32—[Comment From A. Wan]: well, there's your education
9:32—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Oh crap, here's comes CHINA AND INDIA.
9:32—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Model minority myth ....
9:32—Jeff Yang: @Erin: Yup.
9:33—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: There go TOYOTA lemons.
9:33—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Financial reform: SILENCE wow
9:33—[Comment From Gina C.]: Trains! more railways, yes... it's about time... I do want to see more investments in our country's infrastructure. Amtrak.. not a huge fan, way too expensive. We need more options.
9:33—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: wonders what Kalpen would say right now...
9:33—Jeff Yang: @Erin, heh
9:34—[Comment From S. Birdie]: What's his definition of "real Financial reform"?
9:35—Jeff Yang: @Birdie Good question. Organic, free-range financial reform? Not from concentrate?
9:35—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Hey Jeff, the Executive Order on the White House Commission for AAPIs was a good speech...I just wonder how we're going to connection transnational politics/international policy/foreign affairs without going Wen Ho Lee on AAPI folks.
9:36—Jeff Yang: @Erin Seriously, one of the biggest tensions we face as AAPIs right now is the pivot from multiculturalism to globalism, and how that changes the dynamics in our communities.
9:36—[Comment From S. Birdie]: free range financial reform is what got us in this mess
9:36—Jeff Yang: @Birdie: LOL
9:37—Jeff Yang: I know there are some who disagree with the OVERWHELMING SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE. Nice way to put it :)
9:37—Jeff Yang: But then, it's back to USA USA USA again. I guess that's what the red-meat guys need to hear.
9:37—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Okay so jobs, financial reform, energy...it's 9:38PM right now (the speech is supposed to be over an hour), and I don't think I'm going to hear the word "immigrant" once, unless Joe Wilson is saying something racist.
9:37—[Comment From Keith Chow]: is it me, or does obama seem a little snarky tonight?
9:38—Jeff Yang: @Keith: He needs MORE SNARK. He needs to go full snark ahead on these toolboxes.
9:38—Jeff Yang: Snark is a renewable resource. It's sustainable.
9:39—Jeff Yang: The "free trade equals U.S. jobs" thing seems to be confusing the caucus.
9:39—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: California solar panels?...hmm sounds better than the nuclear power plant idea that was thrown around in CA State Senate last year. Now if only the CA legislature could get their act together...
9:40—Jeff Yang: We broke through the stalemate between left and right? News to me.
9:40—Jeff Yang: I don't think we've even broken through the stalemate between left and left.
9:40—[Comment From S. Birdie]: That's like asking the U.S. Senate to act like adults Erin...
9:41—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: education yay...why does it always end up sounding like model minority myth when folks talk about it?
9:41—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ S. Birdie - LOL for real...
9:42—Jeff Yang: No more subsidies to banks for student loans. $10K tax credit for tuition. Double dip! Banks suck, give money to families!
9:42—Jeff Yang: In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they decided to go to college. Or because they got sick. Or were fired when their jobs moved overseas....
9:42—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Hooray for SAFRA! I do public service, count me in Obama.
9:43—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: P.S. Frank Chong (former President of Laney College) is in Dept. of Education for helping community colleges.
9:43—[Comment From Keith Chow]: can i get my student loan debt forgiven too? is this policy retroactive?
9:44—Jeff Yang: HEALTHCARE FINALLY
9:44—Jeff Yang: But still...HEALTH INSURANCE reform, not HEALTHCARE???
9:44—Jeff Yang: "Let's clear a few things up..."
9:44—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Jeff Yang. Idealistic rhetoric right? We gotta instill hope after the 'dark' language you spoke of earlier that he opened with.
9:44—[Comment From Keith Chow]: what channel are you watching?
9:44—[Comment From Keith Chow]: you're like a good 45 secs ahead of me dude
9:45—Jeff Yang: @Keith: CNN, man. CSPAN good too.
9:45—Jeff Yang: Maybe you have some kind of profanity delay on your channel?
9:45—[Comment From S. Birdie]: I really wish he'd stop with the Asian country model of education comparison. I realize that math and science is important but I wish he would emphasize a more balanced approach.
9:45—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: C-SPAN? What's faster bc I think even the NYT's feed is faster.
9:46—Jeff Yang: Hat tip to Michelle, why isn't she smiling? She doesn't want the attention?
9:46—Jeff Yang: "She gets embarrassed..." :)
9:46—[Comment From Keith Chow]: nevermind, my DVR was 30 secs behind the live feed
9:46—[Comment From S. Birdie]: LOL at Mrs. Obama not wanting to stand up
9:46—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: * snaps * to S. Birdie, I concur. That's why I mentioned MMM (Model Minority Myth yet again...)...this whole paradigm.
9:46—Jeff Yang: SLIDE HARD, O. Yes, HCR will REDUCE the budget deficit!
9:47—Jeff Yang: And here he is, taking his lumps. But put that behind, hammer it out right now loud and clear: GET THIS DONE.
9:47—Jeff Yang: I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber, and look, the 'Pubs rise too!
9:48—Jeff Yang: As you said, Keith--the snark flag is on :)
9:48—[Comment From kevin cheung]: i think the education system needs to change to more of an individual track based and more on charter like schools
9:48—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: lobbying and horsetrading..what everybody seems to hate. If you're a broke nonprofit representing nonprofits, how are we 'bad' lobbyists. Horsetrading takes out values we care about. I guess I'd rather be a lobbyist for my community if my Member is hearing me out.
9:49—[Comment From S. Birdie]: If he don't just say "if you all don't collectively get your shit together and pass this damn bill, you will get ZERO help from me come reelection time."
9:49—Jeff Yang: Amen, Birdie, Amen.
9:51—Jeff Yang: Nice: $3 trillion deficit—"all this was before I walked in this door."
9:51—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Dang we're hella broke. -Bay Area native.
9:51—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Is he working his way towards the spending freeze?
9:51—Jeff Yang: @Birdie, yeah. And maybe reviving that stupid bipartisan committee thing.
9:51—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ S. Birdie. Looks like it.
9:52—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Jeff Yang. Hence the purple uniform.
9:52—Jeff Yang: Ugghhhhh.
9:52—Jeff Yang: "Like any cash strapped family..." So, no summer camp for the kids this year, dad?
9:52—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Why? Is he still not convinced that the default Republican stance is "No"?
9:52—[Comment From Keith Chow]: he should address the spending freeze part of the speech using the dumbass puns of schwarzenegger's mr. freeze from "batman & robin"
9:53—Jeff Yang: Yeah, that worked for Ahnold, didn't it :P
9:53—Jeff Yang: Gregg/Conrad--TWO ROCKS TIED TOGETHER DON'T FLOAT
9:54—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Keith Chow. LOL. Why can't Governator ever balance the budget...CA leg is tough like Congress overall. * sigh * I cry for my state and my country. Idk what this will do for his approval ratings.
9:54—Jeff Yang: The congress overwhelmingly voted this down, no? Why is everyone standing and clapping?
9:55—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Yay for surplus in the '90s (Thx Bill).
9:55—Jeff Yang: PAYGO is like trying to repair a torn pair of pants with a chainsaw instead of a needle
9:56—Jeff Yang: Heh. Another dig at Bush. I do think Plouffe is helping O flip the script quite nicely.
9:56—[Comment From S. Birdie]: I'll be silent for a bit. I'm helping my daughter with her homework.
9:56—Jeff Yang: @Birdie: Our education subsidy dollars at work :)
9:57—Jeff Yang: The problem with the refrain "Give us the government we deserve" is that I'm afraid that's exactly what we have right now.
9:58—Jeff Yang: I mean, let's face it: As a nation, we're pretty bad at this whole democracy thing.
9:58—Jeff Yang: Better than most countries, but still pretty bad. And getting worse.
9:58—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Plouffe wouldn't answer my question on immigration at an event recently...he kinda dodged it well (like any good politician would) with every other excuse that there are millions of other important issues. What's the Chican@/Latin@ and AAPI voter constituency going to do if he doesn't do something this year? But then again, mid-term elections are the excuse we hear to keep waiting for CIR (Comp. Immigration Reform) to pass during this term.
9:59—Jeff Yang: True—and Plouffe isn't a politician but a political operative, so he's dodgier than most. But seriously, we need someone who'll push O to speak it clean and loud, and Plouffe is it.
10:00—Jeff Yang: O's tossing a bone to Ole Man McCain there, with the earmarks on websites thing.
10:00—Jeff Yang: McCain's like, "Yep, put 'em on *all* the Internets!"
10:00—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Obama and his speechwriters are amazing.
10:01—Jeff Yang: Obama's putting a tack in GOP obstructionism. (And Dem inertia.) Good.
10:02—Jeff Yang: You know...I guess it's refreshing to hear a politician actually talk about how effed up things are structurally, rather than targeting individuals, institutions or a partisan side.
10:02—[Comment From S. Birdie]: All done now
10:03—Jeff Yang: @Birdie: That was fast.
10:03—Jeff Yang: "I know you can't wait," LOL
10:03—[Comment From S. Birdie]: LOL wow he called them out
10:03—[Comment From Keith Chow]: god damn
10:03—[Comment From S. Birdie]: I was not expecting that
10:03—[Comment From Keith Chow]: Please Barack, don't hurt 'em!
10:04—Jeff Yang: Let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who's tough...love it.
10:04—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Oh the little one was confused on some grammar homework. She had most of it done.
10:05—Jeff Yang: Yeah, O, OWN THIS. You are the SECURITY PRESIDENT, as opposed to George "W IS FOR WAR PRESIDENT" Bush.
10:06—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Bipartisanship. Yup, he's admitting mistakes on what healthcare looked like (lack of bipartisanship).
10:06—Jeff Yang: We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by end of August...how about paramilitary contractors?
10:07—Jeff Yang: DADT, I feel it coming
10:07—Jeff Yang: Maybe it's the accent on "ALL" of our men and women? I guess he'll do something about GI Bill, Veteran's Hospitals etc. first.
10:08—[Comment From S. Birdie]: My brother is in Iraq right now. Good news is he might be home in August; bad news is he might be going to Afghanistan next
10:08—Jeff Yang: @Birdie: Crap. That...sucks.
10:08—Jeff Yang: Man, Michelle really isn't looking happy tonight.
10:09—Jeff Yang: @Birdie: Prayers go with your brother. Hope he comes home, all the way home, and stays, very very soon.
10:09—[Comment From S. Birdie]: She's probably still mad that this speech is so long and it has taken away from family time considerably
10:10—Jeff Yang: @Birdie: The kids have gotta be asleep by now. School day tomorrow :)
10:10—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Did folks hear Obama on an interview recently that he'd rather be a good one-term President than a 'mediocre' two term president?
10:10—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Thank you Jeff
10:11—Jeff Yang: @Erin: Yeah. The problem is, what if you end up being a mediocre one term president? That's why O has to go hard through 2010. Throw bipartisanship out the window and get stuff done.
10:11—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ S. Birdie - also sorry to hear that, I pray that they come home safe.
10:11—[Comment From S. Birdie]: He has said that multiple times Erin
10:11—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ Jeff Yang. How hard is it to stay happy when you got the weight of the world on your shoulders? Tough man.
10:12—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ S. Birdie. Ah I guess I've only heard it recently.
10:13—Jeff Yang: Obama's so good when he's talking. If only the conviction and commitment he puts into his words could transform into action—and I'm not blaming him solely, we have a broken, broken system.
10:13—Jeff Yang: DADT coming up soon, gotta be. He's talking civil rights. Treating everyone fairly. Hate crimes.
10:14—Jeff Yang: AND THERE IT IS.
10:14—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: so 'illegal' immigrants would be seen as those who don't 'abide' by the law and wouldn't be protected...sigh.
10:14—[Comment From Keith Chow]: you called it, dude
10:14—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ Jeff Yang. WOW. He said it!
10:14—Jeff Yang: Again--he has to get it done. And it'll be hard. But at least he said it.
10:14—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Thank you for Matthew Shepard Act and Lily Ledbetter Act.
10:14—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM!!!
10:14—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: FINALLY.
10:15—Jeff Yang: Yeah, but what's "immigration reform"? That's one of those fuzzy phrases that has as much danger as promise embedded in it.
10:15—[Comment From S. Birdie]: DADT reeks. I don't care if you're gay, straight, whatever. If you want to serve, then you should be free to do so.
10:15—Jeff Yang: Seriously. It's like, "I want to put MY LIFE AT RISK out of love for my country"—why should your love for anyone else prevent you from doing that?
10:16—Jeff Yang: I wonder what Bernanke and Geithner think in their heads when O is calling out wealthy, fat-cat bankers like this. Are they all squirmy?
10:16—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ Jeff Yang. I concur, but folks were speculating last year at Inauguration hoping he'd say something. It's just good to know that these issues are under his radar, it's been frustrating for folks who work on this stuff that have been feeling as if nothing is moving in Congress. I concur, CIR means SO many things, we'll see how it plays out before and after mid-term elections.
10:17—Jeff Yang: Huh...O giving a mea culpa. It's noisy, messy, complicated. Shades of Bush's "This job is hard!" But more sincere.
10:17—[Comment From S. Birdie]: I would hope that when soldiers are in the middle of a fight, whether or not someone is gay is the last damn thing on their minds
10:18—[Comment From Keith Chow]: here's the big mystery: how's the pasty, white guy (the new va gov. ugh.) gonna screw up the repub reponse tonight?
10:18—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Jeff that's because he actually DOES the job!
10:19—Jeff Yang: @Birdie: But who's gonna clear all the brush? That brush don't clear itself!
10:20—Jeff Yang: You know, O, I don't think that those chants of "USA USA USA" necessarily speak to the best part of us as Americans.
10:20—[Comment From S. Birdie]: The President has a talent of making the Republican response look stupid before the person making it even says one word.
10:20—[Comment From S. Birdie]: The brush? All those migrant workers his estate hired is gonna do it....
10:21—Jeff Yang: @Birdie: True enough. But the GOP has an equal talent of putting the most talentless of its number up there as a human lightning rod, so, there you go.
10:22—Jeff Yang: I'll stick it out thru the GOP response here...assuming it doesn't go another 70 minutes :)
10:24—Jeff Yang: "We don't quit, I don't quit"—sure, all good. But "not quitting" doesn't get you a raise and a promotion at work. Let's go back to "grab a mop"!
10:24—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: If he really carries out stuff for LGBTiQQA communities, immigrant rights etc. etc. with everything else in ONE TERM, I will be amazed.
10:24—[Comment From S. Birdie]: You're a better person than me, I have to turn the channel for fear of harming my TV
10:24—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Jeff Yang. The GOP could go on forever with rebuttals...like a filibuster...
10:24—Jeff Yang: @Erin, yeah, well, they'll filibuster anything. I think they filibustered someone in the gallery who was just asking for directions to the men's room.
10:25—Jeff Yang: Was it just me, or did someone mutter something about "Jersey Shore" into the mike just before they cut away on CNN? Heh.
10:28—[Comment From Keith Chow]: Chris Matthews just now: "i forgot he was black for an hour." wtf?
10:28—[Comment From S. Birdie]: The Dems should make them honestly go through a filibuster once, on primetime TV, just so the public can see who is gumming up the works
10:29—Jeff Yang: @Keith: Yeah, that's a WTF moment all right. Or maybe a Harry Reid moment?
10:30—[Comment From S. Birdie]: *claps* Nice job Chris! He has earned the Bama of the Week award!
10:30—[Comment From S. Birdie]: that was snark by the way
10:30—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Keith Chow. He really said that...gawd.
10:31—Jeff Yang: Man, I can see the puppet strings on this guy
10:32—Jeff Yang: I want to know who the black woman and Asian man he has standing behind him are.
10:32—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Dang I campaigned against this guy in VA...sigh Deeds.
10:32—Jeff Yang: Deeds was a terrible candidate. He and Martha Coakley should be case studies for future generations of Dems.
10:33—Jeff Yang: "Today the federal government is simply trying to do too much." Let's let Americans go to hell! At least the poor ones—they'll barely notice anyway, right?
10:35—Jeff Yang: So, the GOP wants bipartisanship, but also don't want anything O does to succeed. I do not think that word means what you think it means.
10:35—Jeff Yang: Is it a rule now that every GOP response MUST have an embedded URL?
10:36—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: "We want results, not rhetoric" right...what deficit did we have as a result of the GOP?
10:36—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Freezing discretionary spending is a SMALL step? Hmm...when did the last Administration do that (limit govt) with war spending....
10:36—[Comment From Keith Chow]: so embarrassed to be a native Virginian right now.
10:36—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Did he really just say we have the best medical system in the world? I wonder if he's been to France, Canada, uh somewhere else other than here??
10:36—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Norway?
10:36—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Well state and local governments aren't capable to fill in gaps in most of the country. Shouldn't the federal government step up to the plate then?
10:36—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: I think it's interesting that they place a Black woman and and Asian man in the background of this filming.
10:37—[Comment From S. Birdie]: Bipartisanship to a Republican means "do it my way."
10:37—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Keith Chow. It's okay, I'm a native Californian in MD now and I'm embarrassed for the Governator and our budget issues...
10:38—Jeff Yang: I think they put the people of color behind the VA-Guv to make his whiteness pop more. It's like he's embossed.
10:38—[Comment From S. Birdie]: One Black woman and one Asian man is not gonna convince the people of color in this country that you speak for them as well as the "Real Americans"
10:38—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Interesting choice of words with his saying "by HER work ethic, not HER zip code" and I know he wasn't very pro-women.
10:39—Jeff Yang: Man, this guy is a turd. When will GOPers admit that Bush did EXACTLY THE SAME THING in the SAME SCENARIO with Mr. Shoebomber?
10:39—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @ S. Birdie. I concur, I'm worried bout POC folks that join GOP bc they see the image...I'm just worry when any POC turns R in general...
10:40—Jeff Yang: Y'know what scares me? I think the Republicans think this guy is their next star—a prez candidate in waiting...RoboGOP.
10:40—[Comment From Keith Chow]: well, I know my whole fam in VA has been hardcore repubs for decades
10:40—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Overregulation? Seriously?! It's a lack of regulation that got us into this mess! *ahem* sub-prime lending ring a bell anyone?
10:41—Jeff Yang: Asian dude is still bobbleheading.
10:41—[Comment From S. Birdie]: They thought that about Gov. Jindal too...
10:41—[Comment From Edward Hong]: I'm beginning to like my VA a l'il less now...
10:42—Jeff Yang: Yes, but this guy, he's, you know, not "not white." So he's mainstream.
10:42—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: @Jeff Yang. I was waiting for someone to say that if I didn't. He hella nods at like everything.
10:42—[Comment From Keith Chow]: 757 in the house!
10:43—[Comment From Edward Hong]: oh shoot Keith, you're from VA as well?
10:43—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: his speech was hella shorter than Obama's, but this R could not hold my attention for more than 5 seconds but to critique everything he said.
10:43—[Comment From Keith Chow]: Brian Williams just called out the Benetton ad in the SOTU response
10:44—Jeff Yang: @Keith: yeah, you could hardly miss it. It looked like they Photoshopped those guys into the back there.
10:47—[Comment From S. Birdie]: LOL Brian Williams has his moments
10:47—[Comment From Erin Pangilinan]: Now watching Rachel Maddow, when does this chat end?
10:47—[Comment From Keith Chow]: @edward: yup. went to ODU even.
10:47—Jeff Yang: Okay, guys, chat's done :) Thanks for participating, and I hope to see you next time there's some kind of significant national political event. American Idol finals, maybe? (kidding)
10:48—Jeff Yang: I'll repost the full transcript in the blog. Take care!
Liveblogging tonight's State of the Union address (here and at APAforProgress.org)
I'll be liveblogging tonight's SOTU on behalf of APAforProgress.org, but since I'll be doing it via CoverItLive, you do have the option to use this window to the l'blog here as well. But the final recap will go up on APAforProgress first, and there'll probably be other people doing much the same thing over there. And anyway, APAP is a cool and important organization that you should check out and support regardless.
So go and join me there.
My latest San Francisco Chronicle column: Harvard's Jeremy Lin, whites-only basketball, and the pride and peril of "rooting for the race"
So my latest column's up on SFGate, and it tangles with the light and dark side of cheering for "your people" to succeed. It's been a part of sports ever since the first inter-tribal competition took place between Neanderthals—on some level, it's instinctive to want members of your ethnicity, nationality or other affinity group to beat the living tar out of the other guys. But when does that cross the line? These days, it seems, the answer is: All too often—and too easily, as can be seen in the example of the new "All-American Basketball Alliance," a proposed whites-only basketball league being formed by an Atlanta-based sports promoter, Don "Moose" Lewis. I talk to Lewis, to a group of Asian American superfans, and (too briefly!) to Asian American hoops wunderkind Jeremy Lin, to explore the line between community connection and controversy.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
What do you think of Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese American guard from Harvard—about his chances, his type of game, and what he represents for the future of the sport?
Keith Chow: I already mentioned Jeremy and the reasons I already stated are the reason I'm very much invested in his career right now. The biggest thing is because he's Asian American. So unlike Yao or Yi Jianlian, he's probably experienced the same things I've experienced playing basketball in the States, so I can totally identify with him. Also, he's an athletic wing player as opposed to a seven-footer (as much as I love Yao, sometimes it's hard watching him lumber up and down the court) with a fierce competitive streak and an ability to single-handedly take over a game. Guards always have the ball in their hands, so it's easier for the casual fan to appreciate the things he does on the court.
Also, the NBA is no longer a big man's game. Guys who play like Yao have been phased out, and Team China has not developed wing players the way they did big men, which is why watching them play internationally is so disconcerting.
The other reason is that if Lin not only succeeds, but also excels in the League, than that'll only mean more opportunity for other Asian American basketball players, because scouts will start paying attention instead of dismissing the Asian American kids.
Steve Chin: Jeremy has got a legit shot at the pros—albeit it's a long shot, like from half court. But it would mean a lot for the community if he made it. It's uncharted territory for Asian Americans—to play pro ball in the modern era. He would become an instant role model for Asian American athletes. I'm rooting for him.
Albert Kim: Though I haven’t seen him play yet and frankly, don’t know a whole lot beyond one or two articles I’ve read, I love the idea of Jeremy and what he represents. An Asian American basketball player competing in a Division I school who’s also a genuine NBA prospect? That’s a first in my lifetime. And I know for certain there’s a whole generation of kids out there who are watching him and realizing that it is possible to compete at that level.
Bernard Chang: I think Jeremy and the publicity he has received is tremendous, and I applaud every time I hear about him. Whether he makes it into the NBA or not, he has already placed a spotlight on an area that needed much attention.
At the same time, don't forget about the youngest head coach in the NBA, Erik Spoelstra, a Filipino American. He currently coaches Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat and is the successor to legendary coach Pat Riley. Erik played Division I basketball for the University of Portland, and was the starting point guard all four years, averaging 9.2 points per game, and named West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year. He joined the Heat staff as the team's video coordinator in 1995 and worked his way up through the ranks to become the team's head coach in 2008.
Jerry Ma: I am super excited for Jeremy. He's a good player who has a solid all-around game, and I think he has a good chance to be drafted in the mid-second round of the draft. I do believe he has a chance to play and have a career in the NBA too. As for what he represents...I'd say that right now he represents hope for other Asian American athletes. At the end of the day, all that matters is your ability to play and perform in sports—it doesn't matter what color you are, which makes it probably the most honest form of work there is.
That being said though: Jeremy will show other Asians that it's possible to achieve things.
Bill Yao: Would love for him to become a NBA star but from what I can tell from his YouTube clips he doesn't seem like he has superstar potential. I also don't think most Americans would distinguish American-born from foreign-born Asians like Yao Ming.
Jonathan Lee: I’ve followed the career of Jeremy Lin ever since he played at Palo Alto High in high school and through his four years at Harvard. He’s obviously a very gifted player and should have received at least one Division I scholarship offer coming out of college. I truly think that his race affected the decisions in a lot of coaches.
He’s a great player—always one of the best on the court, and well-rounded. The fact that he was in the top 10 in every statistical category last year in the Ivy League proves this. His basketball IQ is very high. However, projecting him to the NBA game is rather difficult, because he’s more of a combo guard, not really a true point guard, and he’s not the kind of scorer you need to be a shooting guard. If he plays in the NBA, I'm not sure where he’ll play.
But Lin has done a lot to increase his visibility. He’s received a ton of exposure on the national scene, with a feature in Time, and numerous features on ESPN. Now I think his future depends on a lot of things, particularly how Harvard performs in the Ivy League. The Ivy League will only send one team to the tournament—either Harvard or Cornell. If he can somehow lead Harvard to an upset of Cornell and take his team to the NCAA tournament, that will do a lot for his exposure, and his chances to impress people will increase.
I think he has a chance to be drafted, but I think it's a long shot. He will most definitely be invited to work out with various NBA teams, though, and be given the opportunity to showcase himself by playing in the Summer League. If he doesn't get signed by a NBA team, I can easily see him playing in the NBA Development League or in a pro league in Europe.
Nelson Wang: I ribbed you in my initial response to this email by pointing out the unusualness of calling Lin “Taiwanese American” rather than Chinese American, but I think that’s emblematic itself of how important it is to have role models of your own ethnicity and national origin, and how the closer that role model gets to your specific background, the more meaningful it is and the more pride it induces. For me, I’d probably refer to Lin as Chinese American, while for non-Chinese Asian, he’s probably more often described as Asian American—we are all Jeremy Lin!.
Michael Kim: Lin will have to overcome stereotypes on several levels. Gaining acceptance as an Asian American is one but I don't know if people who have already "accepted" Yao Ming would know the difference. But in a sense, going to Harvard hurts him. If he played at a Big 12 or Big East school, there wouldn't be many questions about his skill set as compared to other college players. And he'll also have to overcome stereotypes from coaches who want players who are smart, but not too smart—as crazy as this sounds, it's true.
This reminds me of a story James Brown of CBS Sports once shared with me. Don't know how many of you are aware that Brown is a former Harvard basketball star. He's 6'6"; he grew up in a rough area of D.C., but his mother sent him to DeMatha High School in suburban Maryland. He was offered scholarships by John Wooden, Bob Knight, Dean Smith and all the top coaches at the time, but his mother made him attend Harvard. After graduating, he was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks. At the end of the preseason camp, he and another player were competing for the final roster spot; they were dead even, but Brown was cut. The reason: He was told by a coach that he was "too smart," and that he would be able to get a job with his Harvard degree—but the other guy had nothing but basketball.
Brian Yang: I've been following Jeremy since his senior year in high school. I never thought back then we'd be sitting here talking about his chances in the NBA, even though he was the Northern California Player of the Year at the time. Over his college career, I've seen him mature as a player to the point now where I think he has an all-too-real shot at the League. He's on many NBA scouts' lists, and the way Jim Calhoun, Steve Lavin, and Chad Ford have been pumping him up only helps his shot.
As I said before, you have to have respected B-ball figureheads going to bat for you to raise your profile and your stock. All the recent publicity he's getting is great, and helps his chances, but he still has to deliver. At this point, I think a smart NBA GM should be able to see that Jeremy would be the perfect player to come in off the bench, run your team for 15 to 20 minutes a game and play great defense. I don't know that Jeremy will ever excel as a scorer in the NBA—he has a flaw in his jump shot and needs to work that out—but as a guard to run your offense, as someone with uncanny court awareness, as someone who has always come up with clutch plays in clutch situations, the kid has it. Right now, he is a very, very rough Steve Nash in the making I believe—an unrecognized, smallish guard from a small school. I think he could do everything Nash does, other than maybe score 30 a game and win MVP twice. But a poor man's version of Nash still isn't bad.
If you want to get really analytical, peep this.
Have you played in an Asian American-only sports league in the past? Why or why not? What do you think those leagues represent? If someone could compete effectively in a multiracial league, why would they want to participate in an ethnic-only league? Do those leagues formally exclude non-Asians, and if so, under what rules or parameters?
Keith Chow: I never played in an Asian-only league simply because I never lived anywhere that had one, at least not officially. I've played a lot of pick-up games that ended up all Asian. But I do have friends and family who have participated. I don't see anything wrong with them, primarily because they're just offshoots of ethnic communities.
Steve Chin: The J-league (A.K.A. "Asian league") is a huge part of my life and community here in the East Bay. Growing up in Queens in the Sixties, I had no idea. I played street ball with my non-Asian buddies in the playgrounds. Didn't play organized ball until high school. But on the West Coast, Japanese Americans have been running their own youth and adult leagues since they were let out of the internment camps. It has deep roots, and it keeps the generations of Japanese Americans connected through sports. It's a significant cultural touchstone for the community: Four of the fathers on the team I currently coach played in J-league themselves in their youth.
When my daughter hit second grade, Reverend Ken Yamada, our journalist-turned-Buddhist-minister friend, encouraged me to check out the Ohtani basketball program connected to his Buddhist church. His daughter was the same age as my daughter, and they ended up playing together on a co-ed team in the Japanese church league. After the first year, I ended up as the coach of the team. I loved it for all the reasons girls should play sports. I also loved it because my daughter was surrounded by other Asian athletes, both boys and girls, and at practices she'd see the older teenage girls playing serious hoops. It was inspiring for her and for me. Where else can Asian girls find that?
What ends up happening—after years of organized coaching and competition—is that now our Asian girls are among the top ballers in our middle and high schools here; four out of the five starters at my daughter's school come out of the Asian league, and our high school basketball teams are dominated by Asian girls. It's a pretty impressive sight. And they're competitive with Bay Area schools of similar size.
Our family has also embraced the whole Asian American community aspect tied to the league. As lame as it sounds, I realized I found the "village" that would help me raise my child when we discovered our basketball program. I discovered Asian American peers who value both sports and spam musubi, and, oh yeah, sportsmanship. Who knew? Our team families have become our extended family.
I've served on the Ohtani board for years. Our program has 11 teams this year, with players ranging in age from 6 to16. I built and run the program's website that might be of interest to you for background. Two years ago, my daughter joined another Asian basketball program (http://www.risingsuns.net/) in addition to Ohtani. It's a tournament team that competes around Northern California and beyond, against other Asian all-star teams. And yes, I coach that team too....
Yes, Asian ball has taken over my life. Pretty much every weekend from September through June, we have a league game or a two-day tournament somewhere in California or Nevada. I'm in the gym four days a week coaching.
And that's not even including my own sports!
Bernard Chang: I do not personally believe in the benefits of Asian American only leagues/tournaments and have never participated in one. But at the same time, I can understand that they might provide an athletic outlet for someone who might otherwise not have played in a situation outside his or her community.
A mostly Asian league in Chinatown is the result of the demographics of the immediate community; it's the same, in effect, as a church league or other similar organization. But it's important to remember that in these leagues, players actually pay to play; these aren't employment opportunities that exclude people based on their race and background.
Jerry Ma: I've played in some college basketball tournaments organized by Asian American groups, but the tournaments I've played in were open to all ethnicities. And it really doesn't make a difference who's guarding me—I'm going to do what I'm going to do either way. I really believe sports are as honest as anything in life. Bottom line is, if you're good, you're good.
Jonathan Lee: I have never played in an ethnic league, but I know a lot of people who have. A popular league is the North American Chinese Basketball Association that runs a very competitive tournament every year featuring Chinese teams from across the country. The only rule is that every player must be at least 25% Chinese (one grandparent must be 100% Chinese), which is not really that stringent a rule. There's also a Bay Area youth Chinese league I'm aware of that's very popular.
I don't have anything against such ethnic leagues. Most of the times, they're just a bunch of people from the same community who want to compete against each other. There’s a sense of camaraderie and closeness in them. And a lot of my friends who play in these leagues also play in multiethnic leagues as well.
Brian Yang: Playing in Asian American basketball leagues has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up in California, you're exposed pretty quickly to leagues and tournaments up and down the coast that originally sprouted up as a result of the Japanese being sent to concentration camps during World War II. From that unfortunate era, the Nisei Athletic Union eventually came into being. It was a way for people of the community to recreate together in baseball, basketball, etc., given that they were being barred from society at large. Chinese American teams, Indo-Pakistani tournaments, and other Asian American-only leagues followed suit in due time. Today, there are thriving, long-standing annual national tournaments and leagues nationwide—in Canada, too—in the Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, and Indo-Pak communities.
These groups represent tradition and community. They're affinity groups, nothing more, nothing less. I once asked Jeremy if he ever played in those tournaments back home growing up and he said he did a couple of times and he had lots of friends who did play in them—in fact, his brother still does today—but that he didn't really participate too much.
I think that since he excelled at the game so more than the average Asian American amateur player, he was probably pulled into situations like AAU, or other open institutions, and didn't have much time for playing in community leagues—he had bigger fish to fry, so to speak.
Ethnic-only leagues are recreational by nature. They feature good players and decent competition, but Jeremy had to be playing against the best of the best to keep honing his game. That said, former Kansas star turned NBA lottery pick Rex Walters, who is half Japanese, used to play in those tournaments all the time before he went to Kansas, and a few times during and after, I believe. I think he liked the camaraderie he had with his friends since he grew up playing with them. And guess what? Rex's teams didn't always win!
The Asian American leagues/tournaments don't try to formally exclude non-Asians. It's a tricky thing, no doubt, and they do have rules that mandate that players must be of 25% Asian descent, but if anything, again, it's about preserving a community affinity group that has been around forever and a day.
Have you heard of the All-American Basketball Alliance, the attempt to launch an all-white, American-born-only league in order to allegedly create a "fundamentals-based," "no street ball" competitive environment? What do you think about the idea?
Keith Chow: My biggest gripe with the AABA is number one, it's a "professional" organization, as opposed to community-based ethnic rec leagues. So to exclude people based on race should actually be illegal. But secondly, the premise behind the league is pretty freakin' racist. The founder has said that he created the league to promote "fundamentals" and to move away from the "street ball" that "non-whites" play. He basically said that since blacks are naturally athletic, they use that to make up for their lack of fundamentals. Okay, if these aren't code words, I don't know what are. Hell, those words are barely even coded. And I also like that the league is only for "natural born citizens" yet he cites Dirk Nowitski (German) and Steve Nash (Canadian) as the only "fundamental" basketball players in the NBA.
Albert Kim: I read about this thing last week. I choose to ignore knuckleheads like this, the same way I dismiss out of hand the KKK and other organizations that are designed to deliberately provoke and foster hate.
Bernard Chang: It's a racist organization under the disguise of an athletic organization. That the commissioner of the league, Don Lewis, had the audacity to back the existence of his league because quote, "people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now," unquote, shows the complete idiocy of his scam. Really, white people are minorities now? Besides, basketball was invented by a Canadian, and they're excluded from this league as well.
Jonathan Lee: I do have issues with the “All-American Basketball Alliance,” and I do believe it is racist because of its intent. Their outright mission is to create a “fundamentals-based, no street ball” competitive environment. This is a direct affront on African American players who play a “street ball”-type of game. It’s not just a group of Caucasians players who want to play with each other, but rather it's a group of players who have something against the way a certain ethnicity plays the game. What about if you have an African American player who doesn't play a “street ball” way, but plays “fundamentals-based” ball? Would this person be allowed to play? Not according to the league rules.
Brian Yang: When this idea came out, I was asked, "How is this different than an All-Asian American league? How is what an Asian league stands for different than all-white league?" It's unfortunate, because the founder of this league is so obviously racist by the fact of what he's saying. He may not mean it to be harmful or slanderous, but what he's saying is the essence of racism. He thinks that whites are the minority in America now? Oh, brother.
The fact is, Asian American leagues were originally founded as a result of racism with the concentration camps. Over time, the leagues became tradition. One can argue that these leagues are "racist" in their own way, but I don't think we're comparing apples to apples here: There is no racism without power. My friend who was giving me a hard time with this—and he is an Asian American who played in all-Asian nine-man volleyball tournaments growing up, but now thinks the tradition should be banished as it doesn't help promote unity and equality to all—then asked if that's how I felt if they had a "whites-only" league in China, basically flipping the idea on its head; would that be acceptable? I just wanted to smack him. Smartass.
In the course of writing my San Francisco Chronicle column this week, which focuses on the complicated and often controversial issue of "rooting for your race" in sports, I ended up outreaching to some of the most fervent Asian American hoop fans in my social network. Some of them are players; some, strictly watchers. Some follow sports for a living, others, simply out of passion.
But their responses were interesting and insightful enough that I wanted to share the full "transcript" of their thoughts. And given the limitations on space in my column—limits that I already regularly stretch way beyond the realm of the acceptable—adding 8500 more words seemed like a bad idea. And thus, I've moved this virtual roundtable here, to the frontier wasteland of my personal blog. Hope you find it interesting. And if you haven't checked out the original column, you can find it here.
- Bernard Chang, illustrator and comic book artist, Wonder Woman (position: point guard)
- Steve Chin, social media consultant and managing editor, RezNet (position: coach)
- Keith Chow, senior editor and education director, Secret Identities (position: power forward)
- Albert Kim, staff writer, TNT's Leverage; former senior news director, ESPN, and senior editor, Sports Illustrated (position: play-by-play)
- Michael Kim, anchor, ESPNEWS; contributor, SportsCenter (position: color)
- Jonathan Lee, electrical engineer (position: die-hard fan)
- Jerry Ma, principal, Epic Proportions; art director, Secret Identities—(position: shooting guard)
- Tze Ming Mok, author, blogger (position: front-row trash-talker)
- Nelson Wang, senior editor, CBS MoneyWatch (position: shooting guard)
- Brian Yang, actor/producer, founder, DreamLeague NY (position: power forward)
- Bill Yao, hedge fund CTO (position: sweat-mopper, bench)
Why do you think there are so few Asian Americans in competitive team sports, and in particular, in basketball? Is it a matter of skill, physique, priorities (family or personal), or all of the above?
Keith Chow: While I think the reasons you mention play some part, I think the assumption that those are the reasons there aren't Asian American athletes is the main reason that others—coaches, scouts, press, guys on the pick up court, etc.—overlook Asian American players. People don't expect Asians to excel in athletics, and since that's the default, you have to be really good just to get noticed. And even if you are really good, people still dismiss you.
That's why Yao Ming's NBA career has meant so much to me. I think one of my proudest moments as an NBA fan was seeing Charles Barkley kiss a donkey's butt on TNT because he bet Kenny Smith that Yao would never score 20 points in an NBA game. Of course, soon after, Yao blew up for 30 against Dallas. Point is, even though Yao was the consensus number-one draft pick, people still doubted his ability, and I argue they still do. And as a matter of fact, the main criticism of his game is that it's "too Chinese," i.e., that he's too deferential and not aggressive. That just encapsulated to me what I think most Asian Americans go through on the pickup court. I can't count how many eye-rolls or chuckles I got whenever I called "next" on the court, only to work my ass off to stay on the court.
In a way, though, this question kind of assumes that the stereotypes of Asians are true. There's the idea that goes around that Asians are not "creative," or that they can't "improvise." I think that notion is problematic. The ability to improv is like any other skill or talent and isn't exclusive to any particular culture. If that were the case, never mind athletes, there'd be no Asian comedians, actors, or musicians either. And speaking of musicians, there is actually a long tradition of Asian American jazz. Off the top of my head, I can think of Hiroshima, Anthony Brown, Jon Jang, and Fred Ho. Also, the battle rapper Jin got his big break freestyling on BET.
The point is, Asian Americans' inability to "improvise" on the court or on the playground isn't what's keeping Asians from being a bigger part of team sports; instead, it's the assumption of that on the part of coaches or recruiters that Asians are by nature incapable of improvising that holds us back.
I mean, it infuriates me whenever I hear criticism of Yao as being "robotic". I get what analysts are trying to say, but to me, it's code for "Asians aren't athletic". When Yao came into the league, he was doing things I'd never seen a guy over 7'5" do before. He was, and is, a gifted athlete, but a lot of that is still dismissed by detractors. It really plays into the stereotype that only blacks are natural athletes and non-blacks have to work really hard at "fundamentals" to succeed.
Anyway, I think this is changing for younger generations. Also, I think my family is the anomaly. I mean, both my uncle and cousins were star basketball and football players in high school (I got cut three years in a row. Boo!), though we lived in Luray, a relatively small town in Virginia. In fact, it wasn't until I moved to a larger metro area that I experienced any kind of racism on the court. When I lived in Luray, because of my family's reputation, no one really assumed I couldn't play sports. And my parents never discouraged me to play sports.
Steve Chin: Basketball is a full contact sport where physical play is a big asset. And the closer to the rim—preferably above it—that you play, the better your chances of success. By high school, it gets tougher for Asian boys generally to match up on the court, in terms of height. They possess the skills and quickness, but that's not always enough to make the cut. Same goes for the girls, although maybe to a lesser degree (the physical disparities do not appear as great).
Albert Kim: I think the answers are going to vary depending on what generation you’re talking about. I’m in my mid-40s and my parents were first-generation immigrants who stressed academics and the arts, and could care less about athletics of any kind. For most of my peers, athletic accomplishment ranked way down on the list of priorities. I think younger generations grew up with parents who had somewhat broader perspectives on that front, but they were stifled by not having any role models out there. It’s hard to press forward with an activity when you don’t see anyone who looks like you succeeding at it.
Bernard Chang: I played college basketball for Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. It was a NCAA Division III program, which meant no athletic scholarships, and we played against schools like NYU, MIT, and even Columbia, which was a Division I school. I was not by any means, the "star player" on the team, averaging a mere 3 ppg, but I was the team captain and named co-MVP my senior year. I went on to be an assistant coach for Pratt after graduating, and was promoted to head coach the following season before resigning to pursue my artistic ambitions out west.
I believe the overriding factor [for more Asian Americans not participating in team sports] is family pressures and parental guidance, instilled at a young age which cuts out the possibility for athletic pursuits later on during junior high/high school/and collegiate levels. Most Asian American families value academic excellence more than any other factor for their youth. As a result, more effort is put on studies and other things like "cultural development", most likely in the form of perhaps a musical instrument. Coupled with the fact that there are few Asian American athlete role models (A.K.A. "success stories"), this adds to the argument against pursuing sports.
If you agree with Malcolm Gladwell's theory that 10,000 hours are needed to master a skill, then this a prime example of that. Over the years, I have coached youth basketball, and many times, I've had Asian parents pull their kids out because they wanted them to study more. What those parents do not understand is that while their child may not play in the NBA, there are still many valuable skills and experiences they learn through team sports as opposed to spending an extra few hours in front of a book. And if the kid is dissuaded at a young age to participate in sports, they are less likely to continue that pursuit later in life.
Another example occurred when I was recruiting potential student-athletes as a coach at Pratt. I would go watch tournaments in New York and a good number of the Asian American kids I approached possessed the fundamental and athletic ability to potentially play at the collegiate level, but their answers were always that they had never considered that an option for college because their focus was on pursuing a degree as opposed to athletic competition. The truth is, less than 2% of all college athletes turn pro in their respective sports. Yet you never see a lack of white or black students fighting to play for their schools.
I also believe there is also a psychological barrier that Asians feel they cannot compete with blacks or whites. This is an internal stereotype that stunts the growth of many potential Asian American athletes, and if anyone who has played sports knows that success is "90% mental." This is exhibited in many college gyms across the nation. In a hypothetical gym, there are usually three courts of games: the "A" court, where the best players ball (usually mostly black and white players); the "B" court where casual players play, (mostly white and maybe some Asian); and "C" court, where mostly Asian students play amongst themselves (usually foreign exchange students). The thing is, there are Asian kids who are skilled enough to play on the "A" court, but most pass because either they are not confident enough or choose to play with their friends, who are less skilled. As a result, when you continue to play against less skilled opponents, you rarely improve.
This stereotype is also compounded by bias and racism when Asian American athletes do venture out to play with black and white athletes. I experienced this first hand, and continue to every time I step onto the court to play pick-up. Pick-up games are the majority of basketball games a player will participate in in their lifetime. A group of strangers meet at the court, and whoever has the next game gets to pick his four other players. Players are selected based on ability first—because if you win, you keep playing—and height second.
But if you don't know anyone, and if there is a black or white player of similar height left to be picked, the majority of the time, the Asian will be left out. This is purely based on racial profiling and not actual ability or skills. Once I do play, and show that I can compete with the best of them, the next time it's not as difficult. But again, there is a world of rejection that comes with athletic competition, and it begins even before you have the opportunity to step onto the court to play.
And if you don't think racism exists, it does. When we played against Columbia University, an Ivy League school, I heard fans in the crowd yell, "chink," "ching chong" and other racial slurs whenever I touched the ball.
Jerry Ma: I think the skill level really isn't there just yet for Asians in sports. The truth is, sports are still something "new" to us. Basketball is really just catching on. I do think in, say, 10 years there will be many more Asians in the NBA. But really, we have a lot of ground to cover skill-wise. I mean, I don't even think the NFL is aired in most of Asia. But Asian Americans seem to be getting bigger recently. And I do think that eventually, we will be better represented in sports.
Bill Yao: I think if you trace it all back, our underrepresentation in sports started with immigration patterns back in the Fifties. American universities recruited Asians for scholastic achievement, not athletic prowess. These students married other students and had kids. To whatever extent athletic ability and physique are inherited, the next generations were, as a result, hobbled. And the parents naturally guided their children down the paths that they themselves had followed to success in America. So there's an upward battle for Asian Americans to get onto the playing field.
Jonathan Lee: While I think it's a combination of many things, I don't think it’s so much skill. I think skill can only take you so far in competitive sports. You can be a great shooter or passer in basketball, but if you lack height or physical strength, it will be very hard for you to succeed. Which brings me to the point about physique. Asian Americans are not on average that tall or bulky, and as a result we don't have as much upper body strength, which is very important in basketball. Our natural build and frame already puts us at a disadvantage.
I also believe there is a negative perception of Asian Americans in team sports. Because there are almost no counterexamples, there’s this belief that Asian Americans cannot succeed at the pro level. And that's made worse by the stereotype that Asian Americans are too passive and non-aggressive. It’s unfortunate, but true.
Tze Ming Mok: Well, I never got into sports because nobody ever threw me the f*cking ball during tryouts. That said, I despair a little over the need for Asian Americans to have some kind of macho, "All-American"-tough football or track & field-type sports star. It's like how China got obsessed with their middle-aged hurdler guy, as if the manhoods of over half a billion men depended on it. Nothing says "small man syndrome" like the desperate need for a big tall athlete dude to make the guys feel better about their yellow manliness. I wish they would get over it. Ping pong, FTW!
Nelson Wang: Size and strength definitely matter, particular for contact team sports and especially at the professional level. I’ve known quite a few talented Asian American basketball players but athletes at the professional level are usually both incredibly talented and genetic freaks of nature (see: Yao Ming). In basketball, quickness counts for a lot, but being physically stronger than your opponent is a huge advantage in terms of getting and maintaining position, being able to finish shots, rebound, etc. And a lot of Asian Americans just aren’t as big and strong as their white and black counterparts. That’s probably changing as a result of diet and other factors, so I’d expect that more Asian Americans would be getting big and strong enough to play professionally over time, but it’ll probably take a while.
As for priorities, I’d say that definitely plays a role. Most Asian American parents don’t envision their kids becoming professional athletes (I’m not sure how representative this is, but when I half-seriously tell my wife, who grew up in mainland China, that I’d want our future son to play in the NBA, she scoffs at that as a non-meaningful goal). And of course, the whole thing feeds on itself—when there are few role models, either at the professional level or in kid’s immediate families and extended families, kids don’t even consider playing and practicing, trying out for teams, getting better, etc.
Michael Kim: Yes, there are some gene pool issues on our end. But one of the issues could be attributed to a lack of selfishness—generally speaking—with Asian or Asian American athletes. There is a distinct arrogance and selfishness that comes with (and is required for) participating at a professional or world-class level in sports. We all know Asian artists, musicians, doctors, etc., who are at the pinnacle of their careers who carry themselves "differently" because they know they're the best. That attitude isn't seen as much for Asians in sports. Some of it may also be attributed to our sense of "putting the team first." Sometimes to be noticed, you have to stand out and be selfish with the ball—call the clear-out and take your man to the rack. We're happy to set the pick or play help defense, but that doesn't get you a Division I scholarship or NBA contract.
One other point I'd like to make is that coaches, scouts and recruiters have to be willing to be color-blind in their evaluation of players. We're less than ten years removed from cynics questioning whether Ichiro could ever succeed at the Major League level in baseball. You have to wonder if they'd fairly judge a 6'3", 175 pound Asian guard with similar talent and skillset as a black or white player. And in the case of Jeremy Lin, it doesn't appear as if they did.
Brian Yang: There definitely is not one specific reason for the paltry number of Asian Americans in team sports—assuming you're talking about the pro and major-college level. It starts at home, and most families instill in a young Asian child a focus on academics, as that's what's going to be your future. Obviously, if I had a kid, I'd do the same. I've never felt that Asian parents tend to drive kids away from sports and into a different extracurricular activity, such as an instrument. In fact, I find that most, if not all Asian families, particularly where I grew up—California—encouraged sports. It's just that if you, as a kid, wanted to play ball five to six hours a day, which is what it takes to get to the top level, Mr. and Mrs. Fill-in-the-Asian-last-name weren't going to have any of that. And then again, you have the proverbial "glass ceiling" thing in that, even if you're good and get to practice lots and maybe become California's Mr. Basketball, big time programs aren't going to really give you a look because of your perceived shortcomings.
I think for kids who get to college and the pros in team sports, they've really got to want it from early on; they have to get into the right hands—coaches, camps, AAU teams—to get recognition by influential basketball figureheads who can help them further their career. Regardless of background, an athlete who "has it" can get there. But it has to start with desire from within, a supportive family, and then all that hype the Adidas/Nike camps, college recruiters, ESPN, and ultimately, pro scouts give you.
Why do you think there are so many Asian Americans, relatively speaking, in individual sports like golf and figure skating (see below)?
Keith Chow: I think it's the same reason there are so many Asian American violinists and pianists. I think there's a prestige factor, especially for first gen parents. Golf and tennis are rich white-folk sports after all, so I think when immigrants come to America, they aspire to be just like rich white folk, so they make their kids do things they think rich white folk do.
Albert Kim: Actually, I think this is—relatively speaking—a recent phenomenon. You can peg the rise of Asian Americans in figure skating to the post-Kristi Yamaguchi period—so that was around what—the mid 90s? And elite golfers like Anthony Kim and Michelle Wie have only emerged in the last few years. Michael Chang did find success in tennis, but I’m not sure that he inspired a huge rush of Asian American tennis players. Off the top of my head, I can’t name any. Again, you need role models, and then a generation later come the athletes they inspired.
Bernard Chang: I have no theories about this. I can only hypothesize that individual sports like tennis, golf and figure skating, have a social status that team sports like basketball, football or baseball does not, and that might be a factor as to why parents are more open to push their children in that direction. And that's critical, because success in any sport is a direct result of spending countless hours of playing and practicing. These are motor and reaction skills that develop more rapidly during youth. As an adult, it is sometimes much harder to "learn" new things than it is as a child.
What people often don't understand is the machine that goes into the collegiate athletics world in order to get your child recruited for college. It's not just about rec leagues. Around the junior high level, kids are introduced into traveling teams, or AAU teams, which pairs area-wide youths to compete in tournaments and such. You have to be selected to play on these teams, so at a certain age, if you are not part of that group, you lose out on another avenue of opportunities. Then there are heavily scouted summer camps that again, unless you are invited to play in, almost squeeze you out of a national scope. There are recruiter databases for kids, which track their participation in leagues and stats for colleges to follow. It is not as easy as scoring a 1600 on your SATs and getting into the school of your choice. There is a well-oiled gauntlet of hurdles a kid, and family, must pass to just be on the radar. A division I college basketball team has anywhere from 12-15 players on scholarship.
Jonathan Lee: In terms of individual sports, I believe physique is the biggest issue. Asian Americans are not blessed with natural size and strength. Most Asian Americans are labeled “scrawny,” and despite numerous attempts for Asian Americans to bulk up, it’s simply very hard to do. Team sports such as basketball, football, and soccer require strength, size, and speed that the average Asian American doesn’t possess. Obviously, you will find exceptions.
But you don’t need the same kind of size and strength for a lot of individual sports, such as golf and figure skating. You just need talent and a ton of practice. Traditionally, what are the sports that China excels in at the Olympics? Badminton, table tennis, synchronized swimming, and gymnastics. All of these sports do not require size and raw physical strength—they highlight hand-eye coordination, reflexes, agility, and grace that are not as dependent on the person being big or fast.
And yes, to a lesser extent, individual sports require a lot of personal coaching and more money. And if Asian American parents see a talent in their child, they'll invest a lot to develop it.
Michael Kim: I agree that it comes down to money. Asian families who send their children down this path tend to have plenty of money. When you have the resources to buy the best equipment and coaches, the chances of success are greatly enhanced. This isn't likely to work as well in a team setting.
Brian Yang: I think the ice-skating/golf phenomenon is proof against the idea that Asian families don't support athletic endeavors in general. Most Asian parents would love for their kids to be famous pro athletes—read ESPN's article about Jeremy's father and his love for basketball from early on. But yeah, I think this boils down to socioeconomics. I must admit, I stole this idea from Professor Harry Edwards at Cal. If you're not familiar with Dr. Edwards, he is regarded as the leading sports sociologist in America—I took his class in college and I'm not just drinking the Kool-Aid. It makes sense. Kids from upper-middle class backgrounds have access to sports that are more expensive to engage in: Golf, winter sports, tennis—sports whose startup costs are astronomical considering the equipment and the lessons, sports where there isn't this absorption of costs by a team of people. When you play basketball and football, growing up, all you need is usually just a ball, a field, and the other neighborhood kids.
We've all grown up with athletic idols who aren't Asian or Asian American—yet does it mean something different when we see someone who looks like us on the field of play? Does it matter if the person isn't a "star" but simply a role-player? What would it mean for Asian American fans if there were a legit Asian American superstar in the NBA? Do you find yourself more likely to root for Asians than non-Asians in pro sports in general?
Keith Chow: You're damn right it means something! Having a real presence in the NBA might not erase racism on the courts, but it would definitely inspire more kids, both Asian and non-Asian, to believe anyone can play. And in order to be that inspiration, the dude has to be a star and not just a role player. I mean how many jerseys did Wang Zhizhi sell? Basketball is the only sport where players are completely exposed. There are no helmets or pads in the way. You're just in a tank top and shorts, so the visual alone of an Asian American guy flying up and down an NBA court is powerful on its own.
Albert Kim: Abso-frigging-lutely! I was a baseball fan growing up, and I remember getting a thrill whenever I saw a highlight clip featuring Lenn Sakata. I was a diehard Mets fan living in New York, and yet I couldn’t wait for news about the starting shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. Could you blame me? He was an Asian player in the major leagues! He was like the Sulu of sports. Or maybe more accurately, the George Takei of sports.
After Lenn, the next prominent Asian athlete I can remember was John Lee, the placekicker for UCLA. When he got drafted by the NFL, first round or early second, I believe, it was a big deal. An Asian player in the NFL? So he was a kicker. Still, to me, a big deal.
You have to remember, there was no one like us out on the field of play. And keep in mind that for many people—both men and women—sports define masculinity. The implicit message is that Asian men just aren’t as manly as black or white men. Remember the whole thing about the asexuality of Asian males? It’s been used to explain everything from the lack of Asian male newscasters to the relative rarity of Caucasian women-Asian male marriages, as opposed to the reverse.
This stereotype is so pervasive that people still think it’s acceptable to make jokes about it. Not too long ago when I was at Sports Illustrated, Rick Reilly covered one of the golf majors, and in his piece he talked about how the tournament directors tried to “Tiger-proof” the course by making it longer. There had been some media criticism that such a move was racist. After the event, Reilly wrote that perhaps it was racist...because none of the top ten finishers were Asian.
The joke, as bad as it was, was based on the assumption that Asian athletes are weaker than others, so they couldn’t drive it as far. The real objectionable thing was, it wasn’t even true! For one thing, Tiger Woods, who ended up winning the tournament, is half-Asian, as we all know. But like others, Reilly likes to overlook that fact.
By the way, racism in sports coverage is an entire topic unto itself. I can’t tell you the number of racist experiences I had during my years working for SI—both from athletes as well as from other sports journalists. Everything from jokes about eating dogs to outright slurs.
Bernard Chang: Of course it matters. We live in such a visual society these days; any symbol of recognition is critical. While many would say that it shouldn't matter—and, yes, in a perfect world it wouldn't—you can't discount the importance of seeing a "familiar face." At the same time, there is also more to just seeing someone who looks like you, it's also hearing them speak in English. Hideo Nomo did wonders to break the racial barrier in baseball, but the guy always spoke through an interpreter, which does little for me as an Asian American.
Jerry Ma: There already is a legit Asian superstar in the NBA. Yao Ming is no joke. He's a franchise player. And yes, I did root for him in the beginning simply because he was Chinese—but now I see other people rooting for him because he is just that good.
I do think it's important to see people that look like you on TV, because unfortunately, we are what we see. Asian people were never looked at as athletes. But now with Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, they're really letting people see that we can have a physical presence as well.
Jonathan Lee: I follow sports religiously, and I have my favorite teams to follow. But I also follow individual players on other teams, and yes, I do root for people of my own race in pro sports in general. There is a sense of pride when a player succeeds at the pro level; to me, he or she doesn't even have to be a “star.”
In the NBA, there’s obviously Yao Ming who carries the flag for China. But I’ve also closely followed the careers of Yi Jianlian, Wang Zhizhi, and Sun Yue. And in the NHL, I follow Devin Setoguchi and Brandon Yip, a young promising Asian-Canadian for Colorado.
Brian Yang: There's no doubt that when I see an Asian face on the field of play, I'm suddenly more interested. Whether they are a role-player or a star, I'm interested, but obviously, being a sports nut, if he or she is a star, it means everything. We grow up loving Bird, Jordan, LeBron. But when Yao Ming came along, I think it goes without saying that seeing an Asian player on the court, especially as a star, stirs the senses in a different way, because we ethnically identify with that person.
As much as we want to dodge the race issue in America, we can't. Using it as a crutch sucks, but that's a whole 'nother issue. Supporting and reveling in a sports star who is Asian is a no-brainer to me, because we're so underrepresented in that area. If an Asian American were to get onto the right NBA team, and let's say he was a superstar, it would be that team's marketing director's dream. I know for a fact that you would see an upswing in your season ticket subscribers with last names Wang, Lee, Kim, or Nguyen.
But as far as rooting for Asians more than non-Asians? I love my Philadelphia 76ers. If an Asian American was on the Celtics and he went against my Sixers, I'd love for him to play well, but want my Sixers to win. It's still team first, race second.