Womanist AND a sports fan?

Friday, February 10, 2012

by Tavae Samuelu, Grassroots Fundraising Coordinator
Linsane in the Membrane
Me and sports, we have a complicated relationship. I love them, I really do. Although, I have zero athletic ability, and my eighth grade basketball coach called me a waste of height. I still get all kinds of nostalgic when I think about the Sundays I’ve spent watching football, the Lakers I’ve seen come and go, even enjoying the seventh inning stretch of an otherwise uneventful baseball game. That song with the Cracker Jacks is really catchy. Sports are what I distract my dad with when he asks about my plans for the future. I can actually mark the moment in our conversations on rugby where his mind wanders to his glory days on the field. Sports are how I connect with the youth that I tutor because they would rather discuss the Super Bowl than balance chemical equations. Sports are what I do with my best friends.
Last year, we attended a Golden State Warriors game because it was an Oakland thing to do, because it was Asian Pacific Islander Night, and because the Warriors had just signed an underrated point guard by the name of Jeremy Lin. Only minutes into the game, my friends and I were already chanting, “JEREMY LIN! JEREMY LIN!” Warriors fans surrounding us were annoyed and confused as to why there were three drunken womyn yelling for some third-string player who may not see any time on the court. Before even entering the Oracle that night, I had months of information from my friends who were brimming with Jeremy trivia. I knew that he was from Palo Alto. I knew that he went to Harvard. I knew that growing up in the Bay, the Warriors were his favorite team. Most importantly, I knew that he was Taiwanese. I attended that game that night because Jeremy Lin is Taiwanese. There was something infectious about seeing my best friend beam with pride as she watched someone who looks like her playing the game she loves.
Since that night, the Warriors let Lin go, and after bouncing around a bit he landed in New York with the Knicks where he has been dubbed their long-awaited savior. He has spent the past three games proving his worth to a fickle New York fan base that once kneeled at the altars of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Madison Square Garden ticket holders have been in awe at Lin’s ability to score 20+ points and give assists in the double digits, making both himself and his teammates look good. I am ecstatic about Jeremy’s success, borderline Linsane, but I was rooting for the man when he played two minutes and scored almost no points. I was still rooting for him when he was in the D-league. I continue to root for him because he’s an Asian-American in the NBA, and he’s not only surviving but thriving in a system that wasn’t made for him.
Some sports fans have devoted themselves to sports' "purity," fiercely guarding the arena from the identity politics of race, religion, class, and the whatnot. I can’t do that. Sports are where my consciousness and romantic notions about problematic traditions do battle. My racial loyalty had me glued to a television screen Monday nights looking for fellow Pacific Islanders. The womanist in me cringed at the over-consumption of a franchise that so blatantly exploits womyn. So, I'm at this crossroads that has me cheering for Jeremy Lin because of his race, grimacing at his somewhat evangelical interviews, and deeply critical of a sport that seems to snub Asians. Am I a critically conscious sports fan or a person who's making compromises because she just wants to watch a damn game? I don't know. But come tonight when the Lakers meet the Knicks in New York, I will be the second most Linsane Laker fan sitting at a sports bar near (or far from) you.

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