Who was naughty and who was nice in 2011?

The Layup Drill — a NEW monthly sports column about Asians

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

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As we welcome in 2012 and recover from the holidays, The Layup Drill takes a look back at 2011. And, just like Santa Claus, The Layup Drill has compiled a list of the naughty and nice of 2011. Fortunately, there were more nice than naughty.

Nice

Norm Chow is going home to Hawaii to become the University of Hawaii head coach. Chow, who is Chinese Hawaiian, spent much of his time as an assistant coach for Brigham Young University. He also served as the offensive coordinator for the University of Southern California (USC), while current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll coached for USC. At USC, he was responsible for coaching several quarterbacks that went to the NFL. Chow was passed over for several college head coaching positions throughout his career. Some believed he didn’t have the personality to ever become a head coach. Finally, at the age of 65, he gets his first chance as head coach. Congratulations, Coach Chow. It’s always nice to go home.

Leaving home for a job with the University of California, Los Angeles, is former University of Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo. He will coach quarterbacks for new head coach (and former Seahawks head coach) Jim Mora. Tuiasosopo spent several years as an assistant for the Huskies.

Canadian figure skater Patrick Chan was voted the 2011 Canadian Athlete of the Year. Chan ended the three-year reign of MMA star Georges St. Pierre at the top. Chan is the 2011 World Champion, four-time Canadian Champion, represented Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and can claim a win over the UFC’s Welterweight Champion of the world. More familiar with figure eights than octagons, Chan will fortunately never have to be hit in the face to defend his title.

The Japanese women’s national soccer team was one of the most inspiring stories of 2011. The Women’s World Cup final pitted two underdogs against each other. The United States’ women’s team,  headed by former University of Washington goalie Hope Solo, went against the women’s team from Japan. Still scarred from the tragic earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last year, the Japanese women’s team offered everyone its thanks. Before each one of their games, the ladies held out a banner to the crowd, which thanked the world for its support. Although trailing in the final match, the Japanese team’s confidence remained, and it led to a goal, which evened the match. Finally, Japan outlasted the U.S. team with pressure-filled penalty kicks during the match-deciding shootout.

An athlete that had quite a breakthrough year was women’s Chinese pro tennis player Li Na. She is the fifth-ranked tennis player in the world and was the first Chinese singles player ever to win a Grand Slam title when she won the French Open in June. Her popularity soared after her win. She earned sponsorships from Nike, Mercedes Benz, Rolex, and Haagen Dazs. This year, she has signed at least $42 million in sponsorships. The Sports Business Daily stated that just two years ago, “…she couldn’t buy a sponsor.” A pretty good rise into the elite earners in women’s tennis.

It was a very good year for 22-year-old female golfer Yani Tseng. She won the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) player of the year, and the Golf Writer’s Association of America unanimously voted Tseng the female golfer of the year. The native of Taiwan won seven golf tournaments this year, including two major tournaments. Tseng ranked first in LPGA money earnings in 2011, as she made almost $3 million in prize money.

South Korean golfer KJ Choi won the PGA Championship this year. It was Choi’s first major title in his career. The 41-year-old Choi had been a teenage powerlifter and could squat 350 pounds, even though he weighed just 95 pounds at the time. It was no surprise that one of his weaknesses was upper body strength, since he spent all of his time on his legs. As a result, he turned to the sport of golf at the age of 16. Not a bad switch.

Everyone’s favorite Filipino boxing politician, Manny Pacquiao, faced a stiff test this November as he narrowly defeated Juan Manuel Marquez. The part-time pop star, politician, and pugilist awaits Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in a fight everyone hopes will happen in 2012.

The University of Washington’s Venise Chan ended one of the most successful careers in women’s tennis at her school. The four-year run at the University of Washington included being selected two years as an All-American. In her senior year, she was selected for her play as a singles competitor and a doubles player. Chan, a native of Hong Kong, is only the third Husky to surpass 100 singles victories in her career. A likely professional career is next, and we may one day see her facing Li Na in a Grand Slam final.

And if that wasn’t enough, Atlanta-native Grace Min may soon fill the void that the Williams sisters are leaving in women’s tennis. This year, 17-year-old Min won the 2011 U.S. Open girls’ singles title.

Naughty

Majority owner of the New York Islanders hockey team, Charles Wang, was picked as the least effective individual owner in the National Hockey League. The Sports Business Journal readers believe Wang’s ownership has not helped the Islanders’ success on the ice, as the Islanders are in last place in its division. Wang, owner of Computer Associates, International, is known for his abrasive business tactics in acquiring other businesses in hostile takeovers. These characteristics may have spilled over onto the ice. He has been quoted as saying that if he had to do it all over again, he would have never bought the Islanders. He’s been in a fight over constructing a new arena in New York and there are constant threats of moving the team if an arena is not built. This may sound familiar for those Seattle Supersonics fans watching that team in Oklahoma City.

Former UFC fighter “The Filipino Assassin,” Phillipe Nover, became a YouTube must-watch this fall as he filmed himself draining his swollen elbow. The video shows Nover using a sterilized needle to extract the fluid from his elbow. Before he became a mixed martial artist, Nover was a registered nurse, a fact he tells viewers in the video. So, at least he had some experience. He also advises people not to do this at home, although he explains how you can do it. It’s an interesting video to get some publicity. I’d advise not eating if you watch it.

We’ve all had golf rounds like professional golfer Kevin Na. If you have ever played a hole and it took so many shots to get to the green that a line of people was waiting for you at the tee box to get through the hole, Na’s play should make you feel better. The Korean American golfer scored the worst ever par 4 on a PGA golf hole since the tour began recording scores. Na received a 16 for just one hole, quadrupling the par on the hole. Miraculously, later in the year, Na had another embarrassing moment in a tournament when he swung and missed at a tee shot. Saving him from embarrassment, the golf officials ruled that Na did not intend to strike the ball. The good news is that Na is still on the PGA tour. With play like Na’s, there’s still hope for all of us making the pro tour. (end)

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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