The Layup Drill — An Asian golf prodigy makes his debut at the Masters, a software tycoon tries to turn back Seattle’s NBA bid, and more…

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at the impressive Masters debut of Guan Tianlang, the man who is Vivek Ranadivé, and Yu Darvish’s nearly perfect performance.

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Guan Tianlang

14-year-old has incredible week

Some 8th graders go to Disneyland for Spring Break, some go camping, and others just stay at home, but China’s Guan Tianlang spent his week competing at the Masters in Augusta, Ga.

Guan had the best scores among the amateur golfers competing in the tournament.  In fact, he made the “cut” — finishing within enough strokes of the leaders at the end of the first two rounds, which allowed him the opportunity to play Saturday and Sunday.

Guan, a native of China, qualified for The Masters by winning the 2012 Pan Asian Amateur Championships in Thailand. Although there were skeptics that were concerned that he would not be able to handle the difficult course, Guan held his own.

He also had the opportunity to play a practice round with one of his golf heroes, Tiger Woods, before the tournament. Woods’ return to the top made the praise he had for the youngster even better.

“It’s frightening to think that he was born after I won my first Masters,” said Woods, “I mean, that’s just frightening. It’s exciting that I have inspired kids to play, and not just here in the States, but obviously in China and around the world.”

While Guan was composed and performed well under the pressure, the golf officials at the Augusta event did not take it easy on him. They imposed a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.  Really.  Guan accepted his penalty like an adult and finished off the round.

Guan is just the latest of young Asian golfers turning heads in the golf world. It’s amazing to think that teenagers would have the patience, dedication, and maturity needed to excel in a sport that demands such concentration and attention to detail.

Guan was not the only player to get slapped with a penalty. Tiger Woods was assessed a 2-stroke penalty due to an improper drop of his golf ball after a shot went into the water.  A person watching the Masters on television noted that Woods did not properly place the drop. The viewer called the network to inform golf officials. The most intriguing thing about this is not that a golf fan called in to report Woods, but the fact they had the phone number and got through.  Usually, whenever I call somewhere, I get answering machines.

Despite the penalty and the potential of actually being disqualified for signing a scorecard with an improper score due to the inappropriate drop, Woods tied for fourth overall.

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Vivek Ranadivé

Silicon Valley software magnate seeks to buy Sacramento Kings

Vivek Ranadivé is an Indian American software tycoon that heads the California investment group attempting to purchase the Sacramento Kings. His investment group is directly competing with the investment group from Seattle for the NBA team. At the time of print, no decision has been made on whether Ranadivé or the Seattle group has ownership of the Kings.

Ranadivé’s story is a lesson in persistence. Born in Bombay, India, he dreamed of going to school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) based on watching a documentary.  At the age of 17, he was accepted into MIT and left India for the United States. When he arrived in Boston, he only had $100 in his pocket and one semester paid for. Yet Ranadivé achieved. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Electrical Engineering from MIT and a Master’s in Business Administration from Harvard University. He started his first company while in college. Since then, he’s founded TIBCO Software, Inc., a software development company with annual revenues exceeding $920 million.

Ranadivé first became a basketball fan when he coached his daughter’s middle school team. He’s been a follower ever since.

Currently, Ranadivé holds an ownership interest in the Golden State Warriors. He would have to sell his interest in the team if the NBA decides to award the franchise to Ranadivé.

The Sacramento group argues that Ranadivé’s ownership would be most appealing to the NBA because it would make Ranadivé the first Indian American owner of a professional franchise. Many basketball fans in India would be fans of the Kings due to the fact that the team is owned by Ranadivé.  With the NBA hoping to globalize the game, influencing fans in India would be a benefit. But does it sway the league enough to keep the team in Sacramento?

Obviously, Seattle fans hope that Ranadivé remains an investor in the Golden State Warriors and that the Kings franchise moves to Seattle.

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Jeremy Lin with his new team, the Houston Rockets. (Photo by Norma Gonzalez)

Lin opens up on 60 Minutes

I can’t write about the NBA without talking about Jeremy Lin.  Lin was featured on 60 Minutes talking about — what else? — Linsanity. The interview covered his trip to China and Taiwan, where he is revered. It also covered the evangelical side of Lin. As a devout Christian, he has spoken to huge audiences about his religious beliefs.

Above all of that, the piece got into the issue of race. Lin opened up about the fact that he believes he was not given a Division I basketball scholarship because he was Asian American. He was frank about the obstacles of being Asian American in the NBA and talked about the stereotypes many had about him playing basketball. He also mentioned the racist taunts he received from fans and players on the court while growing up.

The discussion is refreshing. Last year, Lin sidestepped the issue as it seemed like he didn’t want to rock the boat about his opportunity. This year, with solid footing in the NBA, he seems more willing to open up about who he is and his experiences. Many Asian Americans feel like there are times they are being treated differently because of their race and seeing Lin go through the same ordeal makes them feel like they can overcome it and be successful.

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Yu Darvish (Photo by Mike LaChance)

Yu Darvish’s near perfect games gives racists a chance to tweet

The baseball season just started and already there has been a near perfect game. Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish came within one out from no hits or walks against the Houston Astros on the second day of the season.

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The Rising Sun Gi in black

Darvish gave up a hit with two outs left in the ninth inning. He still won the game, but the social media exploded with racist tweets focusing on Darvish’s Asian background. Many tweets proclaimed that “Only Americans can pitch …” and made references to “karma for Pearl Harbor.” It’s unfortunate that people use social media to publicize their ignorance. It’s also sad to think that race is the first thing fans refer to when an athlete does not live up to expectations.

Flack over Rising Sun logo

Georges St. Pierre is one of the top stars in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC).  “GSP,” as he’s known to most, is a champion in and out of the octagon. He has mainstream endorsements due in part to his good looks and professional demeanor.  He will also be starring as the villain in a Captain American movie next year.

But GSP came under criticism by a fighter of Korean descent for what he wore to the ring at his last fight.  GSP is a devout martial artist who usually wears a traditional gi to the ring. His latest gi, which was designed by clothing brand Hayabusa, featured a design incorporating the Japanese “Rising Sun.” His headband also had the “Rising Sun” design. It was not the first time he wore the design, but it was the first time he wore it in red, which looks most similar to the Japanese “Rising Sun” flag that was used by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.  UFC Fighter Jung Chan-Sung, known as “The Korean Zombie” for his ability to take punishment and continue fighting, wrote an open letter to GSP asking him if he was familiar with the connotations of the “Rising Sun.”  Jung said the design was offensive because of the Imperial Army’s oppression of the Korean people during WWII.  He compared the Rising Sun flag to the Nazi Swastika.

Hayabusa apologized and pulled the design from stores.  GSP also made a public apology.

Not everyone was sensitive to Jung’s take on the Rising Sun design. Japanese fighter Ryo Chonan responded harshly to the controversy, calling the person complaining “an idiot.” He said a lot of the information about Japan during World War II was an exaggeration.

Was Jung seeking publicity or was he actually offended by the design? Was Chonan jumping on the publicity by calling out Jung for his stance on the Rising Sun flag? The clothing brand pulled the design from retail, but shouldn’t it have known about its controversial history?

The controversy is an interesting take on symbols and their meaning to different people.  Hayabusa probably saw an interesting logo it could market, and GSP probably thought the same. Jung saw a symbol recalling a dark past.

Chonan’s remarks, while offensive, could also be a marketing ploy for a fight between Jung and Chonan. The sport is Ultimate Fighting. We will see if this is settled in the octagon. (end)

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

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