Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Asian Hall of Fame

As many of you may know, two of my greatest passions in life are (1) being a proud Asian-American man, and (2) baseball.

So naturally, it should come as no surprise that several years ago, I decided to start my own Asian Baseball Hall of Fame in my apartment. Over the years, I (and my devotedly understanding wife) have been spending my daughter's future inheritance on amassing a collection of rare autographed baseballs and cards from Asian baseball players.

I'm especially proud of my collection of items signed by Masanori Murakami. Many Asian-Americans tend to believe that the appearance of Asian baseball players in the Major Leagues is a recent phenomenon. However, back in 1964, Murakami came over from Japan to be a star relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately, due to a contract imbroglio, Murakami went back to Japan a year later.

The other highlight of my collection is based around Ichiro Suzuki, the current Seattle Mariner of Japanese descent who quite likely will end up in the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. Period!

In last night's MLB All-Star game, Ichiro had the performance of a lifetime. He went 3-3, hit a 2-run homer, and was named the games Most Valuable Player. Needless to say, all over the world, Asian and Asian-American hearts swelled with pride.

In a way, the fact that many of us were so overjoyed to see Ichiro perform brilliantly on a national stage is partly why I originally decided to pursue my own personal Asian Hall of Fame. In my mind, I'm creating this collection as a legacy for my daughter.

Despite her inevitable assimilation into mainstream "American" culture, I want her to always be proud of her Asian heritage. I want her to have Asian heroes (and heroines) that she can always look up to. And I want her to see that if she looks hard enough, she can find inspiration from Asians in many venues...sports, art, literature, music. Anything!

But more than anything else, I think I've chosen this particular method of honoring Asian sports heroes as a way of battling mainstream media's portrayal of the emasculated Asian man. Not only do I want her to look at her father as a severe rebuttal to this sadly infuriating image but also I want her to see (in her own living room!) that many more examples exist.

What do you think? Am I a little nuts? Do any of you do anything similar? How do YOU help instill a sense of "Asian pride" in your children?


Monster Daddy said...

LOL MetroDad! I try and do the same thing only I have a son who actually plays baseball so it's a bit easier.

Props to you though! Trying to transmit positive Asian images might be a bit harder when the images are of a different gender than your daughter but keep at it! And how old is your daughter? When she hits age 4 it's time for T-ball! I even coached my own daughter's T-ball team but then she lost interest :( [It's OK, think she makes a better gymnast anyways] In my son's league, I've seen really good girl baseball players up to age 10 or so.

For my son, I try and show him Ichiro's batting clips from and get him to think about his baseball mechanics. But I think my son has the American slacker gene and daydreams while I try and teach him, LOL!

SoulSnax said...

Hell no, you ain't crazy. What you're doing is critically important to our survival. I'm sure there are a lot of parents here who do similar things, and I can't wait to see what they have to say.

Our kid is only six months old, but we already know that it will be a challenge for us is to mitigate the effects of Western pop culture on her Asian pride.

Our media library skews to the East, but what if our daughter wants to consume the same Hollywood poison her peers are into? The last thing I wanna be is the Big Bad Media Nazi in our home.

Anonymous said...

i am essentially lazy, so that means i take the easy way out - two words ladies and gentlemen: asian cartoons. i like that there's a wide range of characters (there's the pretty girl, the smart girl, the cute boy, the smart boy and usually a comic relief of either or sometimes both genders).

i also think it's important for the kids to see asians refleected positively in media, but *cough* i'm having a little difficulty with that part.

i look forward to the other's responses

eliaday said...

i'm thinking i might need to re-evaluate my strategies. to this point, i was trying to provide my daughter with diverse views of asian americans by reading to her out of "angry little girls" by lela lee and "american born chinese" by gene yuen lang.

now, i'm not sure that this was the best idea... i've heard her exclaming, "what the heck?" and quoting other things out of these books that border on the inappropriate for an almost 3 year old.

i enjoy taking her to watch asian american emcees/hip hop and spoken word. she enjoys it too. but maybe i need to rethink this. (but i think cursing in this context isn't as bad as other things people say.)

i suppose i should work on the gender thing and talk to her about sports role models. but for now, she's in to david henry hwang, jessica hagedorn and blue scholars.

thisislarry said...

OK, voice of dissent here, just to mix it up.

I'm just not a sports 'fan', especially not a fan of sports stars in general. I'm in the SF area for I know Barry Bonds is number 25, and I can say, in my announcer's voice "NOW BATTING, NUUUUMMBER TWENTY FIVE... BAAAAAAARRY BOOOONDS!!!" But really that's the extent of it. I simply cant understand what drives people to adore pro atheletes more than pro optometrists, pro chemists, or pro labor activists.

I appreciate how Ichiro and other Asian / AsAm baseballers have broadened people's views of what baseball means as an "American" sport, and have allowed non-asians to see asian men in a new context.

That said, I dont like the idea of pointing out the Asian-ness of the players as their most unique aspect.

Apolo Ono was a good dancer on Dancing With the Stars, and an olympic-calibre athelete, but do I need to point out his asian-ness to justify why my kids could / should go on to be a speed skater or ballroom dancer?

Similarly, I would like to encourage Rabbit Dragon to enjoy baseball because of the love of the game, not because some pros happen to be of asian descent.

thisislarry said...

Eliaday: Rabbit Dragon also loves "American Born Chinese" -for a 7-year old boy, there's action with the Monkey King storyline, and some curiosity about the love-interest storyline. I dont know quite how to deal with the fictional 'Chinaman' cousin storyline tho....

RakuMon said...

Finally had a chance to come up for air! First off, big thanks to everyone who offered congrats. It's nice to (officially) be part of the club!

Yay for Ichiro. Since basketball's my sport, I feel the same way about Asian players in the NBA. I'm a big fan of Yao Ming, and am stoked that Yi Jianlian (a fellow Cantonese brother, no less!) has entered the L. Though, with apologies to Wisconsin-area readers, I hope he soon finds a way out of Milwaukee. Come November, I can't wait to put Kiki on my lap and cheer for Yao and Yi to rip up the NBA!

thisislarry: American Born Chinese is a fantastic book, but I get what you mean. Though I look at the Chin-Kee storyline, though, is as an opportunity to teach. The way I see it, we'll never be able to completely shield our kids from negative stereotypes, so I'd rather be there and explain to them why they're bad. In the case of American Born Chinese, there's a reason why Chin-Kee exists. He's a reflection of the protag's own self-loathing (I mean, SPOILER ALERT: the dude sees himself as a white guy after all). I'd rather confront the negative portrayals head-on and teach Kiki why they exist and then counterbalance them with positive portrayals of my own.

That being said, the only part of Gene Yang's book that I do have trouble reconciling (as a non-Christian) is his reinterpretation of the Monkey King's Journey to the "West."

Mr. Maestro said...

I keep tell myself that I would still be playing baseball if I had some Asian American role models when I was growing up (especially the style of play of an Ichiro.) Do you have any Len Sakata (Oriole 2nd baseman early eighties)?

Darryl said...

...bottom of the ninth
world series games 7 and he
belts a game winning base
hit driving in the winning run."

this is the moment we all live for

until then it's

"hey there you're an all star

let's all go out and play.."

do you know what i mean?

o.k. let's live it.