By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For Fox Deportes
LAS VEGAS – This week, journalists of color are gathered in Las Vegas for a convention, Unity 2012. It’s an event that happens every four years.
Ideas are exchanged, there’s a lot of networking and reuniting with friends in “the biz” and informative workshops led by experts in their fields and professionals.
Typically there aren’t any, or very few sessions, that deal with sports topics. But one on Aug. 3 dealt with the topic of former New York Knicks-turned-Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin.
Lin, of course, is the basis for Linsanity, the brief-but-widespread craze that swept the NBA and particularly, New York, when he burst onto the scene as a high-scoring point guard that few had ever heard of.
Linsanity didn’t even last two months – an injury ended Lin’s season – but it had a lasting impact. Lin blew away stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans simply with his ability to play basketball, even though a few members of the media decided it was OK to make racially insensitive jokes and story headlines about him.
It wasn’t then, and it never will be.
One headline in particular infuriated one TV personality Michael Kim, who said that whenever he heard the racist term used in the headline spoken, “that would just raise my blood pressure.”
Lin was a great story, an American Dream type of thing. Here’s a guy that no big-time college basketball program wanted, and all he did was work hard and make an NBA roster. Now he’s going to get paid with a fat contract from the Houston Rockets.
I’m watching the Olympics with amazement, seeing all of these athletes with great stories getting the opportunity of a lifetime and dealing crushing blows to racism and stereotypes.
I see the Chinese and Russian and other Eastern European athletes and think about how they used to be perceived as tight-lipped, serious, almost robotic in their pursuit of victory. But they’re celebrating, slapping fives, smiling, enjoying themselves, holding up homemade signs.
I see Kirani James, a black athlete from Grenada, so moved by running against double amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, who is white, that he trades ID number tags with him and warmly embraces Pistorius after the race. In a showing of respect for the courage and competitive spirit of a man missing parts of both of his legs, James, the winner of the 400-meter semifinal heat, is clearly honored to be on the track with Pistorius, who didn’t qualify for the final.
It makes your eyes water. You really see that even though it is competition, the athletes are a family. Sprinters from different nations congratulating each other like they are teammates, because they have probably raced against each other for years and travel in similar circles.
You’ve got people of Asian descent on the Russian, Australian and Polish teams. Black athletes competing for Arabic and European nations. Athletes of mixed ethnicities competing for countries where you might not think those ethnic groups exist.
Distance runners from Guam. Female athletes from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei who are finally allowed to compete at the Games. A male gymnast from Chile. A 37-year-old gymnast from Germany’s women’s team (that’s ancient in that sport) and a 71-year-old horseman from Japan in the equestrian competition (71!!!), proof that age stereotypes can be broken, too.
It’s a geographical and cultural lesson that proves we’re all just citizens of one world, one in which stereotypes have no place.