So why not for Miyazato? She's at least as big a global star in women's golf as Wie, plus she already has 18 wins on major tours to her credit. After her HSBC win, she moved up to #3 in the world, only .01 points behind Ji-Yai Shin and within striking range of Lorena Ochoa. Plus, she was competing against Shin, Momoko Ueda, Sakura Yokomine, and other top 50 players in the JLPGA's debut this week, so even though she had trouble getting the ball in the hole and finished T7, behind Sun Ju Ahn, Shinobu Moromizato, and Chie Arimura, she's likely to make up even more ground on Ochoa when the new Rolex Rankings are released today. I'm certainly not the only one to have predicted this level of success. Of those participating in the 2010 LPGA Prognostication Derby, Ron Sirak anticipated the worst finish for her (10th), I of course foresaw the best (1st), while there was a 4th, 2 5ths, a 7th, and a 9th from everyone in between. While two wins in a row from her is a hotter start than even I expected, it shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone that Miyazato has joined the LPGA's elite. So why is she being concern-trolled for being unable to win in North America thus far in her career? Why are Hound Dog and Jason Sobel the only golf writers or bloggers I know of to
Yes, I said "anywhere"--even in the U.S. Of course in Japan Miyazato is neck-and-neck with Ryo Ishikawa, Daisuke Takahashi, and Mao Asada, among others, for most popular athlete in the country. Where does she stand in the U.S.? Let's see: every major golf site relied on wire reports of her HSBC victory and in the week after it there was a grand total of three hastily-put-together career overviews (by Sal Johnson of Golf Observer and Beth Ann Baldry of Golfweek--scroll down in my Ai-sama victory post to updates 34 and 35 for my assessment of them--as well as a halfway decent one by Larry Bohannan). Even an online golf magazine you might expect better of, Global Golf Post, had Miyazato sharing a page with Laura Davies (good company, but Davies was playing in the minor leagues that week, even if she did get worldwide win #73), in the back half of this week's issue--behind a nice full-page profile of Shin by Lewine Mair. Seems like there's a "no woman allowed in the 1st 10 pages" rule at Global Golf Post.
This despite the fact that the LPGA's tournament previews, notes, and interviews have gotten sharper in the Mike Whan era, that there's been a concerted effort to take advantage of opportunities in Asia and to promote Asian stars, and that even the golf industry seems to be waking up, as evidenced by Titleist's new LPGA ad that was getting serious air time during the HSBC (but has not yet made it onto teh youtubes). So why is the U.S. golfy media so far behind the curve, particularly when it comes to coverage of the new generations on tour? Why do we see more profiles of and promotion of the LPGA's Asian-American stars like Michelle Wie, Christina Kim, Vicky Hurst, and Jane Park--and even of Futures Tour prospects like Tiffany Joh and Hannah Yun--than of Asian stars like Miyazato, Shin, Ya Ni Tseng, In-Kyung Kim, Na Yeon Choi, Eun-Hee Ji, and Momoko Ueda? Consider the golfy media's relatively equal embrace of both Asian-Americans like Anthony Kim, Tadd Fujikawa, and Rickie Fowler and of Asians like Ryo Ishikawa and Danny Lee. As I asked over at Citizen of Somewhere Else yesterday on a very different topic last week, "what's going on?" Is it that hard to talk to English-speaking caddies or agents? To hire translators for interviews with players or to get background from Asian reporters? To read reporting from Asia in translation?
I don't think this is an individual failing, a breakdown in journalistic integrity, or the natural outcome of nationalism or impersonal market forces. It's not often that I get to cite books by academics here, but Colleen Lye's 2005 study America's Asia: Racial Form and American Literature, 1893-1945 is remarkably relevant to any analysis of what responses to the LPGA reveal about race, ethnicity, gender, and class in America today. Even though Lye focuses on a very different time period than our own, she shows how relevant anxieties from even progressive and liberal leaders and writers from then are to us now. Consider the following passage:
Through observations of shifts in naturalism's representation of Asiatic figures to exemplify the promise and the peril of free market expansion, my study seeks to reveal one systematic way in which the critical potential for revealing the damages wrought by globalization in the American context has been short-circuited....
The remedy and exacerbation posed by America's Asia to the crisis of the closing of the frontier entwined the emergence of Asiatic racial form with the intensification of commodity relations and capital's global expansion. The legal designation of Asian immigrants as "aliens ineligible to citizenship" reflected the freighting of Asiatic racial form with an abiding tension between U.S. national interests and capital's transnational movement, between the exceptionalist dream of the identity of nation and capital logic and the nightmare of their nonidentity. (8, 9)
Lye's focus on the "initial textual presence of Asiatic racial form as an economic trope" (11) and argument that late-19th- and early-20th-century Americans displaced their anxieties over capitalism and globalization onto Asians of their own imagining is entirely relevant to our own time, when the LPGA has been featured more in the business section than the sports section, when Americans and Europeans on tour are individualized and "the Koreans" are generally treated en masse and as a mass, and when the presence of Asians on the LPGA is sensationalized either as nightmare or dream. Lye again:
To the extent that American universality depends upon the possibility of assimilation, there is always the danger of finding aliens in our midst, or the wholesale possibility of American takeover by aliens....
In a fifty-year period, a vision of California as a post-frontier about to be engulfed by coolie hordes and Oriental despotism is succeeded by visions of a Pacific Rim utopia, where the local and the global could be made happily coextensive. (8, 11)
The Bivens regime spent too much time worrying about the former, while the Whan regime is working to make the latter a reality. Here's a suggestion: helping American media and fans get to know Asian players as individuals is only part of the solution. (A big part, to be sure, as the closest the lazy American media has come up with anything interesting thus for for Miyazato is that she's a "rock star" in Japan who at first "lost her confidence" on coming to America.) Encouraging American fans and media to embrace globalization is also only part of the solution. (Although highlighting more cross-continent friendships among the players as well as the economic benefits to the tour and its sponsors of exposure in Asia, as well as in Europe and America, wouldn't be a bad idea.) The task is much larger than that: defusing American anxieties that capitalism may be passing them by and that Americans can no longer succeed against global competition and trying to interrupt the historical short-circuit that makes American images of Asia and Asians a symbol for economic transformation. They already realize this can't be done simply by massively promoting American stars (and thus adding to the media and fan pressure on them).
One small start might be pairing Americans of Asian descent with their lesser-known counterparts who were born in Asia--and this could extend more generally between Asian and non-Asian players. The Lorena Ochoa-Ai Miyazato connection has already been established; Suzann Pettersen and Ya Ni Tseng could become a regular pairing, as could Cristie Kerr and Song-Hee Kim, Angela Stanford and Sun Young Yoo, Michelle Wie and Ji-Yai Shin, Paula Creamer (when she's healthy) and In-Kyung Kim, Karrie Webb and Amy Yang, Vicky Hurst and Momoko Ueda, Christina Kim and Jee Young Lee, Jane Park and Na Yeon Choi, Morgan Pressel and Eun-Hee Ji, Mina Harigae and Mika Miyazato, and so on. The point is to put players who combine in interesting ways together on a fairly regular basis, either by game, level of accomplishment or promise, or personality/style. Having tv commentators, golf journalists, and everyday fans on the course and in front of their tv sets getting used to seeing Asians and non-Asians showcasing their games and interacting without the world coming to an end could add up to one giant leap for America.
[Update 1 (3/9/10, 5:21 am): The new Titleist commercial is up on LPGA.com--oh, wait, wrong one....]
[Update 2 (5:33 am): This is not the one I saw during the HSBC--a lot more Asians on that one!
Anyone know where I can find the one aired during the Asian swing?]
[Update 3 (3/10/10, 3:00 am): Here's Stephanie Wei on Momoko Ueda--it's the latest installment in her Know Your Asians feature.]