Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On Yu Na...and T-Joh!

I hope everyone reads Happy Fan's fantastic essay on Olympic gold medalist figure skater Yu Na Kim. It provides a great window into the difficulties and pressures of not only training to become a world-class athlete, but to have the hopes and dreams of an entire nation riding on your shoulders, as well. Indirectly, it points to the passions engendered by nationalism in Asia, for Kim's rival throughout her career has been Mao Asada, Mao-chan, of Japan, and neither skater's group of fans has been particularly kind to the other, to say the least. Just go to youtube to see for yourself the tit-for-tat videos posted by the most obsessive and least mature of them. Conscripting star athletes into your own private cyberwar may sound like a colossal waste of time to Americans, but then again, we have our own fallout from past nationalisms to deal with--and the English colonization of America was so long enough ago and was so much less harsh than the Japanese colonization of Korea that we really have no historical analogue to help us understand why it's happening.

Which is not always a bad thing. One of the more positive effects of other versions of American nationalism is the defusing of real tensions in other parts of the world. How else would my brother, a descendant like me in part of Polish Jews, have married into a Polish-American Catholic family, given what happened in Poland during World War II? Even closer to home, my dad was born the year of Pearl Harbor, but he's the father-in-law of a woman from Japan. There really is something to that "Only in America" cliche, isn't there?

Which brings me around, of course, to golf. Can anyone imagine Tiffany Joh, who's just been given a sponsor exemption into the Kia Classic Presented by J Golf, being set up as the good guy (or bad guy) in a grudge match with, say, Mina Harigae--with bragging rights for Korean-America and Japanese-America on the line? An order or two of magnitude more ridiculous to imagine than the race between Ji-Yai Shin and Ai Miyazato to catch Lorena Ochoa for world #1 (they're now separated by .09 points in the latest Rolex Rankings) becoming a nationalist spectacle, isn't it? Much more likely to be a UCLA vs. Duke thing, come to think of it....

By the way, if Joh were to nab a top 10 at the Kia Classic, she'd qualify for the Kraft Nabisco Championship (under their new eligibility rules)! Go, T-Joh!

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