China’s New Sports Problem — Stop the Linsanity?

20 Feb

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2012/02/chinas-new-sports-problem

Again, I’m not a basketball fan. I don’t watch basketball games, either. I’m actually so sick of the media bombardment of Linsanity that I change channels right away whenever they start covering the news about Jeremy Lin. =.=a However, the recent article on The Economist has a good share of coverage on him and China’s problem, rather a dream to me, of wanting to claim him. Here are the excerpts:
 

“Mr Lin has quickly amassed a huge following among Chinese basketball fans (and this country does love basketball). This poses a bit of a conundrum for Chinese authorities for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that Mr Lin is an American who is proudly of Taiwanese descent, which would seem to complicate China’s efforts to claim him (and oh how they have tried already—on which, more below).

 

But there are three other reasons Mr Lin’s stardom could fluster the authorities. First, he is very openly Christian, and the Communist Party is deeply wary of the deeply religious (notably on those within its own ranks). Second, he is not a big centre or forward, the varietals which are the chief mainland Chinese export to the NBA, including the Mavericks’ Mr Yi; and of course he came out of nowhere to become a star, having been educated at the most prestigious university in America, Harvard.

 

What of Mr Lin’s faith? If by chance Mr Lin were to have gained entry into the sport system, he would not have emerged a Christian, at least not openly so. China has tens of millions of Christians, and officially tolerates Christianity; but the Communist Party bars religion from its membership and institutions, and religion has no place in its sport model. One does not see Chinese athletes thanking God for their gifts; their coach and Communist Party leaders, yes, but Jesus Christ the Saviour? No.

 

So China almost certainly has its own potential Jeremy Lin out there, but there is no path for him to follow. This also helps explain, as we have noted, why China fails at another sport it loves, football. Granted, Mr Lin’s own path to stardom is in itself unprecedented, but in America, the unprecedented is possible. Chinese basketball fans have taken note of this. Mr Lin’s story may be a great and inspiring proof of athleticism to the Chinese people, but it is also unavoidably a story of American soft power.

 

Mr Lin’s Taiwanese family background seems to pose a special problem. China Central Television (CCTV), the national monopoly that broadcasts NBA games, has not joined in Linsanity. A game featuring Mr Lin a week ago, against the Minnesota Timberwolves, was broadcast on Beijing TV’s sport channel, but the broadcast included the forbidden image of the Taiwanese national flag, held proudly by fans in the stands. (The flag is typically blurred in China if it must appear in news footage). Chinese netizens noticed, and wondered if that would bring a punishment, or a tape delay. CCTV, for its part, told Netease, a Chinese internet portal, that most Knicks games couldn’t be shown due to the “time difference”, “but if time allows, games of the Knicks will definitely be broadcasted preferentially.”

 

Further reading: https://twyankeesfan.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/linsanity-jeremy-lin/

 

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