Analyzing Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s Anti-Jeremy Lin Tweet

24 Feb

Toronto.

That seems a futile exercise. Dissecting a Floyd Mayweather Jr. remark, that is.

Saying something really ludicrous seems to be his M.O. to get people’s attention, so there’s not much profundity to extract when Mayweather opens his mouth.

Paying attention to what Mayweather says amounts to validating his self-centeredness and stoking his ego. In short, reacting to his rants is a waste of time.

I kept that in mind when I thought about his tweet on Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks point guard who, as everybody on planet basketball knows by now, has risen from obscurity to become the toast of North American sports.

In his tweet, Mayweather said: “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.”

Mayweather — the perpetual diss machine — may actually have a point. Seriously. (With emphasis on may.)

Try really, and I mean really, hard to imagine that this was tweeted by someone who has no long history of offensive behavior, and there’s some truth in there.

Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian? True and false.

Mayweather didn’t say Lin was a scrub, let’s give him that. In fact, it’s surprising he even considers Lin to be “good” given his propensity to look down on other athletes not named Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Good, in Mayweather’s vocabulary, is equal to high praise.)

To begin with, isn’t Lin’s Far Eastern roots part of what makes this a compelling underdog story?

In a league dominated by African-Americans and Europeans, it’s hard to ignore a player of Asian descent killing it on the hard court the way Lin does.

Mike Breen, the veteran ABC anchor who calls the Knicks games, said: “When you combine the Asian-American factor and the Harvard factor, I think that’s really grabbing people. I think that’s No. 1 [reason behind the hype].”

If another player had followed the Lin storyline except he was African-American and not Asian, the buzz wouldn’t have been this off the charts. What’s helping to drive up the craze is the fact that there are more Asians who now watch the NBA because they want to see how Lin is doing. As stellar as Lin has been, the truth is we Asians wouldn’t be as intrigued by his play if we didn’t feel we connected to him regionally.

The measuring stick for Lin’s appeal goes beyond the Knicks’ home games; it is on the road where tickets are selling out that’s a telling gauge of Lin’s popularity. In fact, people aren’t just interested to see Lin; some of them, most notably fans of Asian descent, abandon their own home team entirely and shift allegiances in favor of Lin and the Knicks.

I was at the Knicks-Toronto Raptors game on Feb. 14, and nearly half the bleachers section of the Air Canada Centre was filled with people of Asian lineage, most of who were waving Taiwanese flags and raising pro-Asia posters and banners. (At halftime, the scoreboard even flashed the names of several Canadian-Taiwanese cultural groups who were at the game.)

When Lin scored the game-winning three, you would’ve expected the home crowd to fall silent. But, no, it exploded. The Knicks are enjoying a pseudo home-court advantage away from home, thanks to the Asian-American communities in NBA cities.

The Asian factor is crucial to the hype, but this is where Mayweather got it wrong. It’s not all there is to it.

Lin being Asian wasn’t the only reason his popularity has snowballed the way it has. It was a perfect storm of factors that came into play. The fact that Lin came from a school with no basketball tradition (Harvard), that he bounced around the league in his rookie year, and that he warmed the Knicks bench early this season certainly all added to what people are now calling the Legend of Lin. Throw in the New York aspect (huge basketball and media market), a once-proud fan base that’s sick and tired of underachieving and just starving for positive vibe, a normally slow news stretch in North American sports, and today’s combination of 24/7 news and social media and you have the recipe for Linsanity.

The second part of Mayweather’s tweet — “Black players do what [Lin] does every night and don’t get the same praise.” — is also part true and part false.

What Mayweather is asking is this: why isn’t such lavish attention heaped on African-American basketball players the way it’s given to Lin when a lot of them basically do the same thing he does and some of them even better?

Let’s be more concise with the comparisons by citing other point guards in the league. Why isn’t there a Chris Paul phenomenon, or a D-Rose craze? Why isn’t there a Russell Westbrook-mania? Or why are people talking about Westbrook’s temper tantrums instead of fully focusing on the fact that his super skill set has helped Oklahoma City to the best record in the West? Why isn’t there a Rajon Rondo rage? Or why is so much emphasis given by the media on the Boston Celtics point guard’s weakness as a jump-shooter and his inconsistent play over his strengths as a playmaker and a defender?

There are two reasons why black players don’t seem to get the same level of praise.

The first has something to do with expectations. African-American players have been so good at basketball for so long and have raised their performance standards so high that people expect, even demand, them to play at such a high level night in and night out. Global praise won’t be showered on a black point guard averaging 23 points and 9 assists over an 11-game stretch that mostly features below-.500 opponents. International acclaim comes to a black player only when he wins championships and MVPs.

The second reason involves time.

Lest Mayweather forgets, other black players “who basically do what Lin does” have enjoyed praise, granted it wasn’t on this magnitude.

Rondo was the toast of the basketball world when he eviscerated the Lakers en route to the Boston Celtics winning the 2008 title. All that high praise went up in smoke, however, when Rondo couldn’t improve his perimeter game (until now) and talk emerged that he has had some attitude problems. Same goes for Westbrook, considered two seasons ago as a catalyst for the Thunder’s resurgence with his amazing scoring ability but now is seen by critics as a drawback to the team’s title aspirations because he scores too much as a point guard.

The takeaway here? The hype naturally dissipates over time, when players play more games and we know more or less what their talent ceiling is. Rondo, we now know, can’t make a jump shot and never will. Westbrook, we now know, is a score-first, pass-second point guard and won’t ever change his game.

With Lin, we don’t know yet because he has only started to play significant minutes in 12 games. Yes, there’s a disturbing trend (iffy decision-making leading to turnovers, defensive liability) but that’s being ignored now because, No. 1, the Knicks are winning and, No. 2, Lin is basically just a rookie and he still has all the time to improve.

That’s where Mayweather is coming from. He believes there are better black players out there who deserve the recognition than Lin does. And that’s the problem with viewing the Jeremy Lin experience with colored eyes.

My cousin from Manila asked me what my opinion of Lin was. I said I wouldn’t cheer for him by default because I’m Asian. I was impressed when he hit the clutch three to beat the Raptors, but I was disappointed because my home team lost. I was impressed when he dropped 38 points on the Lakers, but I cursed at the fact he did it against Kobe Bryant and my favorite team.

However Lin arrived at this point, the bottom line is he can play and does win. That’s what got him here in the first place, and that’s why I’m rooting for him.

In the bigger scheme of things, if you can ball with the best of them, the hype will take care of itself. All the praise is simply gravy, just as all the hate and disrespect are irrelevant.

Advertisements

Op-Ed Work: In Bullying, House Rules Trump Playground Rules (All the Time)

20 Jan

Poster’s note: Pinasulat kami sa journalism class ng op-ed piece tungkol sa isyu na tingin nami’y may malaking impact sa lipunan. Pinili ko ang school bullying.

Malaking isyu ang bullying dito sa Ontario. Nung nakaraang taon, ilang estudyante — sa high school, karamihan — ang nagpakamatay dahil sa tindi ng pangha-harass ng kanilang mga ka-eskwela.

Sa Pilipinas ang mga ganitong storya ay bihirang binibigyan ng national coverage; kumbaga masmalaki ang tsansang bigyan ito ng tabloid treatment. Pero dito sa Canada, naging laman ng mga headline ng malalaking dyaryo ang isyu na’to.


There hasn’t been much news on school bullying in weeks, but I don’t know if that’s entirely a welcome development.

The last quarter of 2011 saw the media train their sights on such incidents, which gripped the country mainly because young victims chose to deal with the harassment by committing suicide.

The cases spawned a nationwide reaction from Premier Dalton McGuinty, who proposed a bill that could have bullies expelled from school, to the everyman, whose childhood encounters were published in a series of articles in the Toronto Star.

No deaths relating to bullying have been reported in the New Year, which in a way is comforting. But below that surface do the families, particularly their children, feel really safe?

While Ontario parents await the passage of McGuinty’s bill their kids go on with their lives at school, a daily grind that, likely without dad and mom’s knowledge, includes an encounter or two with bullies.

Any form of legislation that aims to curb the hooliganism should be lauded. On the school grounds, however, where the one-sided battle between bully and victim is occurring and a juvenile thug’s unchecked urge to humiliate “weaker” schoolmates is stronger than the fear of expulsion, the law offers a flimsy safety net for hapless victims.

Unfortunately, what’s in play here is the unspoken rule of the playground.

When we were kids, we tried hard not to cry in front of our classmates or tell our parents that somebody in school was giving us problems because, as everyone that age is apt to act, we didn’t want others thinking we were wimps. We wanted to deal with whatever conflict by ourselves. If we failed to handle it, we mostly kept quiet.

In my elementary school it didn’t matter to some students that they could run to their parents and teachers whenever they were confronted by a bully, because their main issue was the fear of being embarrassed. It was humiliating enough to be bullied, worse for everyone to perceive you as weak by calling your mommy teary-eyed and with your pants all wet.

Looking back at my school days, bullying is really a perception issue. One kid thinks he’s superior, the other thinks he doesn’t have a chance.

And how this mind-set is cultivated largely falls on the family. If bullies are the result of a lack of parental supervision, that’s the case too with the bullied. How open are communication lines in the family? How much do kids trust their parents about their problems? How vigilantly do parents prepare their kids to face the mental, emotional and social demands of school?

Of course, the school administration is accountable for monitoring cases of student thuggery. But when minors are supposedly at the comforts of their homes painfully questioning their self-worth and contemplating taking their own life instead of sitting down with dad and mom, parents must be able to spot this disconnect and bridge the gap.

The McGuinty government has rightfully acted on the bullying issue but this problem didn’t have to reach that level.

Bullying is a problem that needs to be nipped in the bud, and there’s nothing more comforting for kids than to see their parents acting on it first.

Dom Menor is a reporter for the Sheridan Sun. He is not a parent but was once a kid.

Oklahoma Has the Thunder, the Philippines Has Floods and Both Love Kevin Durant

16 Jan

If the flooding never stops in the Philippines, why should basketball? (Or, as other countries would call it, water polo.)

Seriously, Filipinos have always recognized Kevin Durant’s love for basketball. Glad the feeling is mutual.

Canadian Job Expert Wants Filipino Engineers to Know What They’re Getting Into Before Leaving Home for Canada

15 Jan

A function on work opportunities in Toronto attended by internationally trained Filipino engineers. One expert believes new immigrants need to keep realistic expectations when they set foot in Canada. Photo by Dom Menor

Toronto.

There are so many variables in job-hunting here that if there’s one overriding advice to new immigrants it is this — prepare, prepare, prepare.

There are many voices too, influenced by a wide range of experiences. But in this interview Mepol Leaf is giving the floor to only one person: Richard Stamper, business development manager for professional affairs and services at the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologies.

It’s a mouthful. But in short, he’s the expert. He’s not the friend of a friend of a friend. Representing one of the top professional associations, Stamper is the real deal when it comes to learning about the job climate in the country — at least in the engineering industry.

He spoke at a gathering of internationally trained Filipino engineers on Saturday, laying out the realities involved in making it through a hyper-competitive job environment.

1. How often do you speak in these types of functions?

Probably a couple of times a month to different groups generally around the [Greater Toronto Area] because obviously there are a lot of immigrants coming into the country. The biggest challenge is often the work experience.

From the employers’ point of view, language skills are the No. 1 barrier in terms of the hiring process so I know lots of people who take language classes, which I think is very, very important. I guess No. 2 probably on that list is corporate culture, work place norms, not being familiar with those types of things.

Again, I think services and community centers like this can be very helpful in making new immigrants aware of those things, and I think networking with other professionals, especially as I said 23 percent of our members [at OACETT] are internationally trained, so they’ve gone down that road before and they’ve met those challenges. I think new immigrants can learn a lot from their colleagues and understand maybe a little bit more about those challenges and learn how to overcome them.

2. How far off or how close are most the immigrant engineers to the standards set by the industry?

Generally, there’s some good news. On the academic side, that’s sort of one of the qualifications and generally a high percentage have already met that. Their educational background back home meets our educational requirements. That’s some good news to start off.

The work experience, generally they have lots outside the country and we accept one year outside [of Canada]. It’s the one year [work experience] in Canada, as I say again, that’s the biggest challenge. Writing the exam, yeah, we provide the study materials. It doesn’t tend to be much of a huge hurdle. And the technology report, a lot are very familiar with that and have done a lot of technology reports in their career so that doesn’t tend to be a huge hurdle either. It really comes down to being given the opportunity to get that work experience here in Canada. Really, that’s so far ahead of all the other issues.

3. I’ve talked to some people looking for work that suits their qualifications, but they’ve had a hard time finding jobs. Some of them think the standards set by the government aren’t fair. What are your thoughts on that?

The standards are not so much from government, it’s more from industry. Obviously if the industry says, “Here’s the standard, here’s what we need to be efficient and effective and really professional,” then that’s what the industry needs.

I can certainly understand, not first-hand knowledge but hearing enough stories, that it is frustrating when people have, let’s say, been an engineer for 20 years outside the country and they come here and not be recognized as an engineer. We try to talk to employers and say, “Look, you need to recognize that internationally trained professionals are a big part of the talent-crunch solution. And if you don’t look at them as part of the solution, you’re going to be scrambling and you’re not going to fill positions.”

But again, there’s issues on both sides. The immigrants think they can come in and step right in, sort of carry on perhaps from their home country. I think that’s unrealistic. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you’re an electrical engineer. The codes around the world can be very different from country to country. So you may know codes like the back of your hand in the Philippines, and you come to Canada the codes are different. And you have this expectation that you’ll be able to walk in and do the work and yet you don’t know the codes or the codes are different. And so the industry says, “You have to have experience knowing the codes before you step in and do certain jobs.” I think that’s not unreasonable.

Then there are some times when, quite frankly, many internationally trained professionals just don’t get the opportunity even with this wealth of experience and that they could almost step right in on the technical side. Maybe they need some learning on the corporate culture, but they have technical skills. And sometimes they’re not given the opportunity. That’s frustrating. I really get a sense of that. We’re trying to bridge that as best we can.

The standards aren’t unreasonable. They need to be set a certain set of standards. There’s a balancing act there somewhere, where you can’t have so few [qualified individuals] and yet so hard [to enter the workforce] but you can’t let anybody and everybody in, right?

The industry is a big part of setting that standard. It’s no different than when a student goes to university or college. There are committees that help create the curriculum because you want the students learning skills so they can step right into the market. You don’t want them learning something that’s not applicable in the work world. So they build their curriculum around what the industry needs.

4. You’ve talked to job-hunters when they’re here. But to those who plan to migrate here and find jobs, what advice can you give them before leaving their countries and coming over?

Get connected. Get a sense of what you’re going to be faced with. There’s nothing worse than having unrealistic expectations and landing here and you go, “Uh oh, boy, I wasn’t expecting this.”

If you know what’s coming your way and you can prepare for it and start to tackle some of those issues I think that’s going to make life a whole lot easier, right? And we’re happy to help. But I think the preparations, asking a lot of questions and connecting is good advice.

Richard Stamper can be reached at rstamper@oacett.org.

A Tebow Opinion Less Than 24 Hours Before the Denver Davids Take On the New England Goliaths

14 Jan

Just when I thought every possible story about Tim Tebow has been told, I found an interesting article on the Denver Broncos quarterback and his vocal profession of his faith.

I’m Catholic, so it’s hard not to read all the vitriol aimed at Tebow pertaining to the Jesus Christ lovefest without cringing.

But let’s set that aside because I’m not going into that.

Marcus Cederstrom asks, “What if Tebow were Muslim?” My answer is, “Who cares?” In the simple symbiotic world of fans and athletes, winning makes everybody happy. Athlete and his team rake in the W’s, fans stay happy. Athlete does what he’s supposed to do on the field/hard court/ice, fans don’t care what athlete does outside the field/hard court/ice. (And it’s not as if Tebow is a criminal or a Catholic version of a sabre-rattling religious extremist. He just loves talking about how he loves Jesus. An annoyance to some, but still.)

Cederstrom cited basketball player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and boxing legend Muhammad Ali as examples of outspoken Muslim athletes. They may share the same place of worship but how their careers panned out best illustrates that, in the end, sportsmen are judged solely by what they accomplish as sportsmen.

As an athlete, Ali suffered the ultimate consequence when he stood pat on his religious beliefs — he was denied making a living out of his field of expertise. One could argue that trauma is relative and that Abdul-Rauf’s threshold for abuse may have been lower than Ali’s but when a country punishes one man by denying the only thing that allows him to put food on his table and provide clothing and shelter for his family that leaves that man little room for sanity and with a lot of time to be angry.

But Ali rose above that. He rose above fear, self-pity, petty hatred and criticism to become one of the most accomplished sportsmen of all time.

Abdul-Rauf didn’t do much on the court to leave an imprint on basketball. Whether it was forces beyond his control (rash of injuries) or he just didn’t have it in him to contribute to a championship team (right mental makeup), nobody knows why he didn’t accomplish much in the NBA despite his talent.

But that’s dichotomy in sports — you never win anything, you’re relegated to history’s dustbin; you win and not only are you immortalized but your faults also are erased forever. Ali? Yeah, the three-time heavyweight champion. Say again, a draft-dodger? No he wasn’t. Man was the voice of freedom! Abdul-Rauf? Hmmm, the journeyman player. Heard about the guy. Refused to stand up and sing the national anthem one time. Unpatriotic SOB.

To put Cederstrom’s question in perspective, why don’t we spin it and ask, “What if Ali stunk?” What if, when he was given back his boxing license in 1970, he was knocked out by Frazier in New York? What if he had subsequently lost in their rematch, lost a few more bouts and never regained the form that had people bowing to him pre-boxing ban? In other words, what if Ali was never the greatest? In the context of what he did off the ring, Ali would’ve easily been remembered as an unpatriotic SOB more than anything else.

Which leads us back to Tebow. Whatever attention the Broncos quarterback is generating is because he’s winning. His team is winning. Everybody has his own theory on faith. Everybody has his own theory on religion. Everybody has his own theory on a higher being. But all the Tebow talk — praise because the underdog continues to defy odds or putdown because the unqualified QB keeps winning — is alive and furiously kicking because he has won.

Why do you think God and His mysterious ways are getting so much coverage in this Tebow saga? Because despite his supposed inferior quarterbacking skills, he keeps winning. Why are fans — those on the Tebow bandwagon and the haters — so glued to this episode? Because in winning, his image as an underdog (to the pro-Tebowside ) and as a fluke (anti) is enhanced.

If Tebow were Muslim, fans wouldn’t care about that as long as he kept winning. Just as nobody would give a damn about Tebow 3:16 if the Broncos were 2-14.

In the simple symbiotic world of sports, winning comes first, God and everything else second.

Dom Menor

Just When Toronto Was About to Sleep

3 Jan

New Year’s Eve.

For the first time, I’m walking Toronto’s streets at night. There’s nothing like a metropolis that’s about to sleep.

I’ve been here during the day and seen the city teeming with people heading in different directions. Skyscrapers looked larger. Vehicles crowded the streets. If you weren’t working during the day, you had no business being in the city. That was the message she tried to convey.

At the center of the hustle and bustle, I never felt more like an outsider.

But at night a welcome calmness takes over the city. The cutthroat climate is gone as is the chaos that goes with it. There are no traces of racing rats.

People who are here at 9 p.m., 10, 11, midnight or onwards could’ve been elsewhere, could’ve gone home. But they choose to hang out a few hours more hoping the same city that hardened their hearts from 9-5 could help them regain their souls. It’s about gigs, front acts, romantic walks, or an invite to three or four bottles. If this were a fight for attention, those skyscrapers wouldn’t stand a chance against the small bars and corner clubs. It’s after office hours; it’s just that time of the day.

At night, you can feel the city exhale. You can even sense the surroundings turning into black and white. It doesn’t matter that she loses much of her colour and the vibrance, if that meant the city shedding its image as a daytime corporate jungle. In their place I relish the simplicity and the honesty of a city that wants to get a way from that perception. Or at least one that yearns for some rest.

A street musician performing along Queen Street West.

It’s unfortunate that not many see this side of the city. The deserted streets lit once in a while by the halogen streaks flashed by speeding cars. The faintly illuminated walkways. The dark alleys. The quietness. It’s one thing to walk past a street musician at daytime. At night, you actually notice him. At two in the afternoon, he draws sympathy and derision. Nearing midnight, his music is the only beautiful sound out there.

People are individuals at night. They’re not part of a herd. The 501 streetcar is filled with commuters at 10 a.m. At 9 p.m., it’s one man gazing out of a dew-covered window, or a woman smiling to herself, or another one sleeping. During the day, the streetcar passes you by; at night, you wonder what the passengers are thinking.

I’m into my fifth month knowing her, but I’m still a stranger to this city. I had hoped to someday feel a connection with her. I think that moment arrived tonight.

Nothing like a city that’s about to sleep.