The Business of Sports: An Ugly Affair

Being an avid sports fan from Los Angeles and an alleged Swarthmore student,  this post was inevitable.

TMZ first reported Sterling’s supposed racist diatribe to mistress/girl-friend V. Stiviano, which if verified might cement his position as the dumbest owner in the NBA. Per TMZ, Sterling allegedly said, “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that (instagram)…and not to bring them to my games.” The audio lasts about nine minutes, including all kinds of outdated philosophy reminiscent of early plantation politics.

But the most important question is why now? This isn’t a moment of lapse of judgment, Sterling has a long history of private vices. In 2006, “The U.S. Department of Justice sued Clippers owner and real estate mogul Donald Sterling for housing discrimination, claiming he refused to rent apartments to blacks and families with children,” according to The Associated Press. But all of this was brushed aside soon enough, when three years later, Sterling, “agreed to pay a record $2.725 million to settle [the] allegations,” according to the LA Times.  We would have seen it on Twitter, if he had not spent millions to cover it up (and if Twitter was actually invented). More recently in 2010, former LA Lakers great Elgin Baylor filed a wrongful termination suit against Sterling for exhibiting racism in the workplace. During deposition, Baylor spoke about Sterling’s ‘plantation mentality,’ alleging that in the 1990s, the owner rejected a coaching candidate, Jim Brewer, because of race. Baylor quoted Sterling as saying: ‘Personally, I would like to have a white Southern coach coaching poor black players.’ per the LA Times. This was all part of public record and the league never denounced him, the players continue to take his money, his business partners (NBA and its other owners) shared his immense wealth, and the fans were loyally subsidizing his business.

But why now? Better late than never right? Not quite.

What TMZ reported on tape had been long-standing practice and strongly-held personal belief for decades now. But the situation has received so much attention in social media and prime time news that his business partners can no longer play “hush-hush” to his vile views and overlook the fact that it is a serious risk to their prosperous enterprise. After all, as much as I like to believe otherwise, the NBA is a business and always has been.

Upon closer examination, some of the other owners in the league (Sterling’s partners and cohorts), aren’t exactly  model citizens either.

Richard Devos, owner of the Orlando Magics, allegedly invested millions of dollars in anti-gay marriage initiatives, because gays “keep asking for favors” and “special treatment,” and marriage is “not vital to them, in my opinion.” per Orlando Sentinel.

Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers made his billions in the mortgage business, helping to pass along sub-prime loans to infamous thieves such as Countrywide, which then greased the derivatives that in part contributed to the economic crisis.

New owner of the Oklahoma City Thunders, Clay Bennett, got his billions through fracking, a practice that produces not only toxic drinking water but also irregular earthquakes. And when his business went bad, he simply left and the landowners out of their royalties.

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Russian billionaire and stylish oligarch, got his piggy bank started using political connections to grab billions in state-owned-assets for pennies when Russia first opened up to the world after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Last but definitely not least, you have slum-lord Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers, who refused to rent apartments to minorities because they “black tenants smell and attract vermin,” and “Mexicans sit around and drink all day” per LA Times.

This is just a short list of the 30 or so individuals who own and operate the league that I support with my viewership, who pay the players who I grew up idolizing and fantasizing about, and who made a business out of the sport that I loved for all of my life. And I am not going to kill myself over this, the NBA has done much good to counter balance the many illegitimate practices of its owners. Though the owners reaped in massive profits in the realms of billions each year, its local and international charity through NBA CARES, which is mostly promotional in purpose and operate on meager millions, has had a great impact on the world. If not through monetary help, then at least through spreading the sport of basketball through icons like Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo to two of the largest continents in the world.

Like most large global enterprises, the business of sports is an ugly affair, and most of the time the public is left in the dark or too occupied to care.

PS: I understand that all this evidence of bigotry was obtained in an invasion of Sterling’s privacy, which most of his critics decided to address until further information has been disclosed. I will conformed to the norm in this regard.

 

 

 

China’s Adjustment Period

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PREFACE: This article is me trying to stand up and speak out for the “unpopular, uncool” kid in HS who suddenly becomes extremely popular and “cool”, much to the despise of the current establishment, the “rich, cool, popular” kids. In this case, the kid who all of a sudden becomes popular is China.

I have met many individuals both living in and outside of China, both Chinese and foreign, who when speaking upon the subject of China, would often incessantly indulge upon its lack of political transparency, plethora of social injustice, and the ever-mounting environmental and judicial issues. Yes. These problems do exist and sometimes are far worse and widespread than they are advertised. And No. One shouldn’t use the standard of a developed nation who has had 230+ yrs of history, no warfare on its mainland in the past 150 yrs, with a population of 300 million to judge a developing country with 60+ yrs of history, 4 major warfare on its mainland in the past century, with a population of 1.4 billion. Individuals who move into a new environment (college, new city, college to pro sports, etc.) would often need some time to get acquainted to the new settings, let alone an entire society of 1.4 billion.

And this society hasn’t really been raised under the “best situation” since Mao won the civil war and establish the People’s Republic in 1949, Chinese society has been put through a roller-coaster ride filled with ups and downs of hunger, poverty, nature disaster, and political turbulence. Soon after 1949, Mao started the 5-yr Plan followed by the Great Leap Forward, which turned out to be absolutely failures sending the already backwards China even more back in time. After that, natural disasters hit China severely for several yrs, then followed by the “Red Flood” of Mao’s own personal vendetta rampages aka the “Cultural Revolution” in the 1966-76 that literally wasted a generation’s youth while sending China back another 30 yrs in economic and agriculture development as a nation. Only after 1978 did they abandon the crazy-ass Maoist reforms under Deng Xiaoping, and thus resume the now crumbling education system with only a few universities to serve as centers of higher education. It was only since the middle 80s, when Deng’s policies of “gai ge kai fang” (economic change and openness), did China really open its doors to Capitalism and began to expand and grow as a nation, now known for its cheap labor and hard-work instead of famines and poverty (though both still pervades some areas).

It seems obvious, but look at all the bullshit that the new China has been through in the since it’s inception 60 yrs ago. Sure they are but history now, but they impacted generations before they came and went, and those scars can never be undone. It has been only 30 yrs since China has actually had a relatively stable environment to grow and prosper and look at how much has changed in such as short amount of time. When I was born, the train stations in most cities rivaled that of refugee-camps in third world countries (minus the Red cross tents), now there is an airport in every major city and most are far more extravagant  and lavish than its American counterparts.

I know what I’m saying might not be entirely accurate, but I am trying to be a nice guy, trying to speak up for the “new kid” as he adjust to his new life. All I’m saying is “give him a lil more time” and everything will get better.

Same-sex Closeness in China

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No, this is not an article about homosexuality in China.

This is a story about bros and sis, you know, those people who didn’t come from the mother as you, but somehow they just understand you so well and love you so much, that if they were to be gone you won’t want to be alive in a world without them. This is an article about those people.

After spending most of my free time observing and being a part of different schools in China, I have come to meet an interesting observation. In China, kids from the ages of elementary to high school often hangout and associate the most with kids of the same gender, this doesn’t mean that boys don’t play with girls or vise versa. It’s more that when they are free from the confines of class (when they have their own free will of choice), that these kids tend to play with kids of their same gender. You will see groups of boys all with their hands around each other walking down the street and you can see large groups of girls all holding hands walking around town as if they were like the cheetah-girls reincarnate, and this occurs very often in age groups that go up as high as 19. It is definitely not a common sight to see a young boy and a girl holding hands in public or walking together after school, the ones you do see are probably 20 or older (they just look young). It is only when one goes to college, do one observe more co-ed associations outside of class and required activities. As if all the influence of the parent’s nagging of “focus on school” and “study more” all go deaf to  these Chinese kids when they attend college at the age of 19 (national avg.), unless you are a momma’s boy, which is a popular choice among the current generation.

Contrast this to western kids, I do see more co-ed involvement starting as early as elementary school activities and developing into more social interactions between kids of different genders in middle school aka those “first crushes” or promotional dances, then materializing into actual relationships with events like prom and other little things in high school. The same cannot be said of Chinese student, where small tests in elementary schools develop same-gender study group, and bigger tests in middle school creates even stronger bonds with the same kids you studied with in elementary school, eventually materializing in huge tests in high school(where the scores will determine where you go in life) ,  this is also when students just get so into studying that they ignore human interactions in general. Ok, that might be slightly exaggerated.

But the point is the cultural difference between the seemingly more “free” and “open” West and the supposedly more “strict” and “controlled” East can be observed in the frequency of same-sex closeness and the age groups in which they occur. It’s much more interesting to see the phenomenal in person than to read about it from my choppy non-edited writing. So next time, instead of people watching in Starbucks, you should go people watching at schools, in China, and look at the same-sex closeness that would probably not occur in the US or other western societies.

But as usual, I might be wrong, about this whole thing.

In China, learning is moral; in US, cognitive

For Chinese families, Education is the emperor. Education is like respecting your ancestors. Education is Morality. No matter where you are in the world, as long as you are of the Chinese heritage, you must have seen/heard/tasted/smell/experienced a snippet of this during your early days of moral education (unless you have misfit parents like mine). Your parents might say “oh, you know the killing is no good, stealing no good, lying definitely no good”. But what is good? “Oh you know, the honesty is good, humility is good, but if you can’t do those two at least get good grades and straight As, understand?” Alright, that might been slightly exaggerated to an effect, but you get the point. The activity of Learning in the Chinese culture is not only a choice of whether to increase one’s knowledge and cognitive capacities (like it is in the West), but also a choice of being morally righteous or not.

But things weren’t always this way. China had a plethora of schools of thought during the period of/before the warring states, and people learned simply because they wanted to or had an intellectual question that they wanted an answer to. Then this dude, later named Confucius came along and had this whole “Confucianism” ideas along with his own “entourage” comprised of students, friends and family. And it was great, it was a new school of thought and added to the selection pool from which the rulers of each state would select his central principle to guide his policies. Flash forward 1,000 yr to the Song Dynasty, when some crazy-ass Education Minister named “Mr. Zhu” decided that it was too time-consuming to deal with so much variance in opinion and it might confuse the students to have more options in terms of education, so after some thought, he decided to select a few collection of writings (9 to be exact) and put it all under the umbrella of Confucianism and just shove it at all the aspiring young Chinese students. What of the other schools of thought? Well, most were politely banned until it got too tedious so he ended up burning the rest of the “variety of opinions”, so no one would end up being Confused by so many different opinions and it would create harmony. This was the first major act of standardized education in the history of China, and it forever altered d the educational landscape of China and deprived those who came after it (us and all the other Chinese students who lived since that point in history) of the opportunity and resources to re-create the Renaissance-like learning environment of Old China, which happened 2,000 years before their European counterparts.

Anyways, the main idea is that education’s role in the Chinese culture wasn’t always like it is now, and learning wasn’t also a moral issue. This cultural trend took time and many stimulus along the way to develop and catch-on, just like any other cultural practice. So it is a “safe bet” to assume when you meet a fellow Asian student, that their family probably values education somewhat A LOT, hell I mean they are in college, with you. But it is also a nice and considerate thing to probably read and research a little of how that cultural significance came to be, just a thought.

Things mentioned in the article above might not be entirely accurate, since I wasn’t alive to see all of the events unfold. But to be honest, who was?

A New Breed of “Monks”

Long story short, a long long time ago, like 495 AD during the Northern Wei Dynasty when the Shaolin Temple was first built, there was only one kind of monk, the monk. These monks read scriptures, had prayers in the morning, and spent most of their time sitting down with a scroll in front of them (similar to the hard-working modern desktop cubicle fanatics). So as a result, they had similar problems to those who sit in front of their laptop all day; back pains, shoulder issues, flabby skin, weak physical health, and lethargic attitudes. A few yrs later, an Indian monk named Damo came to the temple and saw this, and he thought to himself “nah man, if y’all ain’t even physically fit, how can y’all carry out the road to enlightenment and spread the practices of Buddhism with passion and diligence.”  So he decided to teach them meditative physical exercises similar to yoga, which concentrates on breathing and increasing the internal movements within your body, this combined with the physical labors of farming and cleaning the temple helped the monk greatly. As the centuries went on, it slowly developed into two groups of monks who both studied Buddhism, but one spends more time dealing with the scholarly and the academic called the Wen Sen, and the other group spends more time keeping their bodies strong and fit to protect the safety of the temple from bandits, called the Wu Sen.

And those have been the two groups of monks ever since, until recently. Nowadays, there’s a new breed of monks in town called the performance monks or the Biao-yan Sen. These people are more actors and super-skilled martial artists than actual monks, most of them don’t even have deep connections with the Shaolin Temple.  But the deceptive part of this for tourists and non-insiders is that these performance monks  dresses the same and has the same bald head as all the other real monks, and when they partake in activities such as drinking “gatorade”, consuming large amounts of red protein,  going to KTVs and nightclubs, spending time with beautiful woman (materialistic activities that they have the right to partake in), it often sheds a bad light on the temple and the name of Shaolin. This is not to say that ALL the real monks don’t partake in these activities as well, some do, but at least they are very discrete and private about it and won’t do it within the vicinity of the respected temple. Most of these performance monks start out in small private martial arts schools all over the country or in Deng Feng, and after a few yrs of fundamentals, the super-skilled and athletically gifted ones with connection to people around/in the temple,  are brought to Shaolin to try-out for the performance team, if they make it, they will practice and eventually travel the world and perform with real martial monks and fellow secular but “I am really good at martial arts and acting, so I made the team” counterparts like themselves, but to the foreign eye they are all monks.

The reason for the creation of this new breed of “monks” is the exponentially expanding popularity of Shaolin kungfu that just took off the late 1980s and is still going strong today. Skilled martial monks are scarce in numbers to begin with, and as the demand for more performances, shows, and martial arts schools increase all around the world, so does the demand for more martial monks. But skilled martial monks, well-educated in the culture and history of Shaolin, aren’t made in a year or even years. So to supply the demand for all these newly needed bodies, the Shaolin temple used it’s allure of a “better life” with opportunities to go overseas and perform to attract the athletically skilled and mentally tough and  hardworking young men of rural China, who through martial arts are seeking not only a better life for themselves but also for their families back home. With the influx of the new performances monks, Shaolin has been able to spread its influence all over the world today from Europe to Australia, South America to Singapore, it is literally everywhere. Before this “Shaolin Fever”, neither kungfu nor Buddhism has attracted this much popularity in this many places around the world at this rate, it has truly helped to spread the Shaolin culture and sell the Shaolin Franchise as one of the most well-ran associations in the world, right up there with the NBA and the NFL (without the unions and the lockouts). And this is how we come to have a new breed of monks, and there is really nothing wrong with it, China has got to catch up and adjust to the world, and so does Shaolin. That is a fact. The End.

PS: Please note that what I write is purely my opinion and a projection of what I perceive to be the truth; a collection of fragmented personal observations, blurry interviews, and self-connected dots. So seriously, take this with a grain of salt, as you should with all things written by people with a mind of their own.

China’s Implicit Social-Contract: The glue that keeps things toegther

When J.J. Rousseau wrote about social contracts in his “On the Social Contract” (which I am sure most of you have read), contemporaries reacted as if he had discovered Pluto. Though explosively genius in his writings and thoughts, Rousseau had simply pointed out an occurrence so ancient and obvious, that most people today seem to have forgotten it.

China being the “special” thing that it is, has it’s own version of almost everything; Socialism (with Chinese characteristics), the Chinese Calender, the Chinese Zodiac, the Chinese Basketball Association, Chinese “iphones”, etc. So of course it is only fair that it also has it’s own version of the “social contract”.

The most recent parties involved in this contract were the “Chinese Communist Party” and the majority of the Chinese population (mainly comprised of farmers without a middle school diploma), they say this document was officially signed in 1949, but no evidence remain. Like all things related to the Chinese Communist Party, it is best when kept on the DL, so this contract is an “implicit” one. More so than anyone on this planet, the Chinese people fear luan or chaos, it is something we inherit from our ancestors and pass down generation after generation through “Tiger Moms”. This fear of social instability or messiness in general is the main reason that despite having a lot less freedom and more injustice than all other world powers, China still garners one of the most stable and tranquil societies in the world, even if it’s a result of fists and not hugs. Lower educational standards and less creative classes help too, but as more and more Chinese are entering American colleges, things aren’t what they use to be.

But the thing about this contract is that as long as there is no “big shit going down”, like the farmer revolts that seem to plague China every 150 yrs or so, and the economy continues to inflate, the Chinese people won’t mind that their internet is more censored than in North Korea, or the fact they can’t go on facebook or own firearms. Because in this world, freedom can be bought while stability has to be fought (in most cases). Who knows if the contract will be rewritten in the decades to come, but for now as long as there is state-televised programs to watch, food on the table, and Japan is still “public enemy #1”, people will be content or so it seems.

Living with AIDS

Imagine getting terribly sick every other wk from the most minuscule of causes (not washing your hand, allergies, fatigue), imagine your body covered with enlarged lymph nodes, and your belly swollen to the size of 8-month pregnancy, now imagine your parents gone and family so afraid to even go near you, oh and I almost forgot to tell you, you are only 5 yrs old. This is the life of an AIDS-affected orphan, a life that no matter how much you try to learn about, will never fully understand. What I will attempt to do through my posts is to present an accurate account of their circumstances and the conditions I saw through my eyes, so that you may be able to not only appreciate your own life but also learn to respect others.

I recently visited the Fuyang AIDS Orphan Salvation Org. aka AOS, located in North Anhui Province, the epicenter of AIDS and poverty in China today. It is one of the few non-government affiliated salvation organizations in China, and the only one dealing with AIDS-affected orphans. The title” AIDS-affected orphans” is something of a novelty, for it didn’t exist in China until recently. From the late 90s to early 00s, many poor farmers in China’s rural villages resorted to selling organs (kidneys, spleens) and blood to acquire income in order to support their families. During this process it seems that not much attention was paid to cleaning the syringes involved, and the HIV virus became an travelling bandwagon of doom as it swept through the desolated villages in rural China. What remained after the storm was thousands of orphans (most born with HIV inherited from their parents) living in an environment completely ignorant in the education AIDS, and utterly penniless to receive any treatment.

Since the start of the organization in 2003, blood selling has been extinct in the area (credit also due to China’s rising economy), and over 6,000 orphans have been helped to sponsor families who have also lost members of its family to AIDS. With the comforts of a family, and a steady supply of medicine, most of the kids are now able to live just as healthy as every other kid, only difference is they also have to live with the discrimination and that discrimination will only get worse as they go on to the workforce. What I am trying to do is to change the perspective on AIDS starting with the education of their peers, which is the main source of their discrimination on a daily basis. And compound that with jointly held activities such as Nike-sponsored basketball tournaments and Johnson-Johnson sponsored summer camps to Beijing to show them that there is really no big enough difference between AIDS patients and healthy folks to warrant such discrimination, it should instead be respect oozing out of their bodies, not fear.

As you probably can tell, these past couple of days has had a huge impact on me. I will visit AOS again in the summer (around mid-June) before I head back to the USA for college, it would be honor if any of you would like to join me. The organization is currently working with graduate students from Harvard and MIT. Contact me if you are interested, my good friend Hong Chen has already send me his admiration for the organization’s work and interest in helping.