Jeff Lang’s opinion piece “Why Jeremy Lin’s Race Matters” for CNN’s In America Blog is definitely worth reading. Lang argues that Lin deserves the attention that he gets even if he is not statistically superior to other NBA players of other races. He points out that the attention cuts both ways in terms of celebrating Lin, certainly, but also in terms of critiques that Lin alone experiences. I am not sure I agree with Lang’s point that someone with Lin’s skill set who was not Asian would have gotten more opportunities to play high level college ball and would have had a greater chance to be drafted. However, I agree with Lang (and Lin) in that Lin gets more attention and from other players as they want to make sure they are not showed up player they would, according to crude racial calculations, be expected to beat. To quote Lin:
“Everyone looks me and says, ‘I’m not going to let that Asian kid embarrass me. I’m going to go at him.’ That’s how it’s been my whole life. … I’m not saying I get everyone’s best shot, but I would say people don’t want to be embarrassed by me because of my skin color.”
Lang goes on to expand on the idea saying:
“…the schoolyard dynamics of sports means that players facing opponents of nontraditional backgrounds go harder and rougher, put them on the ground if necessary, to prevent being labeled as “the guy” — the guy who got dunked on by an Asian baller, who got KO’d by a white boxer, who lost a scratch match to a black golfer.”
For some reason given the time of year, I wonder if the same thoughts play out on the schoolyard that is American politics. No matter the party, are there times when a person loses and their partisans say, “I can’t believe you lost to a….”?