It is no secret that most Asian parents emphasize academic performance above all else to their children.
However, whether you are a sports fan or not, the meteoric rise of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin is challenging those mores so engrained in Taiwanese parents like me.
The “Lin-sanity” or “Lin-sensation” and other Lin-something discussions are dominating our family conversations just like Lin has dominated the headlines and magazine covers the past few weeks.
Lin’s parents, who are natives of Taiwan, fully supported his career in basketball as long as he maintained good grades. By now, everyone knows how he starred on the Harvard University basketball team, while earning an economics degree in 2010 with a 3.1 GPA.
Dr. Wang Daw-Wei, a Professor of Physics Department in National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, posed these questions to readers of a well-known newspaper blog in Taiwan that reflected the current debate in Asian homes: “If you were Jeremy Lin’s parents, don’t you think it is a waste of time for him to play basketball after he graduated from an Ivy League school? Isn’t that career path for those no good grade kids? When those universities with traditional basketball history turned him down, wasn’t it about time to consider a new career path? Why would you want your child to challenge a territory in which it is almost impossible for Asians to survive?”
Most of the parents in Taiwan tend to force their children to accept the “for your own good” argument for career planning. This, according to Dr. Wang, is a sort of “compulsive anxiety” which came from the parents’ fear and uncertainty about the future. Not many parents have learned to let their children make their own decisions and follow their dreams.
It just so happens that where I currently live in Daphne, Ala., there are twin Taiwanese-American brothers, Benjamin and Alston Lin, who play on The Daphne High School basketball team. The brothers, who are no relation to the Knicks’ superstar, tell me they are very excited to see Lin doing so well in the NBA. Although they say they have not endured any name calling on or off the court like Lin, they realize the 23-year-old guard has had to overcome numerous barriers.
Asked why they think Lin has been so successful, they reply: “Hard-work, hard-work and hard-work.” There is a Chinese proverbial saying: “Ten minutes on the stage takes 10 years work off the stage.
I am one of the Taiwanese parents guilty of telling my children and the Lin brothers in Daphne that they could not make it in the NBA. “Look at your height. Look at your parents’ height,” I used to say. “You won’t be tall enough. It is foolish to dream of the NBA. Focus your energy on your studies, instead.”
After watching Jeremy Lin play on TV, I and others who know the brothers have stopped saying anything negative. Although I know hard work alone is no guarantee that they will become overnight sensations, I encourage them and other youth in our neighborhood to practice.
Lin has affected the fortunes of his team in more ways than one and his stardom is being felt by Asian parents and their children everywhere.
My outlook is changing. Now, I can understand that maybe it is an all-or-nothing situation when a person comes to a crossroads and has to make a decision about their career. Lin’s future looks bright in both hemispheres. While Asians are still rare in the NBA, his story should inspire more youth and their Asian parents to dare to dream the impossible dream. In fact, it already is.
Yu-hsin Li is a Graduate Assistant at the United States Sports Academy. He is a Taiwanese national, whose parents still live in that country. He is uniquely qualified to comment on the sudden rise to fame of Jeremy Lin. The Academy has diploma programs in several Southeast Asian countries and is currently looking for instructors to work in that area of the world. For more information go to the Academy’s web site at http://ussa.edu.
To read more, please follow the links below:
• Jeremy’s Parents Are Truly Remarkable. http://news.chinatimes.com/forum/11051401/112012021300348.html
• CNN Money. MSG’s slam dunk: the Jeremy Lin. effect.http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/13/markets/Jeremy_Lin_MSG/?iid=EAL
• Forbes. Jeremy Lin: The $170 Million Man. http://www.forbes.com/sites/thestreet/2012/02/17/jeremy-lin-the-170-million-man/
• Asian American Journalist Association. AAJA to ESPN: Saying ‘Chink in the Armor’ Is Inexcusable. https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150607745049654
• ESPN.go.com. Floyd Mayweather questions Jeremy Lin. http://espn.go.com/new-york/nba/story/_/id/7572690/floyd-mayweather-says-new-york-knicks-jeremy-lin-spotlight-race-not-play