By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Te’o for the Heisman
Can a Pacific Islander win the Heisman Trophy?
Notre Dame’s senior middle linebacker Manti Te’o is on the short list of college football players being considered for the most prestigious individual award in college football. Originally from Honolulu, Te’o chose to leave the islands for the Midwest to play for one of the most famed college football programs in the nation. Currently, the Fighting Irish are 10–0 and have a shot to win the NCAA College Football national title.
Te’o was the first athlete of Polynesian descent to be named the 2008 Sporting News High School Player of the Year.
If Te’o’s plays don’t make you a fan, his character off the field will make you want to cheer for him. His grandmother and girlfriend passed away on the same day — his grandmother of cancer and his girlfriend of leukemia. Despite the personal losses, Te’o played with his team that Saturday, in honor of two of the most important women in his life.
Having experienced his own emotional pain, he was able to help ease the pain of a family of a young 12-year-old Notre Dame football fan who was battling brain cancer. Te’o heard about her story, and before she passed away, he wrote her a letter.
Not only is Te’o a key player for the Notre Dame defense, he is also a leader for the entire team, making it a point to know something about each member of the Notre Dame team, whether on offense or defense. He went as far as memorizing the names of non-scholarship, “walk-on” athletes, so they would not be alienated from a team full of blue chip scholarship players.
Te’o’s chances for the Heisman are slim — not because of his ethnicity or where he goes to school, but because a defensive player rarely wins the award. Only one has won the Heisman since the award was founded in 1935.
Win or lose the Heisman, Te’o is still a projected first round pick in the NFL draft when he graduates from Notre Dame.
Turkey of the Year
Alameda Ta’amu is a candidate for Turkey of the Year. The former Rainier Beach and University of Washington football standout and current Pittsburgh Steeler was arrested on suspicion of DUI last month.
On Oct. 15, the Steelers’ defensive lineman was arrested by Pittsburgh police after leading the cops on a chase during which the 22-year-old crossed the center median of the road into oncoming traffic, swerved around cars, injured a bystander, and eventually came to a stop after crashing into several cars. When a police officer drew his weapon on Ta’amu, he attempted to flee the scene. The police described Ta’amu’s driving as “pinballing up the street,” hitting cars along the way.
For his actions, Ta’amu was given a temporary suspension from the NFL and then released from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 12. Seeking some amount of forgiveness, Ta’amu chose to waive his right to a preliminary hearing on the arrest charges. He could only muster a “sorry” to explain his actions that night.
Hopefully, Ta’amu can get his act together. The Steelers are trying to work with him and have re-signed Ta’amu to their practice squad.
Dodgers pay to negotiate with Korean Pitcher, go after Japanese high schooler
As a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Magic Johnson brought a positive face to the Dodgers’ ownership.
Although his notoriety comes from the hardcourt and not the diamond, Johnson promised Dodgers fans changes from the previous ownership’s missteps. One of the changes was making a splash in player acquisitions.
He’s delivered. The Dodgers recently paid $25.7 million for the right to acquire South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin. At 25 years old, Ryu has won multiple best pitcher accolades in the Korean league.
In addition to Ryu, the Dodgers are looking at 18-year-old Japanese player Shohei Otani. Recently, Otani announced that he would pursue pitching in Major League Baseball, rather than staying in Japan. The Boston Red Sox are also scouting the 6’4″ pitcher, who has a fastball that has been clocked at 99-100 miles per hour. If Otani is signed by a major league team, he would become the first player to make the direct jump from a Japanese high school to the United States.
Jeremy Lin gets a musical, reflects on criticism in NBA
With the start of a new NBA season, we need to check on our favorite NBA player, Jeremy Lin. As we reported this past summer, Lin switched teams and now plays for the Houston Rockets. Despite leaving New York, the mecca of American entertainment, Lin made it on the cover of GQ. The GQ story focused around the high results expected from him as Linsanity grew. It also reflected on the issue of race as he immediately became the deity for not just the underdog, but also all Asian basketball players.
Lin hasn’t made that big of a splash on the court this season in Houston. In a recent game, Lin airballed a potential game winning 3-pointer against the Miami Heat. Lin disclosed in an interview that he is aware that criticism from his big contract signing ($25 million over 3 years) may be due to his race. Lin admits that he is a target when he plays as others on the court don’t want to be embarrassed by that “Asian kid.”
Lin’s comments are both sobering and refreshing. While there is a lot of hype surrounding Linsanity, there is a downside to all the excitement. Playing basketball most of his life, Lin recognizes the cultural divide that exists inside the game and has learned to cope. The fact that he acknowledges the issue of race shows that he understands the scrutiny he faces being the only Asian American on the floor. He’s now challenged with dealing with his success and stardom on a grander scale. Not only is he a target, but he also wants to meet and exceed the expectations. Is it fair? Probably not. But Lin recognizes the issues and works toward trying to live up to Linsanity.
On a lighter note, upon moving to Houston, Lin is up to his old antics. He has not received all of the furniture for his apartment, so he asked one of his new teammates if he could crash on his couch. Sound familiar? The sleeping on the couch story was one of the stories that endeared the Taiwanese American to fans when he played so well in New York.
Jeremy Lin, the musical? Yes, it happened in October and you missed it. A San Francisco, Calif. theatre produced “Jeremy Lin the Musical: A Journey to Linsanity!” It featured original music honoring Lin’s magical three weeks as ESPN’s top story. It was described as a “broad mockumentary/musical parody” of Lin’s rise in the NBA. No word yet on whether the musical will be playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre here in Seattle, but if it does, you know I’m getting a front row seat.
8th grader earns invite to The Masters golf tournament
Proving that golf may be the sport of dominance for Asians, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang earned an invite to play in The Masters golf tournament in Augusta a few weeks ago. The 8th grade Chinese amateur won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, earning him an automatic invite to the prestigious event next spring.
Tianlang will be the youngest golfer ever to play at The Masters.
Tianlang’s achievement puts him on the list of very young Asians succeeding in the sport of golf. Earlier this year, 14-year-old Andy Zhang played in the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament and 15-year-old Lydia Ko won an LPGA women’s event.
UFC invades China
The Ultimate Fighting Championship had its first event in China this month.
The UFC used images of Bruce Lee, noting that he was the father of mixed martial arts, as a way to endear itself to the Chinese people. The event was held on the island of Macau off Mainland China, which is known for its casino resorts.
With the blessing of Shannon Lee, daughter of Bruce Lee and president of the Bruce Lee Foundation, the UFC used the famed martial artist in promotional posters. The Bruce Lee Foundation continues to raise funds for a museum in his honor in the International District. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.