March 12, 2007
Written by C.N.
Sports fans know that in the U.S., football is king in terms of popularity, richest TV deals, merchandising, etc. But the National Football League (NFL) isn’t stopping there — it has eyes to penetrate the untapped Chinese market. To begin doing so, as the New York Times reports, they are recruiting a group of Chinese football players to eventually play in the NFL:
The Chinese athletes Gao Wei, Ding Long and Shen Yalei are being Americanized. For the past five weeks they have lived here in western Oregon. They have combed the malls, learned to love diner food, studied English and adopted the Westernized names William, Rambo and Sean — all in an effort to become the first Chinese to play in the United States’ most popular sports league, the N.F.L. . . .
Gao, Ding and Shen knew next to nothing about football when they were selected by the N.F.L. at a tryout last summer in China. Now they are immersed in the experiment, a crash course on the craft of kicking footballs that may culminate in August with one or two them taking the field in the N.F.L.’s first exhibition game in China. . . .
Until now, the three kickers said, football has had little resonance in China. N.F.L. games are generally broadcast on Mondays, when few people have four hours to spare. Ding said that even with his background in rugby, he had a difficult time understanding the game at first. Gao’s and Ding’s parents were startled by the sport’s violence when they first saw it on TV.
I suppose something like this was inevitable, as American capitalism — in this case American football — continues to penetrate Asian countries such as China, India, etc. And it certainly falls in line with the recent trend of Asian players coming to the U.S. to play baseball (Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, etc.) and basketball (Yao Ming).
In general, I think this is a positive development as it recognizes that athletic talent can come from any country or culture. Rather than denying the emergence of globalization and transnationalism, I think it’s better to embrace it and see it an opening of opportunities for both sides.
At the same time, I am wondering why the NFL is not doing more to help recruit more Asian American football players. There have been a few examples in recent years, most notably Dat Nguyen, recently retired from the Dallas Cowboys. But unfortunately, more often than not, Asian American football players seem to be subjected to the same kinds of stereotypes of being too small or weak that still pervade the Asian American community in general.
The NFL and other professional sports leagues need to remember that being Asian is not the same as being Asian American and that if it wants to expand its cultural popularity and its “inclusiveness,” they shouldn’t forget about its Asian fans and players here at home either.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "NFL Recruiting Chinese Players" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/03/nfl-recruiting-chinese-players/> ().
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