Friday, September 26, 2008

Race: Losing anonymity

One strange and unexpected aspect of my new hoops-life here in Denver is that I have lost a significant degree of racial anonymity. Having played in NYC and the SF Bay Area for the last decade, I'd become accustomed to being one of many Asians on the local basketball circuit. Here, however, I am one of only a few, and as a consequence, I'm identified and remembered much more quickly than I'm used to.

I'm not sure if I like it or not. On the one hand, I have been able to more effectively develop a rep in my regular game because people remember me as The Talky Asian Guy Who Plays Ball Here. On the other, I have noticed that defenders are better able to get in tune with my moves. That is, because I am more memorable, they learn my tendencies and tricks a lot faster, which is a pain in the ass for an aging baller who's losing a step.

In certain ways, this reminds me of my playing days as a teenager in upstate New York. Back then, most Asian kids didn't play ball and I was viewed as a comical aberration. In fact, the guys in my local game simply called me "Chino," which was totally racist, but I liked it because it made me feel like I belonged. Even in NYC, when I played on a court with mostly Hispanic guys in the days before Yao Ming and the emergence of global hoops, the other players called me "Ichiro" (as in the baseball player) because he was the only Asian athlete they knew of. I liked that too.

But now I'm old and not looking to be the belle of the ball anymore. I just want to play, have a good time, and work off the three donuts I ate for lunch. Anonymity has become more important to me and yet I've found myself in a place where I can't have it.
I'm considering playing in whiteface.