Friday, January 16, 2009

Yi Jianlian and the Theater of the Absurd

The "thrill of the hunt" is a pretty elemental part of human nature. We want what we can't have, and once we have it, pawing at it as it rests lifelessly in our mitts, it's just not all that interesting anymore.

It's in that vein that I'm a little confused by all of the backlash against the 'Yi for All-Star' cultural movement. Season after season we're bombarded by campaigns to get Antoine Walker, Stephon Marbury, or Eddy Curry into the game. None of those efforts came anywhere close to getting the league's laughing stocks in the front door. The point of those movements, aside from some cheap entertainment, is to prove that the system is broken. I mean, McGrady is one thing, but Starbury in Phoenix would make orphans cry and puppies die. So, I have to ask: if the point is to provide some comedy and prove the errors in the system, why aren't we all voting for Yi?

Is it because Yi isn't absurd enough to qualify for our particular brand of unintentional comedy? I mean, I doubt he would make David Stern squirm as much as Marbury would, and it wouldn't be quite as entertaining. But Yi's a pretty funny guy in his own right, though no fault of his own. He barely cracks double digit points on the season and he isn't exactly a bad player...he just happens to not be a very good one. It would still be pretty wacky to see him start over the likes of KG, Chris Bosh, and Danny Granger. And, it would probably be more than enough to at least warrant a damn good look at this fan voting thing.

Or, even more worrisome, is this an issue of who is voting our All-Stars into the game? We're all a bit taken aback by the prospect of some work-in-progress foreign forward sneaking his way into an unwarranted spot in our sacred game of stars, but there's an elephant in the room here that just can't be ignored. Asian is the new Euro, at least in terms of negative stereotypes. The domestic reaction is probably a combination of that negativity and the reluctance to yield power to the ever-influential Chinese population, which unnecessarily creates an us vs. them dynamic. We want Chris Paul. They want Tracy McGrady. We want Kevin Garnett. They want Yi Jianlian. Screw the reasons behind the vote; is casting a ballot on their terms any different (read: worse) than voting straight-ticket for your hometown team?

If we can get past our own insecurities, this could really be a good situation. Fan voting completely screws legitimate all-stars out of the blue ribbon and the camaraderie, but some kind of demonstrative action needs to put things over the top if we want an overhaul of the process. We wanted Starbury, we wanted Antoine, and we wanted Curry. So why is it that we're afraid of our wildest all-star dream gag becoming a reality?

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