Hi! I'm Asian. While most people can think of at least one mainstream Asian professional athlete, we're still pretty much on the trailing edge of statistical significance in the arena of "cool sports." Of course, that's not to say Asians don't dominate some sports.
And again. Sigh.
I didn't always think this way. My dad and his boyz never met a ping pong table they couldn't run. And badminton? That was the stuff blood feuds were made of. I couldn't dribble a basketball or throw a football (still can't), but if you gave me a racket, you'd better be prepared to bend over. Because you'd be picking birdies off the grass all afternoon. And in my world, that was alpha male.
Unfortunately in the real world, that didn't even prevent me from being picked dead last in gym class.
It took me until college to muster up the courage to redeem myself, but I did it. And chose the one thing I feared most but knew could validate me as a true man's man: fighting. I've written about it already so I won't go into details.
Then Fury was born.
As is natural for any parent, all I wanted was for Fury to have it better than I did. And since my childhood social anxiety centered around my incompetence in cool sports, Fury was ringside at kickboxing matches before he could walk. And when I changed his diaper, I would psych him up by chanting "Are YOU ready? Are YOU ready? Let's get it on, c'mon!!" (UFC referee John McCarthy's signature way to begin each round). If geektasticness was in his genes, I was sure as hell going to nurture the nature clean out of him.
For his own good, of course.
And while I was careful never to push him to participate in Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing or jiu jitsu, for fear of him feeling pressured and rejecting it, I made damn sure he was always exposed to it.
It became too commonplace. Watching two guys kick and punch each other to a bloody pulp in a ring was "soooo boring, dad!" And when I say that those words broke my heart, I'm not kidding. But the kid knew that, and would watch the important matches with me to humor his old man. He'd offer intelligent commentary on ring strategy, great KOs and such, but I could always tell his heart wasn't in it. So I stopped hoping.
But I never stopped trying. Last year, we enrolled Fury in lacrosse. While not a fight sport, it incorporates speed, contact, precision, conditioning and is generally an all-around bad ass athletic endeavor (i.e. all the cool kids in high school played it).
While Fury contends that he enjoys it, any parent can tell when their child doesn't possess true fire for something. I won't fool myself into thinking otherwise. While other kids fight for the ball like it's the last cupcake at the birthday party, Fury will take a few whacks at it. If it passes by his nose. And occassionally, he'll give half a chase. If he knows I'm watching. At least it makes for nice highlight pictures.
I also let him try Crossfit, something I do and love. I figured the "Crossfit Kids" class would make him bigger, faster and stronger.
It did. For a few minutes. Until he got winded from box jumps, at which point he deemed it "no fun, dad."
I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that my kid simply doesn't like to exert himself. That the heat of competition generates a mere lukewarm simmer in my boy's veins. That Science Camp was his destiny.
Then I got a phone call the other day.
"Dad! Mom bought me a badminton set!"
"Badminton? How did you find out about badminton??"
"We play at school. And I can play me vs. five 8th graders and I beat all of them!!"
I don't remember the exact conversation I had with d wife right afterwards, but it covered such topics and phrases as: "oh great" and "I've worked too hard for him to do this to me" and "damn these Asian genes!" and "you can't fight the power of the dark side."
But I love my son. And he was too jazzed about this for me to spoil it for him with my childish insecurities. So I took some deep breaths when I got home and commenced with the trash talk.
"Fear me. I can beat anyone at this game. I beat all my dad's friends when I was in 4th grade. Prepare to go down in flames, boy."
"You can't beat me, dad."
Cold as ice, he was.
I served. He returned. I missed. He snickered.
I served. He returned. I returned. He dove.
"Dad, I was born for this!!"
Oh, Irony. How you taunt me.
Then I noticed it. Barely visible at first, but noticeable if you walked up right to him felt his head in disbelief. He was sweating. And panting. And smiling.
I think Confucius said it well:
"Only when set free against the fiery sunset sky will a Phoenix mirror its striking brilliance. Locked in an octagon, he'll only pretend to care about the UFC to make you feel better."
But I think Fury nailed it:
"Are YOU ready? Are YOU ready? Let's get it on, c'mon!!"
I ask for just one thing. A 2020 Olympics jacket, size M.