Emil Guillermo: On Spelling Bee Champs, NBA Finals, Jeremy Lin and the Golden State Warriors
It’s a $500 word for navel-gazer.
Some say it’s what I do for a living.
I didn’t know I was part of that august group until I saw the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a/k/a the national Asian American (specifically South Asian) display of word deconstruction, one letter at a time.
Omphalopsychite alone would have made the Bee for me this year. (It wasn’t a stumper. They spelled it right.)
But what an event to close out Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
The spellers were so good, Scripps ran out of words and crowned eight co-champions. Each of them should have their winning-spelled word as their official middle name.
So there was Rishik “Auslaut” Gandhasri, 13, a seventh grader from San Jose; Erin “Erysipelas” Howard, 14, an eighth grader from Huntsville, Alabama, and the only non-Asian in the group; Saketh “Bougainvillea” Sundar, 13, an eighth grader from Clarksville, Maryland.; Shruthika “Aiguillette” Padhy, 13, an eighth grader from Cherry Hill, N.J.; Sohum “Pendeloque” Sukhatankar, 13, a Dallas, Texas seventh grader; Abhijay “Palama” Kodali, 12, a sixth grader from Flower Mound, Texas, who finished third last year; Christopher “Cernuous” Serrao, 13, of Whitehouse Station, N.J.; and Rohan “Odylic” Raja, 13, a seventh grader from Irving, Texas.
Winners all. And so dramatic. No need to go past bedtime.
Just think, if NBA basketball were like the spelling bees, we wouldn’t have to play into June. They could stop at the first round of the playoffs and crown eight champs.
But spelling isn’t basketball. More games mean more money. What’s a polysyllabic word for “greed”?
As Trump might say, “Eight champions in a spelling bee? What is this, socialism?”
Ah, but I’m glad I caught the final words this year.
Indeed, I almost forgot the spelling bee was on as my TV was tuned into Game One of the NBA finals featuring the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors, of multiple interest to Asian Americans everywhere with large Asian fan bases of both teams.
Of course, there were no Asians actually playing on the court.
That’s why the spelling bee with all its polysyllabic Asians (“May I have the definition please?”) is so engaging. We’re in it.
But the NBA finals, no.
Not unless you caught a few flash frames of that handsome dude sitting on the Raptors sideline. Not Drake. Another guy we know and love. The Asian guy.
TEMPERED LINSANITY He’s not the medic/trainer, PR guy, or an assistant of some kind. He’s an actual player… on the roster. One of the greatest American-born Asian players in the NBA.
You know him and love him as the source of Linsanity (not an official spelling bee word).
But now Jeremy Lin is a cheerleader, a good teammate with a front row seat to the NBA finals, as a bench warmer for the eastern conference champion Raptors.
He’s still our guy. And this series isn’t about whether K.D. (Kevin Durant) will get to play for the Warriors. For me, it’s about whether Jeremy Lin takes off his warmup clothes to play for the Raptors.
Unlikely. Basketball observers would say Lin just doesn’t match up well with the opponents. (Isn’t that the way it is in life?)
But don’t feel sorry for him.
Lin’s the definition of the privileged basketball journeyman. Not freakishly tall for a baller at 6-foot-3-inches, 200 pounds, he can pass for normal. He’s your millionaire basketball everyman. Undrafted, he’s logged eight years in the NBA so far and his highlights are more contractual than anything else. He parlayed his golden shooting moments with the lowly New York Knicks to sign a 3-year $25 million contract with Houston in 2012. Then he landed a two-year $4.37 million contract with Charlotte in 2015 (the man-bun years). From there, he returned to near “Linsanity,” signing a three-year $38.3 million contract with Brooklyn in 2016. It didn’t go quite so well there, but he still got paid, and was traded to Atlanta in 2018. Again, nothing close to his Knicks days emerged, and Lin was back on the market signing a one-year deal last February with the Raptors for just $697,000.
Sure, a law firm associate makes more. But the law isn’t as much fun as running around in shorts and sneaks.
So I don’t cry for Lin. A kid from Palo Alto, Calif., who got to play for his home team, the Warriors, as a rook, then worked his way around the league. Whether playing or not, he’s found himself at the place to be for the NBA finals—with Toronto playing against his hometown team, and he’s not hurt. He’s wealthy. And he’s still an Asian American icon.
He’s already accomplished something many Americans of Asian descent only dream about. He’s part of the game, if not in it exactly.
He’s also just 30 and soon to be an unrestricted free agent. Where he ends up next, in or out of basketball, is no problem. He may still find an NBA spot if he can fit into someone’s system. But he may have to use that backup plan—his Harvard degree.
And that’s why for most Asian Americans, it was fitting to see the spellers on ESPN following game 1 of the finals.
That’s our sport Where Asian Americans are just about in total control. Champions. We are the game.
And you don’t have to be an omphalopsychite to figure that out.
Of course, being one of those might come in handy if you are trying to predict who will win the NBA Championship, which eschews co-champs and loves to play to the death.
MY FINALS PREDICTION The Warriors are frustrating champs. They can be so good. But they can play with a lackadaisical style that’s so carefree, they dig themselves into a hole they have to shoot their way out. When they’re up against a good defensive team like the Raptors, the Warriors mishandle and turn over the ball, 16 times in game one. They also shot just 43.6 percent to the Raptors 50.6 percent. Add to that all the cheering from Canadians who love their Raptors as much as their health care plans, and the Warriors may not get the split in Toronto they want. So I figure both teams win at home. It’s 2-2 going into Game 5 in Toronto. The Warriors lose that. Game six is an elimination game back in Oakland’s Oracle. The Warriors win. It’s 3-3 and we have game 7 in Toronto.
Raptors hold serve? Does Jeremy Lin play? No.
Kevin Durant does for the Warriors and pulls a Willis Reed. It’s just like the NBA Finals 1970, game 7, Knicks and Lakers tied at 3-3. Reed returns from injury, and emotionally leads the team to victory with Walt Frazier. Knicks win. I remember that game as a boy growing up a Warrior fan in San Francisco when the Warriors were so bad I had to root for the Knicks.
So that’s how it goes down. Durant will play an ultra-dramatic, winner-take-all, spell-check-is-off Game 7 in Toronto, and the Warriors will threepeat and win their 4th title in 5 years.
Dynastic, and kind of Asian. Definitely derived from an intense bout of omphalopsychiticousness.
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page. The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.