There have been a couple of fantastic, long-form articles written in recent days about sport in this part of the world. The first comes from Brook Larmer, author of the 2005 book Operation Yao Ming which details the rise of China’s most famous sporting son. Writing in the New York Times, Larmer turns his attention to golf, describing a fascinating picture of the wealthy, driven parents of kids as young as eight essentially creating their own mini versions of the state-backed sports schools that have been so successful in churning out Olympians. Here’s an extract:
The cost for this kind of pro training is steep. Even starting out, many golf families spend around $30,000 a year on lessons, greens fees and travel for tournaments and training. Expenses increase sharply when families start traveling to the United States for junior tournaments, enroll their children in full-time U.S. golf academies or hire a full-time foreign coach in China. At Bayhood No. 9, I asked the father of another junior if his investment in golf had been worth it. “Oh, I don’t look at this as an investment,” said the man, who often caddies for his son. “I see this as a chance to spend a lot of time with my son.” He raised an eyebrow. “If I weren’t doing this, I’d be spending all my time and money on my mistress.”
Rest assured, though, that many of these parents do see it as an investment, with US golf camps often packed with Chinese imports.
Next up is Sam Graham-Felsen, probably most famous for being the blog director of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, who looks into Taiwanese baseball in this piece detailing Manny Ramirez’s three-month stint in Taiwan. He even has a rare moment when Manny voluntarily offers some opinions, and it’s a very thorough look at the motivations behind one the best hitters the game has ever seen and also well worth a read:
“He’s just like a child, I swear,” says team captain Hu Chin-Lung. “I mean, this guy hit 555 homers in the major leagues, and he’s coming here trying to learn from kids about how they swing. I’m like, what? Are you fucking kidding me? Five hundred fifty-five home runs and asking me how to hit?”
With Manny having now quit Taiwan for another crack at the majors, it occurred to me that baseball’s chronic drugs problem in the US – of which Manny was a part – may actually help him get back into MLB, despite his career being written off by the experts. With so many players reportedly on the verge of being suspended, Manny’s notoriously unpredictable antics don’t quite mark him out as they used to.
Elsewhere, match-fixing is rearing its ugly head again in Chinese soccer. Wild East Football reports on what appears to have been a deal made between Tianjin Teda and Liaoning Whowin, with Liaoning winning the first fixture, a Cup game, 5-0, before a much-changed Tianjin line-up beat a weakened Liaoning side 3-1 in the league just days later.
Further suspicion was added when in the pre-match press conference Liaoning manager Ma Lin was asked a question that alluded to match-fixing and his answer was, “I’m not clear on that, right now we’re just preparing for the match, of course if the club has some requirements, we’ll follow them.” In his post-match presser, Ma simply offered, “Congratulations to Liaoning on their victory,” before leaving the stage.
The CFA is investigating the incident, which at least means (hopefully) that if indeed there were some dodgy deals going on, it won’t take another 10 years to expose, as has happened in the past. But it’s a bad sign that we’re talking about this so soon after the last “clean up”.