K-PoP: 2011–2012 Asian American Dad of the Year

June 18, 2012

George Takei image via Shutterstock

Yesterday, I celebrated my
first official Father’s Day. And what an
amazing 8½ months it’s been raising my first child, a baby boy named Dominic.   

So far: I’ve fallen asleep in my car outside his
daycare. Put a clean diaper on him while a nasty dirty
diaper was still trapped inside.  And
just two days ago the coup de grace, while holding the boy and watching TV I
looked down to find a surprise carrot fondue all over my hands (Note: It was not fondue). (More like fon-poo :( ).

Comedian Chris Rock says all
daddy gets is “the big piece of chicken.” 

However, in honor of my
first year of fatherhood, I decided to add some side dishes to that chicken, acknowledge
the other Asian American daddies out there doing work, and give them an award
(because you know we will put that on our refrigerator and still brag to our
mommas about them, even when we’re well into our 40’s). 

Without further ado, I give
you the finalists for the 2011–2012 Asian American Dad of the Year:

Jimmy Phan, UFC fighter Nam
Phan’s dad
:  Though MMA fighter Nam Phan
is not the biggest or baddest dude in the UFC, he is one of the brightest and most
oddly charismatic fighters in the organization. 
And with a starring stint on the TV reality show “The Ultimate Fighter,”
two Fight of the Night awards in just four bouts, a devastating body shot, and
his Vietnamese heritage, Phan is one of my favorite cage fighters. 

               Nam Pham image via UFC.com

None of that would be
possible if Phan’s father hadn’t escaped Vietnam by boat in the late 1970’s,
gone to a refugee camp in Malaysia, raised three sons in a liquor store and
then video store, and enrolled Phan in martial arts classes as a youth.

Phan’s next fight is scheduled
for August 2012 and will air on national television.

Mike Chang, Sr., Glee dancer
Mike Chang Jr.’s dad
:  So he’s fictional, big deal. 

Through the “Asian F”
episode, where aspiring professional dancer, Mike Chang Jr. (Harry Shum) gets
an A- on a Chemistry exam to the feel-good ending where Mike Jr. gets a dance
scholarship to the Joffrey in Chicago, Mike Chang, Sr. (played by Keong Sim)
does a full 180-degree reversal during the show’s third season.

                Keong Sim image via IMDb

First he wants Junior to
quit glee club and his girlfriend, Tina (“the original Asian”) and apply to
Stanford’s pre-med program.  But after
being moved by his son’s dancing during sectionals and some prodding by his
wife (Tamlyn Tomita), he changes course and encourages his son’s
artistic dream.

Ahhhh, if only it could be
so easy as it is on television.  Oh wait,
this is television. Perfect.

George Takei, Star Trek Legend & Internet Sensation:  Though not officially a dad,
George Takei would most likely be voted Man I’d Most Want to be My Dad.  How many 75-year olds practically own the
internet with 2 million facebook followers and consistently crush it with memes
like this?

George’s caption: “They’re
lion in wait.”  Nuff said.

However, there can only be
one winner and our winner of the 2011 – 2012 Asian American Dad of the Year, in
a landslide vote, goes to: 

Gie-Ming Lin, NBA baller Jeremy Lin’s
:  Linsanity:  Are you freaking kidding me?

Six months ago, if you would
have told me that an Asian American basketball player (who did not look like
Herman Munster) would be dominating the NBA and headlines, I would have taken
away your crack pipe.

In Lin’s short 35 game run
in the NBA with significant playing time he: averaged 27 points and 8 assists
in his first four starts, was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week,
made the NBA Rising Stars All-Star Game, torched the Los Angeles Lakers for 38
points on national television, hit a game winning three-pointer against the
Toronto Raptors, signed major endorsement deals with Volvo and Nike, got a
signature sneaker (no small feat in my book), resuscitated the carcass known as
the New York Knicks, appeared on back-to-back Sports Illustrated covers, and made Asian Americans feel like they had their very own
Christmas holiday every time he played.

Like right now, looking at that Time cover above, it still does not compute in my American Racial Glasses.  That might as well be a dang Unicorn shooting a layup it's so unreal. 

All the way back to when he
was watching grainy tapes of NBA games in Taiwan or learning to play basketball
from a book or taking his three sons to the local YMCA, Gie-Ming Lin loved a
kid’s game and simply wanted to share that passion with his three sons.

In an ESPN interview when
Jeremy Lin was still playing at Harvard and way before the onset of Linsanity,
the elder Lin said, “All this time he was growing up, I never thought about
Jeremy playing in college or professionally. 
I just enjoyed watching him play. I'm just so proud of him and so happy
for him. I told him my dream already has come true."

When I read that for the
first time in 2009, to be honest, I teared up because I had heard of and
experienced so much of the opposite coming from an Asian family. 

But make no mistake about
it, without Gie-Ming Lin there is no Linsanity. 
And that’s why Gie-Ming Lin is our Dad of the Year.

K-POP is Hyphen's newest blog column, and it’s short for Ky-Phong
on Pop Culture.  Ky-Phong Tran is an award-winning writer
and teacher based in southern California and he’ll be writing about music, art,
literature, Los Angeles, fatherhood, and other musings.


Ky-Phong Tran


Ky-Phong Tran is a public school, latch-key kid from North Long Beach, CA. He's written for the Nguoi Viet Daily News, New America Media, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, and of course, Hyphen, which published his short story "A Thing Called Exodus." In 2010, he was a Work-Study Fiction Scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He holds an MA in Asian American Studies from UCLA and MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside. He's into pop culture, street art, music festivals, literature, clever people, and keen ideas.



Your list has four people, half of whom are either fictional or not actually fathers? Cmon. I'm sure you can find more exemplary Asian American dads than this.