Quick! Can you name an Asian-Pacific American athlete?
Tiger Woods. Jeremy Lin. Michael Chang. And … ?
The list of elite Asian-Pacific American athletes is pretty short. The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience’s new exhibit, Who’s Got Game?, honors those household names and introduces some athletes who shaped Seattle history you’ve probably never heard of.
Take Ray Soo, for example. He emigrated from China in the 1930s, and played basketball at Garfield High. Just behind the museum, you’ll see the basketball courts that Soo helped raise money to build. He wasn’t in the NBA, but “he was a hero to his kids, to his family and a role model for a lot of people,” says exhibit developer Mikala Woodward. “That to me is really more interesting than ‘I won a gold medal.’“
Who’s Got Game? highlights sports ranging from snowboarding to ping pong to football. Featured athletes include the current Franklin High School cheer squad, Kristi Yamaguchi and baseball players in World War II Japanese American internment camps. There’s something for tourists looking for stories about Ichiro Suzuki and there’s something for Seattleites, who might learn a thing or two about stars at local high schools and the University of Washington. It’s especially poignant reading these stories at the historic Wing Luke building; Bruce Lee’s martial arts school was across the street from the museum.
Playing with sports history
"Growing up, people were never surprised that I played basketball, but they were often surprised that I played well." - NBA basketball star Jeremy Lin, Who's Got Game? exhibit
The special exhibition gallery is packed with memorabilia and photos. Luckily for my entourage, there are also opportunities for active little kids to engage with the exhibit. The first gallery is all about play, which is something everyone, athletic or not, loves. My kids tossed soft balls into the “Old Woody” frame, and stomped on the hopscotch squares taped off on the floor. There’s also a “game face” photo booth, where my 1-year-old demanded to leave selfie after selfie. In the final gallery, which celebrates winners, kids can make a medal and pose for a Wheaties cereal box-style photo.
While my kids were busy eating a snack in the lobby, I snuck back into the exhibit to read the detailed wall text. I’m not athletic, and I’m not even a sports fan. I went to see Who’s Got Game? with admittedly low expectations.
What I didn’t expect was to feel a surge of pride, reading (fellow Taiwanese-American) Jeremy Lin’s words:
“Growing up, people were never surprised that I played basketball, but they were often surprised that I played well. Players on the other team would argue over who would get to guard me — they assumed I would be the easiest one to guard. It always gave me extra motivation to show them what I could do.”
Lin responded to the Wing Luke’s questions via email, and sent in a jersey and sneakers for the exhibit. There’s also a clip from the documentary Linsanity. Lin is a hero for playing in the NBA (currently for the Brooklyn Nets), but his mama is probably just as proud of her son for graduating from Harvard with a degree in economics.
Not a sports fan? Not a problem. There’s history, play spaces and a chance to see neighbors and friends on the walls of the exhibit.
If you go ...
When: Who's Got Game? opened on Dec. 9 and runs through Sept. 17, 2017
Where: Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, 719 South King Street, in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District
Tickets: $9.95–$14.95, children under 5 are free. Prices include a guided historic hotel tour and gallery admission. The museum is free on First Thursdays.
Bonus: Part 3 of the Wing's Bruce Lee exhibits, A Day in the Life of Bruce Lee, is also on show
More to do in the Chinatown-International District: A Chinese mom shares best things to do for kids in the International District