Being Mediocre: Unwarranted Advice on how to Deal With It.

Being Mediocre: Unwarranted Advice on how to Deal With It.

Being mediocre kinda sucks. It kinda sucks. Being mediocre is a feeling that is such a cup of barely under room temperature water that it lacks the cajones to really suck. And that ironically, can really, really suck. We normally don’t care if we’re mediocre at something. For instance: why is being mediocre at cooking bad? I managed to not poison anybody today. Awesome. According to whatever the law about regression to the mean is called, the average human is exactly that: average.

But man, it sucks to be mediocre sometimes. In a lot of ways, it’s worse than being bad at something. Bad is something that has a feeling to it, an emotion to it. Something to grasp. Mediocre is a forgettable bowl of mush.

Being Mediocre at What we Love.

Like I said, most of the time being a mediocre sack of flesh and hair doesn’t bother me. I strive to be an average joe most of the time. Who wants to stand out? Blegh. But when it comes to hobbies, you know, the things we actually care about: Man it’s a gut punch to be the median. You might have read (probably not) that I enjoy playing basketball. In fact, playing ball was one of the few things that kept me sane while I was working and studying in Asia. But the fact of the matter is that I am the most unspectacular player you’ll ever see. In fact, I blend into the game half the time like a ghost. (Not according to my girlfriend of course, who is convinced I could play in the NBA. Love you, sweetie.)

I wasn’t always a slice of milk toast with water though. I used to royally suck at basketball. And when I say I sucked, I mean so hilariously bad, friends would avoid me as a teammate. I was also the level of suckitude that I didn’t realize just how bad I was. I tried to join the basketball team in middle school and failed. (I forgot my doctor’s release, but I assure you I would’ve been cut before I crossed the halfcourt mark.)

I may have played basketball for the better part of 15 years, but up until my senior year of high school, I never learned to shoot. Let me rephrase: I never took the time to learn how to shoot. And that’s when my journey to middling began.

Journey to the Center of the Bell Curve

Going into college, I was still determined to play basketball in college. (No I didn’t think I could play for the National Champion D2 Bellarmine Knights. Even I wasn’t that naive. #SwordsUpBU ⚔️ ) But I thought, “Hey, maybe I could play club ball?” So every morning, I was getting up at 6:00 a.m. to do drills, lift weights, and then more drills. (My arms felt like lead weights.) Then I would do classes, work, study, and go back to the gym at 6:00 p.m. to play at any open courts until 10:00 before heading home to start all over.

Yes, I showered you nosy bastard.

And in the first few months, I was doing that, I saw tremendous gains. I wasn’t blowing the court away by any means, but people were willing to pass me the ball. Heck, there were times when I was actively helping the team win. That freshman year, I improved by such leaps and bounds that I was able to go back home and beat some of the people who would laugh openly when I guarded them.

Author’s Note: Please remember I said only some. This isn’t some Disney movie where the guy from back to the future comes down from heaven and I’m suddenly Jason Williams.

This, of course, was an example of the 80/20 rule where 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the effort. The biggest strides come from the first few steps. (Side note, my team in the University Rec League came in the last place that season.)

While I’d certainly climbed from the depths of the sewers, I still had a long way to go. The tryouts for the basketball club went better than I could have honestly hoped. I made it past the first round of cuts but was never seriously considered.

Regardless, my love for the game continued my journey.

Sophomore year was more of the same playing, practicing, and not lifting anymore. I basically gave up on lifting weights due to a combination of my own self-doubt, and a very depressed-feeling state of mind after dealing with the death of my uncle and grandfather in the past year. *See note at the end.

I played more and more and more basketball, but I noticed that I wasn’t really improving anymore. At least, not in the leaps and the bounds that I used to. I discovered that improving wasn’t exponential, but rather it was logarithmic. (God damn it John Napier, the originator of geometric and arithmetic sequencing.)

Going Home While in Hong Kong

Yes, I’m talking about Hong Kong again. It was kind of a big deal in my growth as a person. Anyways, My Junior year I went to Hong Kong at Lingnan University. It was a great time and a transformative experience, yadda, yadda, yadda. What matters besides my #humblebrag was that I was suddenly good at basketball. See? We’ve moved on to #notatallhumblebragbutjustabragbrag.

Suddenly, I was a hell of a good ballplayer on the court. I was faster, had better instincts, and found more open shots on the court. I wasn’t just one of the better players on the court in Hong Kong. I was one of the best. Now, there were, of course, times where guys would show up in their school jerseys and just absolutely reck my shit like Vikings pillaging the British Isles. But by and large, when I was playing ball, my teammates looked to me.

It was fucking intoxicating. I felt like I was the baddest mother fucker on the court when I was there. I felt galvanized to really show what I was capable of doing on the court. I was calling plays, attacking with ferocity, talking trash (in broken Cantonese that my teammates told me to say) the whole shebang. I thought that the good times would never end. And then they ended spectacularly.

When I said my (then) goodbyes to Hong Kong and returned to America, I decided to go play some ball with the new freshman. And holy fuck I was brought back to earth. Some 6’8″ looking freshman looking mother fucker proceeded to posterize me like he was Shaq and I was Chris Dudley. I didn’t throw the ball at him, but he sure threw his balls in my face with that dunk.Image result for shaq chris dudley dunk

Imagine my face being about a foot lower and you get the idea.

I was reminded that there would be some things that I would never be able to change. I’m not gonna grow 8 inches and be 6’8″. Mostly because I’m actually 5’10”. What can I say? I’m a guy and lie about my height. But, also because that’s just fucking life. There are some barriers that have a glass ceiling that’s so fucking thick, it stretches for miles into the sky.

Fuck You, Glass Ceiling

I’d keep going into my journey of basketball in college, but you both get the idea and are most likely tired of that particular story. So I’ll skip ahead to nowadays. Since then I’ve got a job, quit, got another job, quit that one, moved to Hong Kong, quit the job in Hong Kong, moved back to America, and am currently working again. That whole time my basketball playing has fluctuated, but two things have not. My skills, and my love for the game. It’s true that I’m not really getting any better at it, but I’m also not getting any worse. Barring finding the shoes of His Airness Michael Jordan, or tearing my ACL, PCL, MCL, and XCL, I’ve pretty much leveled off.

But I’ll never stop trying to get better.

What I’ve learned is that effort doesn’t always beat natural talent. But it sure helps. The only way I got better, was by putting in lots of effort. And the only way I’ll keep getting better is by putting in the effort. Results are the result of the amount of talent you have multiplied by the amount of effort you are giving. So you could have 100 whole talent, but only give 10% of your effort. That means when someone who has 20 talent shows up and gives it 100%, hell maybe even 150%, that super talented person is gonna get super embarrassed. Because effort is a skill too.

Some people just can’t give that much effort into something. It’s not that they don’t love the thing they’re doing, don’t have that sense of urgency, etc. They haven’t learned about what effort takes. To be able to really put in a good effort, you need to know desperation. You gotta know what getting punched in the mouth feels like. You gotta be able to keep a level head while your vision is going dizzy and all you taste is that bitter, metallic blood pooling in your mouth. Some people are naturals at giving effort. Others aren’t.

Those kids who did well in school but burned out in college?

Natural thinker, unnatural effort givers.

That girl who could run like a gazelle high on meth being chased by a coked-up cheetah?

Yeah, she lost her scholarship because she didn’t train seriously and didn’t care about her diet.

Effort takes practice. Effort takes mental strength. ‘Effort’ is that secret super juice that helps you look up at that glass ceiling and claw through it. It’s up to you to decide when your hands get so bloody, so fucking cut up they look like ground beef, and so sore that you give up. But here’s the thing about clawing your way through a glass ceiling: When you stop clawing, you won’t fall all the way down. It’s so jagged, so shaped around your body that you’re stuck there. Stuck for the whole world to see.

A god damn monument of how effort is what makes mediocre amazing.

*(I was never and have never been diagnosed with depression and in no way am suggesting that I was clinically depressed. However, if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal thoughts please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)

Yes, Writer’s Block is Real. So What?

I hate looking at my screen while I type. It’s so weird to say (or in this case type out) but I feel like I slow down tremendously when I look at the screen. So what I’ll do to speed up the process is I’ll look away from the screen. And when I say that I’ll look away from the screen, what I really mean is that I’ll put my head down on the desk and close my eyes. It’s weird I know. But for some reason, the ideas and words are able to freely flow from my brain to my fingertips this way.


In fact, let’s do a quick assessment of looking versus not looking at the screen. I’ll type all the letters in the alphabet and time myself. Alright, let’s do this.

Looking at the screen:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. 0 mistakes, 6.94 seconds.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog 1 mistake, 5.84 seconds. (I forgot the period.)

The thing is that I don’t mind making a few more mistakes if it means it feels easier to be typing things out. It’ is like I can circumnavigate that micro-block going on in my head if I just don’t look at the screen. I mean, I’m supposed to edit my work after I’ve typed it out anyways right? First Year College students look on in shock at the idea of actually editing their writing.


But then that gets into that thing we always hear about: Writer’s Block. Soooo many times I’ll read a Medium article, or a podcast saying “Writer’s Block isn’t real! It’s Writer’s fearrrrrr.” Because that’s totally different and you aren’t just being a pedantic little contrarian chasing a headline. Let’s be real here people, writer’s block is one hundred percent a real thing. 100%.


Saying that something that blocks your progress in writing a piece isn’t writer’s block would be like saying somebody tipping a shot in basketball isn’t a block because it’s only deflected that shot.

Get that weak stuff outta here.gif

Clearly, that isn’t a blocked shot, if it was a blocked shot he’d have been using a shooting motion, not going for a layup. (Why yes layups are shots and I’m being pedantic.)

Writers’ block is a real thing, and it’s important to admit that we get blocked by our own minds. Sometimes it’s just looking at the words that send you into a tizzy and you can’t write a damn thing to save your life. Other times it could be that you just can’t get into that writing state of mind. Or maybe you wrote something that bothers you. Or you’re bothered by something you read earlier today. Or whatever. Because, a lot of the time, you’re really just scared of what you’re writing.

Quit being scared of writing. (Gee thanks, I’m cured.)

See, that’s what happens to a lot of people who say that they “aren’t writers”: they’re really scared about writing. And that happens to people who enjoy writing as well. I have to look up, around, down, wherever the words ain’t. Then I’ll look back at what I just wrote. And that works for me.

Find out how you can beat your fear of writing. Most people I tutored in writing were afraid of the beginning, middle, and end. And that’s not a shot at them, it just means they didn’t know where to start, where to go, and how to finish. The process was terrifying. They knew they wanted to say something they just didn’t know how to say it. So I taught them the power of outlining their writing.

Then there were people who were afraid of sounding dumb. So I told them they needed to just write their stupid words down. Then we erased the stupid bits and put more smarterer words in the dumb places. And look at that, they’re writing machines now. Not saying those machines are gonna make the next War and Peace, but hey, they’re writing.

The hardest part about fighting your fear of writing is admitting what makes you afraid of writing. That requires honesty, and we as people suck at being honest with ourselves. Self-delusional gits. Grow the fuck up and have a heart-to-heart with yourself. It’s alright to be afraid. It’s not alright to let your fear control you like that. So just, be honest. Are you afraid that what you write isn’t very good? Are you traumatized by the memory of a particularly nasty book report? Maybe, you’re afraid that nobody cares about what you’ve got to say, and you put all that effort in for nothing? Okay, I might have been hardcore projecting on that one.

Because I am afraid. I’m afraid that my writing is nothing worth reading. I’m afraid that my attempts at humor wind up being cringey and annoying. But here I am, writing these words onto my own personal blog. I’m putting it all out there for people like you to read because if I don’t, I’ll let that fear swallow me hole. And fuck that.



Let’s Talk About Running

Let’s Talk About Running

Do yourself a favor after you go read this. Go for a run. Don’t track your distance. Don’t do calculations on how fast you ran. Don’t worry about those stats. Just run. Run for no other purpose than to isolate yourself from the rest of the world. Run so that you can give yourself the chance to metaphorically run from your problems. Just run.

Don’t stagnate yourself. Go run.

I was in a really bad place when I was a freshman and sophomore in college. I felt isolated. I didn’t have many friends. I was really bad at relationships. In less than 12 months I lost my uncle and then my grandfather to cancer between my freshman and sophomore years. I had no idea what to do with myself. I thought about transferring. I wanted to drop out. I wanted to just not be where I was. It was depressing.*

I pretty much stopped doing all the things I liked. I wasn’t involving myself with my fraternity. I stopped working out and gained about 20 pounds of pure unadulterated fat. I just sat in my room staring at the screen waiting for the heat death of the universe. And it wasn’t coming fast enough. Then I decided to change things.**

How I Started Running

I had gotten off the phone with my mom after a pretty therapeutic conversation. We’d talked about how things were at home. Talked about how we missed each other. Joked about getting fat. I mentioned how I wasn’t really lifting weights anymore but hated how my body felt. (BTW my mom used to be a bodybuilder because she’s a badass like that.) She suggested that I go and play some basketball like I had been.

It’d been almost two months since I’d played my beloved sport. And in addition to being pretty sucky at it, I got really winded. I was huffing and puffing like The Little Engine that Absolutely Could Not. I thought to myself “God I need to run more.” And that’s when it hit me. I needed to go for a run. The next day I took my first of many runs. I was slow, ran out of breath, and didn’t go very far. But I felt like the heavens had opened up above me.

From there, running became my primary method of exercise besides basketball. If I wanted to work out, I played ball, ran outside, or ran on the treadmill. I wasn’t about to let myself sink again. Because that’s the thing about life: You have to keep moving. It’s that weird superfluid that acts like a solid until you stop moving. So you have to keep moving, keep running, sprinting like a madman (or madwoman or whatever) and not get held down. Bad metaphor aside, I was literally running away from my problems, but in a healthy way.

Run or fucking sink people.

Just Fucking Run

I was running away from the unhealthy mindset and habits that I’d formed. I was running towards what I wanted to achieve, and who I wanted to be. And man it fucking worked. My junior year and my senior semester of college were 10000x more enjoyable on a day to day basis. I felt less stressed, classes came easier, I was feeling confident. And in the words of Mr. Gump: I was RUN-NING!

I can feel that Gump.

Fast forward to today, and running has become a preferred hobby of mine. I just finished my first race of the season, which was the Holi 5K. (My beard still might have some pink in it.) When I’m out running, I can reach a state of zen while still fighting to achieve something. I can chill while I listen to some Bill Simmons Podcast, rock out to some metal, or skip the earbuds and just fucking run.

That’s the beautiful thing about running. You don’t have to go and get any special equipment. There’s no signup page, no test you gotta do, no purchases you have to make. (Although I do suggest you make sure you’ve got a good set of shoes.) All you need to do is look forward, and get moving.

So if you feel like you’ve gotten stuck, like there is nothing you can do, go out for a run. You aren’t going to be running away from your problems. You’re going to start running towards your goals. So if you’re going to take anything from what I’m trying to tell you, it’s quite simple.


It’s amazing what a good running session can do for you and your mental headspace. You’re there, chugging along thinking “I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life.” And you probably are. Legs on fire, heart beating like a double bass drum in One by Metallica, man it sucks.

But then… it stops sucking. (Title of your sex tape.) It might be later on in that run, might be a dozen runs later, or a dozen, dozen runs later. It starts to be therapy. Slapping those miles underneath you. You hit that new wall. A wall you climb over and start running on air.

It’s tempting to quit. Tempting to stop it and just give up. But don’t. Fucking run for your life. Run like it’s the last thing you’ll ever be able to do. Because once you start running, it’s gonna be hard to stop. And you’ll wonder why you’d ever want to stop.

Tanner Banks TheyCallMeJamsy 5K Run
Me after the best damn run of my life. PR of 24:16

Fun fact, after I wrote this article, I won third place in a local 5K and ran a PR of 24:16. Woot.
*(I was never and have never been diagnosed with depression and in no way am suggesting that I was clinically depressed. However, if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal thoughts please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)

** Like I said, I was never clinically diagnosed with depression and in no way am saying you can just decide to be happy. It was a process of putting myself in a better position and trying to make healthier decisions for my body and mind.

Cultural Distinctions Between Hong Kong and America Derived from Basketball

Earlier, I posted about how much I love the game of basketball. In that post, I mentioned how I wrote one of my major university papers on the subject. After talking with my boi Limbi, I decided to post it here for all to read. Looking back, there are things I wished I’d changed about this paper, and it doesn’t go in depth enough for me to consider this a legitimate analysis of Hong Kong Culture. If anything, I hope that it can become a catalyst for further discussion. Enjoy my mediocre analysis.


As basketball grows in popularity around the world, so to will the cultural markings that show in different regions. Basketball’s continued growth of popularity in Asia, especially in the People’s Republic of China and it’s Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, indicate a major potential for growth of the sport. And as the sport has grown in popularity, the cultural markings of the past and present have begun to show in the sport. Using the first-hand experience of the sport in Hong Kong and research on the culture of Hong Kong, a better understanding of how the sport differs was written. By looking at the cultural aspects of the people of Hong Kong and applying these concepts to the sport, understanding why the differences noticed while in Hong Kong was created. From the impact of certain athletes to thousand-year-old teachings, Hong Kong’s grasp of the sport has many layers to it.


Cultural Distinctions Between Hong Kong and America Derived from Basketball

There are few places that can show someone who they truly are as a basketball court. Whether it’s asphalt, hardwood, concrete, or a multipurpose court it all speaks only in truths. The court speaks the truth, and the “ball don’t lie”. Some of the most laid back and non-confrontational people can show their true colors on the court. Turning into a fierce rebounding, trash talking, competitive animal. So-called tough guys turned into meek prey for the hungrier players. But it doesn’t end there either. Where somebody is from can be inferred by their style of play in basketball. Whether it’s the style of play or the rules it’s possible to pinpoint where someone played most of their ball. No matter if its how many points they play to, what rules are used, or what the game is called (pick-up, city, 21, etc.) there are cultural fingerprints everywhere in a game of basketball. In this paper, cultural similarities and differences such as play style and individualism vs. collectivism between American and Hong Kong style basketball will be assessed. Doing so will help provide a context for the cultural distinctions between Hong Kong and America.
Personal experience in Hong Kong provided many examples of cultural fingerprints, such as collectivism and the concept of “face” in basketball. When I play basketball, it’s nothing fancy or special. I set picks, box out my opponents for rebounds, I pass to my teammates, and I play help defense. If you were to read a scouting report on me you’d see “scrappy,” “gym rat,” “team defense,” and “offensive awareness,” (Garcia) in there. You can tell I played a very suburban and “white” kind of basketball growing up. When I play a game at a park or YMCA with random people, I play a game of “21” because we go to 21 points. In Dayton, it’s 21, in Louisville it’s called a game of “City”, and in Hong Kong, it was called “35” because a game was played to 35 points.

During the first game of basketball after arriving in Hong Kong in August of 2016, there was no telling what would be like. It might have been a game basketball, but the game spoke a different language there. Not only were the words around foreign, but the game had become foreign as well. Replacing the step back three-pointers and the one-on-one defense was the constant dribble drive and kick out to the open man. No longer was the need to focus on one man and worry about another player setting a pick. Instead, defenders had to keep their head on a swivel to watch for a last-second cross-court pass. There was no more checking the ball, and every basket made meant another possession for the offense. The game itself had not changed, but the game was different. And it wasn’t just the gameplay that was different. The environment was extremely different from South West Ohio where I grew up as well. The temperature settled in the low 90’s and humidity hung thick in the air like a suffocating quilt.

The first game was an exhausting gauntlet, and after the third game, muscles ached, feet creaked, and shirts poured water and sweat out when peeled off and wrung it out in the park. The first taste of Hong Kong basketball was rough, course, and challenging. But above all, it was addictive. No matter what, I would not let the game beat me again. That I would come back night after night and prove to the locals, the courts, and myself that I belonged. No matter what language the court spoke.

Basketball is a relatively new sport around the world. First organized by Dr. James Naismith in 1891, basketball did not become an Olympic sport until 1936. And it is still finding its place in Hong Kong as well. Basketball’s popularity might be growing, but is still far behind sports like Horse Racing and Soccer, which were popular due to British influence for decades. While there are plenty of fans of the sport in Hong Kong, the level of play has fallen behind in the region. Member of the Hong Kong National team says that while there is a passion for the sport, “…the game in Hong Kong is still pretty much amateur.” (Kin-Wa, 2014). That being said, the sport is improving its competitiveness in the region. The Eastern Long Lions, a club team in Hong Kong, recently joined the ABL (ASEAN Basketball League) to compete internationally. A collection of six of the top teams in South East Asia, this professional squad will help take Hong Kong basketball to new heights. (Kin-Wa, 2016).

Because basketball is in its relative infancy in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong identity of basketball is still muddled. Nevertheless, after playing basketball in organized and casual settings, many trends emerged in the mechanics of play. The rules of the games had some cultural distinctions, such as focuses on non-confrontation and more conservative play.
While the rules of the sport are uniform across cultures in theory, in practice this was a different case. More emphasis was placed on certain rules, while others were outright ignored. Many rule variations create a non-confrontational approach to the game. While it is in fact, illegal for defending players to spend more than three seconds in the key (The rectangle underneath the hoop) this rule is ignored entirely. Players can spend minutes in the key without any attention being drawn to it. Additionally, when a player sets a screen (blocking a defender so a teammate can be open) the rules state they cannot be moving; They must stand still. Again, this rule is effectively ignored. And finally, the most conspicuous rule change. When an offensive player is shooting the ball, no contact can be made. At all. Even if the player runs directly into the defender with their shoulder down. And if any contact is made, it is a foul, no questions asked.

While this kind of behavior would be considered “soft” in American basketball, it makes cultural sense. While American culture is cornered by its independent and aggressive attitude, Asian culture is quite different. Mendy Wang describes Asian culture as “… often passive” and “tend to be submissive than to be aggressive” (Wang, 4). Because of this less aggressive nature, it makes sense that these fouls that can seem subjective will take a back seat. Calling somebody out on being in the key too long, or setting a moving screen would be seen as inappropriate. And to say that you didn’t foul somebody even though you touched them could make the player lose face. And keeping face in Hong Kong is extremely important. As noted by Tom Doctoroff of J. Walter Thompson advertising “respect for people’s feelings is paramount… this sensitivity that needs to be taken with respect to people’s ‘face,’” (New York Times). So unless somebody wants to lose face for themselves or another player, it’s best to go with these rules when playing.
But it is not just the mechanics of the sport that show cultural identity, it’s also seen in the way the game is played. The style of play says as much of the Hong Kong basketball game as the rules do. First, the American style of street basketball will be used in this comparison, and then the Hong Kong variant.

While basketball is a team sport, American streetball has a very individual identity. Defense is usually man-to-man with one person strictly defending the other. Players on offense will typically look to create their own shot and beat the defender. Elaborate dribbling moves and long shots from the basket are typical. It’s not enough to simply beat their opponent by scoring more for American basketball. There is a second competition going on underneath. The player needs to defeat their defender and show dominance. It goes hand-in-hand with the American proverb, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game that counts”. Losing the game can be perfectly acceptable if a player was able to win their matchup.

Hong Kong basketball, however, plays a much different style. Rather than a man-to-man defense, teams will tend to play a zone defense and stay near the paint. Rather than place all risk on the individuals, the team will use a collective effort to win the game. This is not the only collectivist occurrence in Hong Kong basketball either. While American players will typically try to score one-on-one, Hong Kong plays a pass-first style. Instead of driving through opponents to the basket for a difficult layup, they will drive to the basket and pass out at the last second. A second or third pass will be made to the open player. Instead of simply going for glory, the players will do what’s best for the team. This makes sense that a more team-oriented style of play exists in Hong Kong, according to Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension Theory which rates countries on six factors. These factors being Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long Term Orientation, and Indulgence. When rating Individualism and Indulgence for Hong Kong, Geert rated the factors at 25 and 17 on a scale of 1-100 respectively. Such low scores show Hong Kong as a very collectivist and restrained society. This is reflected in the team-first style of play.

And finally is an assessment of some of most commonly observed archetypical players found in both America and Hong Kong. The first archetypical player found in America and Hong Kong is what is known as “The Gear Guy”. This player will typically be seen wearing a jersey and sweatbands all over. While this player isn’t the most skilled, they love to impersonate their favorite player. In American basketball, they will impersonate any number of famous players, like Steph Curry, LeBron James, Russel Westbrook, and James Harden to name a few. There is a large variance in who the players will try to be.

But in Hong Kong, and most of Asia for that matter, there is one player that stands above all others. Kobe Bryant. The retired Lakers Guard was, and still is the household name for basketball in Asia. As ESPN writer Dennis Du describes, Kobe’s popularity is “totally unshakable” as “the most popular athlete in China” (Du). (Note: In ESPN’s ranking of player popularity Hong Kong was included in China.) And any time, they were wearing NBA memorabilia, it was Kobe jerseys, Kobe shorts, and the latest Kobe basketball shoes. While this would have been a total similarity in the early to mid-2000’s between Hong Kong and America, the fact that Kobe Bryant is still the most popular shows a divergence in taste between favorite players in the different markets. As noted by Du, Kobe’s style of play is a key factor to his popularity in China and Hong Kong. “It is akin to Chinese martial arts versus boxing…” and because of this grace over power style, “Chinese fans find it much easier to imitate and emulate Kobe’s moves” (Du). Because he is relatable and able to be emulated the Asian market flocks to Kobe Bryant and his deft moves.

Next is a teammate that every player has dealt with in basketball. The Ball Hog. A player who, regardless of skill, demands the ball every possession and refuses to pass. While this player will make some of their shots, it is rarely the “money shot” it is proclaimed to be. This player is much more common in American play, where individual performance is given more focus, the player does exist in Hong Kong. This player will typically play for a local high school team, believing this gives them credence over teammates. While performance will be more consistent than the American Ball Hog, the poor treatment of teammates is still considered unacceptable. However, the difference in how a Ball Hog is dealt with is key.

American players have no issue calling players out. In Hong Kong, however, this kind of behavior is unacceptable. As mentioned previously in the discussion about the concept of “face”, Yiheng Deng and Kaibin Xu discuss differences in conflict management in Chinese Employees Negotiating Differing Conflict Management Expectations in a U.S.-Based Multinational Corporation Subsidiary in Southwest China. As stated, the way conflict is approached is described as “Chinese employees tend to use less confrontational strategies in conflict management than Americans” (Deng 610). According to Deng and Xu, to be so directly confrontational to a teammate in Chinese culture is unheard of, even if it is for the betterment of the team. As stated, “….constructive confrontation is an opposite of [Chinese] local culture, and it was difficult or inhumane to apply it in everyday organizational life” (Deng 616). To be so directly confrontational would be a cultural abomination in Hong Kong. Instead, common methods of dealing with such players would be simply phasing them out of the games. Whether it was never passing them the ball, or bringing other people on the court to replace the player, Hong Kong players would deal with the situation in a less confrontational manner.

An additional distinction can be made in two classical players that are found in America and Hong Kong, but much more prevalent in Hong Kong. The Girl Baller, and The Old Man. In American basketball, many courts will have one or the other, and occasionally both. The Girl Baller is to never be taken lightly for one simple reason: If they’re playing with the guys, it means the girl can hang with the best. Were it not for the second X chromosome, this player would be exactly like the rest of the players, except better. Playing hard-nosed defense and constantly moving without the ball, The Girl Baller is a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the court. The second is more commonly found in basketball than the former. The Old Man is a classic fixture in basketball. Not fast, easily beaten on offense, and never the first choice The Old Man is someone no player wants but should aspire to be. After decades of playing The Old Man can sniff out every player’s style within the first few minutes. In addition to an advanced mental game, The Old Man is going to make every shot from the mid-range, and bank shots are a regularity. What The Old Man lacks in athleticism is more than made up for in knowledge of the game and patience with and without the ball.

The most interesting aspect of these two basketball fixtures is just how much more common they are playing in Hong Kong. While they were seen enough in America to be considered archetypical, in Hong Kong The Girl Baller and The Old Man were downright regulars. This also goes with Hong Kong research on activeness in the country. According to Consultancy Study on Sport for All – Participation Patterns of Hong Kong People in Physical Activities Male and Female sport participation rates over a 3 month period were similar with respective percentages of 68.4% and 62.9%. However, men were much more active in basketball than women. With 13% of men regularly playing the sport, while only 1.8% of women regularly participated. The important distinction to be made, however, is that in games, men and women participated together with regularity. While the sport was regularly segregated by sex in America, non-organized basketball in Hong Kong never segregated.

As for elderly players, the study showed that those over 60 only participated in basketball at a rate of only 0.9%. Again, a major take away for those participating is the willingness of others to readily include elderly players in the games of basketball. From a cultural perspective, however, venerating the elderly goes back centuries in Asia. In the fourth century, B.C.E Zeng Zi wrote the Xiao Jing – The Classic of Xiao, A conversation between Confucius and Zeng Zi while he was a student describing how elders and ancestors were to be treated. When discussing how to maintain good social order, Confucius brings up respecting elders, saying “for teaching the people to be courteous and harmonious there is nothing better than ti [悌] (being respectful to elders)” (Zeng Zi). So to deny elders a chance to play basketball with younger players would go against thousands of years of tradition in Hong Kong and China. Respect for elders is a cornerstone of Asian culture and to go against it is unheard of.
Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. With more international athletes crossing into the NBA every year, this American sport has truly become global. As the sport continues to grow in popularity in Asia, so to will its distinct nature from other forms of basketball around the world. Just as American basketball has its own style, so too does Hong Kong, Sweden, Mexico, Australia, and every country that hosts the sport. Cultural fingerprints will always be found in the way people play sports, and Hong Kong is no different. Whether it’s the rules of the game, the popularity of certain athletes over others, or the accepting nature of all kinds of players Hong Kong basketball speaks a language all on its own. And the sport continues to grow in the region, so too will the nuance and beauty of the sport in Hong Kong.

Works Cited

B. (2010, July 20). Retrieved from
T. (2009). Consultancy Study on Sport for All – Participation Patterns of Hong Kong People in Physical Activities . Leisure and Cultural Service Department, 1-36. Retrieved from

Deng, Y., & Xu, K. (2014). Chinese Employees Negotiating Differing Conflict Management Expectations in a U.S.-Based Multinational Corporation Subsidiary in Southwest China. Management Communication Quarterly, 28(4), 609-624. doi:10.1177/0893318914544324
Diaz, A. (2013, August 04). The 15 Types of People You Meet at Pick-Up Basketball GamesThe Hacker. Retrieved from
Du, D. (2016, May 31). No doubt: Kobe’s No. 1 in China. Retrieved from
Garcia, W. (2014, September 2). The Black-White Thing: Racial Biases in NBA Scouting Comparisons. Retrieved from The Black-White Thing: Racial Biases in NBA Scouting Comparisons
Geert Hofstede. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Hruby, P. (2007, May 18). The ultimate hoops game from hell. Retrieved from

Kin-Wa, C. (2014, September 6). Basketball is growing fast in the region – but not in Hong Kong. Retrieved from

Kin-Wa, C. (n.d.). Eastern first Hong Kong basketball team to compete in continental competition for 20 years as they make Asean League bow. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from
Saving Face in China. (2010, December 13). Retrieved from
Seng, M. (2016, March 28). 6 Types Of Players In Pickup Basketball. Retrieved from
Zi, Z. (4th-century b.c.e). XIAO JING – THE CLASSIC OF XIAO [English Translation]. Retrieved from

Ball is Life

I love basketball. Every chance I get, I make it a point to play until my body refuses to continue. By the time I finish playing, my whole body will be covered in sweat. I’ll literally be able to wring out my shirt and leave a puddle of human coolant. Feet covered in blisters, and another pair of shoes decimated by my sick ass spin moves and crossovers. (Or me tripping over my own feet.) I’ve never been called a graceful player. Back home is rarely ever be considered that good really. My shooting is inconsistent, my passing is mediocre, and the less said about my dribbling the better. (Unless you’re trying to hurt my feelings, in which case go ahead and talk about my dribbling.)

My skills are not what get me wins on the court. Ok, they usually aren’t. Everybody catches fire on the court sometimes. No, what gets me wins by and large is my passion for the game. By what can only be described as a devotion for which, I lay my body on the line. Dramatic? Totally. Overstatement? Ask anybody I play against. Basketball is like a religion, and when I’m on the court I’m going to church. (To my religious family members, I don’t mean to blaspheme, it’s just a metaphor for the love I have for the game.)

That’s what I love about Hong Kong too. Here, ball is life. Every court I visit is occupied. There are 2, 3, 4 or more squads waiting for their next game. Basketball matters here. Everybody can stop studying or working for an hour or two. Cut loose, melt some stress away, and play some basketball.

It’s a very different game here too. Stylistically, it feels alien to the 1-on-1 focused, run and gun style of American ball. Here, there’s always another pass, a better shot. Everybody packs the paint because hardly anybody wants to shoot from deep. Funny enough, I wrote about those differences in college.

It was about the cultural distinctions between the United States, and Hong Kong that was seen in the way basketball is played. Most of the stuff feels pretty surface level looking back. And it’s definitely not authoritative on the subject. But, if you feel like reading through the eyes of a college junior, I’ve attached it below.

I’ll never play professionally. Playing anything organized is almost impossible at this stage. And I may have already peaked in my abilities. Yet, I still play. I’ll throw myself at every loose ball. I’ll fight for every rebound. I’ll give everything to the game of basketball and never expect a thing in return. Because that’s how it is. And besides…

Ball is life.


10 Things to Know Before Studying in Hong Kong – American Edition

Studying abroad in Hong-Kong is a wonderful opportunity. In fact, it was so nice for me I came back a second time, and then the 3rd time. And now I kind of just live and work here. Know this: you’ll never have all the answers, and there will always be surprises, but it’s good to at least have some helpful hints and tips. So here are 10 of those. Hints and tips that is. I  don’t know if all ten will be surprises to you.

#1: Leave Your Preconceived Notions Behind

Hong-Kong is a wonderful, confounding, and mystical place. It’s a 100% Asian, but you’d be surprised by how westernized a lot of the city/special administrative region is. You’re going to see a lot of traditional Buddhist temples right next to places like a Gucci store or the Mac Depot. That’s just the way it is the year. A beautiful dichotomy of different worlds mixed and mashed together. They may seem obtuse to one another, but these parts of Hong Kong are like puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly despite being from different puzzles. So whatever you think you’re going to experience try not to bet on it too hard. You’ll experience way more than that.


#2 Get out of your dorm room (Also applies to regular college)

This is a problem that I had when I first came to Hong Kong. I stayed in my room too much. Thankfully, I was able to break out of my shell and go do a lot of really cool and fun things. You need to do this for yourself more than anything because life is an adventure. And in Hong Kong, there is adventure aplenty. Be your own challenge. You could live in Hong-Kong for 100 years and you would maybe get to half of the things there are to do in this wonderful city. Staying cooped up in your room is going to be the biggest mistake you can possibly make and on Kong. Make sure that you are taking advantage of every single moment that you get to spend here. Yes, your education is important. Which is why you need to educate yourself by getting out and actually experience this different culture.

#3 Travel

Do yourself a favor, and get out of the city as much as you can. Because the islands are bitchin’. And so is the hiking. And the beaches. And the cheap airfare. You can travel to Taiwan for the long weekends for less than 600. (Or 2 weeks in Japan for 2000 like my friend Brandon did in the middle of the school year.)

And you know what? You can do a lot of great traveling without going on the airplane too! The outer parts of Hong Kong is a veritable treasure trove of interesting places to see and visit. I’ll give you a very short list:

Hong Kong temple

So yeah, go places. And eat food there.

#4 Sample the Food

Eating in Hong-Kong is a privilege that you don’t get anywhere else. In fact, Hong-Kong has the most Michelin star restaurants per capita in the world. That might not sound like much to the non-foodies, but it is indicative of the fact that the food in Hong-Kong
is mostly stellar. Whether you want Western comfort food, European gourmet, authentic South/South East Asian dishes, or you just want to sample a little of everything… Hong Kong has you covered. Except for pizza. I say this on behalf of everybody who has
ever had an honest to goodness decent pizza. You will never find it good pizza in Hong-Kong the way you would find a good pizza pretty my journey where else. The travesty of pizza here is nothing short of an abomination. (Update: Pizza Box is ok.)

But if you can survive without pizza you’ll be fine. Because the food in Hong Kong is seriously delicious. Just where I live in Hung Hom, There are about two dozen restaurants that I absolutely adore. And that doesn’t include the dozens of other restaurants within walking distance that I still need to try. You will never have to worry about going hungry in Hong-Kong. The portions are big. The prices are small. And the taste is to die for. Again, except for pizza because it just tastes like death. (Except for Pizza Box).

Hong Kong Food

#5 Get an Octopus Card

Seriously. You have no idea how bloody useful this thing is. You literally need it to go anywhere around Hong-Kong. Unless you want to spend more and buy every individual ticket for every specific location you’re ever going to go while taking their train system. Or if you just want to pay exact change every time you go on the bus. Because they don’t give change.

Image result for octopus card
Octopus Cards: Don’t leave home without it!

You can even use it when you are at stores like Circle K and 7-Eleven! You literally need it to go anywhere around Hong-Kong. And sometimes it’s even mandatory for certain objects. For instance, I literally could not use my University’s laundromat until I got an Octopus Card. It’s not fun washing your clothes in the sink. Then, when I wanted to buy a drink from the vending machine, I was out of luck! No change accepted… So get a damn Octopus Card.

#6 Don’t bring warm clothes.

This is more of a suggestion for people who were not born in the South. Yes, unless you enjoy boiling yourself alive in 90゚ &  90% humidity, you should probably pack cool clothing. You have to remember that this place is considered tropical. You can literally go to the rainforest. So leave your big puffy coat at home and bring shorts. Because you might look on fleek, but having a heat stroke is most assuredly not on fleek. (I apologize to my English Professor Dr. Picken for the repeat usage of the term “on fleek”)

#7 The Workload will be Different (Easier)

Listen, I won’t bullshit you: Classes in Hong Kong are 10 times easier than in America. When I studied at Lingnan, I was amazed by how easy everything was. Also, every student I spoke to from the States agrees that the workload is much lighter than in the States. THAT BEING SAID: Make sure you understand the syllabus in your classes before you go and skip your classes (more than you already do). Typically, 60% or more of your grade will exclusively be from your midterm and end term exams. Sometimes even more. Unless the transfer credits count toward your GPA (meaning they don’t transfer on a pass/fail basis), you can skip almost every class and still pass with enough studying before the exam. (Not saying I advocate that, or even did it myself, but I’d be remiss to not say it how it is.) Anywhere between 10-30% then comes from projects that pop up, but they’re 99% of the time a group project. Attendance is rarely mandatory and rarely counts for more than 10%. But again: CHECK YOUR SYLLABUS. TALK TO LOCALS FIRST.

Speaking of which:

#8 You are a Guest of Hong Kong. Act like it.

Be aware that you live in their home, and you are a guest. It’s ok if you don’t know everything right off the bat, but make sure you put in the effort. Understand what is and is not considered appropriate. Just because you’re being respectful doesn’t mean that you’re bowing to somebody else’s ideas. Learn from them, and don’t assume you know anywhere near as much as they do. (The fact I need to say this is ridiculous but whatever.) You may have learned it, but remember. They’ve lived it.

#9 Talk to People

I don’t care how much you hate talking to people. You will experience a kind of loneliness that you had never experienced before. Period. Being in Hong Kong by yourself is terrifying. You’re on the other end of the world almost 10,000 miles away from the nearest person who knows you in all likelihood. You need to talk to people, you need to make friends. Your friends from back home are exactly that, back home. They are not gonna come and visit. You have the ultimate opportunity to make friends around the world. People I got to talk to every day came from all stretches of the world. Finland, Mexico, Japan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe. Friendships that shaped my time here, and molded me into a more global thinker. You are in an International city like no other. Go out and make some friends. Because those people are just like you. Scared, alone, and looking to get drunk. So go get drunk with them.

#10 Where the party is at

If you want to know where all the awesome bars are, just remember these 3 letters. LKF, Otherwise known as Lan Kwai Fong. This place is 100% party central in the HK. You will see more drinking, deviance, and awkward grinding here then you have anywhere else in the world. And if you think you can find a more happening party place I will literally fight you. And then I’ll probably go to that place because it sounds awesome if it can out party LKF. But until you show me that place you need to remember that if you wanna go out and party you go to LKF. Fastest way there is going to be taking the MTR (train system) and getting off at Central Station. Take exit D2 out of the train station.

Bonus Tip: Know your MTR Map

This one is pretty simple. The MTR is how you demarcate locations the easiest in Hong Kong. The stops cover pretty much every area of interest in Hong Kong within a reasonable distance. If you want to get somewhere, but don’t know how to get there, ask what station it’s at. And if you’re lost, just ask for the nearest MTR station! They’re never far away, and they are constantly running. (Except for when they aren’t running after about 12:30 a.m. Then you need to wait until about 6:00 a.m.


Image result for mtr map


Mangkhut: Proof a Typhoon Couldn’t Stop Hong Kong

— If you want to donate to disaster relief click here to help Tulong Kabataan Volunteer Network

New York City can suck it. If you want a city that really never sleeps come to Hong Hong. A quiet night out on the town doesn’t really exsist here. Too much going on. Everybody is busy. places to see, people to be. (Yes I did it in reverse on purpose.) many find the bustling city overwhelming. But that’s the thing, you can’t overwhelm Hong Kong.

Nobody can.

Nothing can.

No thing can.

And that includes Typhoon Mangkhut.

Like many other non – locals I just followed what everyone else was doing for precautions against the storm.

Tape? Check.

Rations? Check.

Something to binge watch while I stay oblivious to the actual strength of a storm more powerful than anything on record in Hong Kong? Check. (It was Season 4 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.)

Yes, I knew the storm’s brunt was further off the coast. Yes, I knew that I still needed to take things seriously despite the precautions the city takes and Hong Kong’s history of brushing off Typhoons. And yes, I knew the tape thing doesn’t actually help. But I still felt like adding a couple extra layers of tape to be safe. Because I was pretty nervous.

Back home in Ohio, a hurricane was something totally different. It was what God used to punish Florida for existing. Or a hockey team you hated despite having no real rivalry with your beloved Blue Jackets. The worst natural weather I’d experienced was a tropical depression that somehow made it up to the Miami Valley with 70mph+ gusts. But a hurricane? Of historic proportions? Not so much.

It’s funny (the odd kind, not the haha kind) when I first heard of the storm it didn’t even register. I was preoccupied with worrying about my friends and family in the Carolinas because of Florence. (The storm, not the 17th-century witch Florence Newton. A surprisingly common misconception. ) It wasn’t until the storm hit The Philippines, that I truly understood the gravitas of the situation. I shouldn’t panic, but I need to keep my wits about me. So, with windows taped and a season to catch up on, I hunkered down.

My girlfriend and I actually had a pleasant experience during the storm. We snacked on ham sandwiches, Oreos, and chips, watched Terry Crews be awesome and napped. (Well, she napped. I rewatched season 2 of Dragon Ball Z Abridged to not watch ahead.) The storm legitimately trapped us in our apartment, but it was a cozy trap. A chance to rest. Even if the alternative was getting turned into a human kite outside.

Ghost Nappa!

While she and I enjoyed a stay at home date, of course, buildings were being ripped up, floods crept higher, and the entirety of HK ground to a halt. It was an eerie silence I was unaccustomed to. It was the quietest my girlfriend experienced in the city in her 5 years of living here. The only sounds coming from outside was the wicked whipping wind.

Around 2 o’clock, we started seeing more posts on the scale of everything on Instagram and Reddit. (Shout out to/r/HongKong.) The building in Whampoa getting turned into a thirty story cheese grater reminded us any building could be affected. But it was the video of an air conditioner getting blown in that spooked us. Our apartment is about eight square meters, basically a bed and a bathroom. A hole that size in the window could mess things up bad.

We didn’t want to admit it, but we were scared it could happen to us. So in effort to not temp the air conditioning gods from smiting us, we played hot potato with the AC. We’d turn it on for a few minutes, then go about an hour without. That doesn’t sound like much to a local, but my girlfriend calls me Mr. Snowman for a reason. And no, it’s not because of a corn cob pipe, nor is it my button nose.

The hours passed and a brutal reality was about to shatter our world. We didn’t have enough snacks. And we were getting bored. (And now I see why Millennials are called childish. But be real for 5 seconds people, hanger is real.) The funny thing is, we weren’t the only people thinking the same thing. By 6 o’clock, we saw a steady stream of cars. And people too. The storm was barely starting to leave Hong Kong, but people were going outside. The results were in:

Hong Kong was tired of waiting for Mangkhut. They had shit to do. So I st the protest of my girlfriend did what any sensible foreigner would do. I walked out into the hurricane to go get dinner. It sounds awesome, but the buildings blocked so much wind I can only categorize the trip as: rather gusty. And rainy. It was still very much rainy.

With fair lady (reluctantly) in tow, we went off in search of nourishment. The ever faithful 7 Eleven was of course open, but we had our fill of chips and snacks. We needed a meal. Luckily the first road we turned to had a place open. And on that road was a sanctuary. That sanctuary’s name: 18 Kung Fu Spicy. At least according to Google Translate. Although my uber rough understanding of Chinese from college confirms this.

十八味功夫麻辣 = 18 spicy Kung Fu spicy.

Thank you 18 Kung Fu Spicy.

It’s funny, inside the restaurant, you’d never realize a typhoon of ungodly size was raging outside. But that’s just like Hong Kong. For better or worse, it doesn’t matter what’s going on. Life here stops for nothing.

And perhaps the best example of this comes from how the following Monday, we all got out of bed, strapped on our shoes and went to work… Except for you know, the few businesses and schools that did close. And the people literally trapped by fallen debris. No wait… they went to work to. Oh Hong Kong, you’ll never change…

Gweilo: What’s in a name?

Gweilo. It’s a name you hear get tossed around a lot. It literally means ghost person, but honestly, it’s just what they call Westerners. The Pale ones at least. I’ll have to ask my buddy from Zimbabwe if he ever got called that. ( Update! he didn’t) But anyway, where was I? Right, Gweilo.

There’s debate on what it means to be called it. Some think it’s a term of endearment, others a racial slur. (I referred to myself as Gweilo to a bunch of locals while playing ball once and they said I shouldn’t call myself something so rude.) Then again, a few locals I played basketball with when I was a foreign student called me that while hanging out. But who knows, maybe they just liked talking shit about me thinking I didn’t know what was going on.

So what kind of name is it? A slur? Nickname? It might just be a regular old name. Bears are bears, cats are cats, and this Whitey is Ghost Boy. Calling it a slur is a step too far. Often times, slurs come from the mouths of those in power. There’s no doubt I became a minority stepping off the plane on Lantau Island. But, calling me powerless would just be signs of a victim complex. In fairness to those who think it’s close on the slur end of the spectrum, some translations for the term come out as “foreign devil”. (Thanks Wikipedia for helping with the research. This blog and my GPA in college owe you everything.)

Gweilo seems like it’s just shorthand for Westerner more than anything. In America, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who looks like me who’d refer to people as Laotian, Malay, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese etc., and get it 100% right all the time. We call them Asian most often, and then by their nationality once we get to know them. (Even though we forget it sometimes.) Sure it’s not proper, but who gives a flying shit? I mean for God’s sake, they’ve got a beer named after it. Gweilo Beer

Most Westerners I’ve met aren’t bothered by it either. Clearly, I’m not, it’s where the name of this blog comes from. 😛 Besides, I know some pale boys back home who I’d call Ghostie too. There’s gonna be a casual racism of foreigners anywhere you go in this world. You can’t always get bent out of shape about that stuff. The thing that offends me more often than anything is the pizza in this place, to be honest. (Seriously Hong Kong, what the shit is this?)

Weird Hong Kong Pizza
Look at this monstrosity in shame Hong Kong. IN SHAME I SAY.

So if being called Gweilo is such a non-issue, why even bother bringing it up? I think it’s just interesting really. Race relations aren’t great back in America, and talking about race isn’t always comfortable. But that might come from the fact that I’m not a minority in America., and talking about race may threaten me in some capacity there. Whereas in Hong Kong, I feel like talking about my race, other people’s race and even just the concept of race is more… open. I don’t know.

I’m sure some of this comes off as whining, maybe even bordering on asking for sympathy. And that’s not what this is about. It mostly came from a genuine curiosity about whether getting called Gweilo meant somebody was talking shit about me. And I think the answer is no, they aren’t saying that to talk shit…


Most of the time.