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View Full Version : All Star Voting--Yao v. Shaq


MavKikiNYC
01-13-2003, 11:34 AM
Fans in Shanghai Are Voting in the Mainstream
By GEORGE VECSEY

IT was only a few years ago that Chinese leaders fretted about what might happen if their citizens gained access to the Internet.

Now we know. Here comes Chairman Stern's own cultural revolution: the new wave of electronic voters in China is helping to elect Yao over Shaq as the starting center in the National Basketball Association's All-Star Game.

This is not, however, a case of China's one billion citizens stuffing the electronic ballot box for Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 star with the Houston Rockets. For one thing, the league's Web site, nba.com, is jiggered to allow only one vote a day for each e-mail address.

The league made it easier for international voters this year by offering ballots in three languages English, Spanish and Chinese as well as instructions in Japanese, Russian, French, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, Portuguese, German and traditional Chinese characters.

"We realized when we put up a ballot in Mandarin that it would make it easier for Chinese voters," said Brian McIntyre, the league's senior vice president for communications.

Even if some Chinese fans vote early and often as Chicagoans have been doing for a century the Chinese have not overwhelmed the vote. There has been no xenophobic reaction anything like the skewed vote in baseball in 1957, when Cincinnati fans submitted so many paper ballots that they elected seven of their hometown Reds to starting positions in the All-Star Game.

Somehow or other, a fellow named Musial did manage to win the vote at first base, and league officials ultimately substituted players named Mays and Aaron for two Cincinnati outfielders. This boosterism cost baseball fans the All-Star vote for the next 12 seasons.

Chinese fans have voted far more rationally than those Reds fans 45 years ago. People in Beijing and Guangzhou and Shanghai are helping to choose Yao, the former star of the Shanghai Sharks, over Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers to start for the Western Conference on Feb. 9 in Atlanta.

The Chinese vote has not overwhelmed the trend. About 15 percent of all traffic to the Web site comes from Asia, and 11 to 12 percent of the ballots come back in Chinese. Yao leads Shaq in Asian voting, but he also leads him in North America by roughly the same proportion. (Ed note: Eat THAT, Brent Mus-head!)Through Thursday, Yao was leading Shaq, 1,015,018 to 784,920, in the last published count until the starters are announced Jan. 23.

There is absolutely no controversy in any of this because Yao is having a better season than Shaq, impressing everybody with his agility, passing, competitiveness and discipline.

Shaq, on the other hand, chose to wait until mid-September to have an operation on his ailing toe, and he has trudged back into action while the Lakers accumulated losses in stunning fashion.

Shaq has also been gracious in his reaction to the voting for Yao. "It happens to the best of us," O'Neal was quoted as saying in The Houston Chronicle. "When I came in, I beat out Patrick Ewing.

"He is making history for his people," Shaq said of Yao. "His people are proud of him. They should be. One billion people that's tough to beat."

On Friday, there was a report that Shaq had recently used a mock Chinese accent in joking about Yao, but Shaq insisted that was merely his brand of locker-room humor and that he meant no offense. Yao quickly said: "The world is getting smaller, and I think it's important to have a greater understanding of other cultures. I believe Shaquille O'Neal was joking, but I think that a lot of Asian people don't understand that kind of joke."

League officials expect Shaq to suit up as a substitute in the All-Star Game.

"Shaq is a great player who has proven his domination of the game," Yao said Friday before the Rockets' loss in Atlanta; he recorded another first, receiving a technical foul for taunting after a dunk. "Of course, it makes me very happy to have the support of my country. That people in China can vote for the N.B.A. All-Star Game on the Internet is another example of how small the world is becoming."

There are other examples. In South Korea last summer, hundreds of Chinese men and women (bankers, brokers, even a fashion journalist) traveled to China's first game in a World Cup. They wore the latest clothing and chatted on cellphones.

"I've had seven cellphones already myself," Yao said Friday. "China is changing and developing at a rapid pace. All I can say is that I hope my development as a basketball player can match that. While China learns more about the world, I hope that the world will also learn more about China."

He says he is proud of the support he receives from home, including countless e-mail messages from "friends who are concerned about me and my adjustment to the U.S."

"I know that many Chinese fans are watching my games and are interested in my progress," he said.

Yao and Shaq meet again Tuesday. People will be watching back home in China and voting.