I admire and respect Jimmer Fredette, but a recent article in the Deseret News about his time playing in China, while well-written, has an unfortunately narrow viewpoint.
The following excerpt from the piece, by Jesse Hyde, may be the best illustration of the attitude I'm talking about (and to make it clear, I don't mean Jimmer's attitude, I mean the reporter's attitude):
"He reminds himself of Wesley, of the sacrifices he’s making for his family, when he looks over a menu and puzzles over the selections: Boiled bullfrog. Cow’s brain. Live chicken head ... “Rice,” he says in Chinese, smiling at the waitress.
"Jimmer is unfailingly polite, and so he’d never say this to the waitress or anyone else in China, but the truth is, he eats to survive. If he were still in the NBA, he might have a personal chef, a nutritionist. But here, if the food looks recognizable, he eats it. Pizza. Hamburgers. Greasy french fries. In Shanghai, a city of Maseratis and a gleaming Versace store, he can eat well, but even here, the air carries a slight whiff of chemicals you can almost taste. It’s hard not to want to be somewhere else."
Seriously? An American reporter gets flown to China and all he can do is joke that there's nothing on the menu but boiled bullfrog? Above all, besides how offensive this whole description is, it's inaccurate.
I have no idea how well Hyde captures Jimmer's mood or his thoughts. It's a bad idea, I believe, for reporters to write as if they are inside the heads of their subjects.
But beyond that, the bias of this piece is really striking. China has a thousands-year-old culture and perhaps the most varied and fantastic cuisine in the world. But Hyde acts like everything available to eat there is more disgusting than greasy french fries.
Someone with Jimmer's income could eat like royalty in China every single meal, if that someone was eating Chinese food. Again, Jimmer can eat what he wants. I'm not knocking his food choices, if Hyde is even presenting them accurately. But the unmistakable message from the reporter here is -- "all this Chinese food is gross." That's ridiculous, and it's the sort of thing that gives Americans a bad rap -- and exactly the sort of attitude that Jimmer does NOT have, according to the article itself and according to everything else I've read about him. He's not a jerk, not a snob and doesn't hold himself aloof from his Chinese teammates or the fans, the way some other American players have. The article even says he eats at the homes of his teammates, and I very much doubt they serve him hamburgers or french fries.
What I see in this piece is a good writer who is trying too hard to make China seem like a disappointment for Jimmer, who wanted to play in the NBA. Hyde must mention five times in the piece how bad the pollution is in China. He makes the country sound grim and gray, like some Stalinist nightmare, instead of the vibrant, colorful, crowded blend of ancient and modern that I have heard the country is and which, ironically, is shown by the photos that accompany the story.