Thursday, May 03, 2007

Drink it in

For the past seven years I have participated in a team sport that, despite being the "fastest growing water sport in the world," still draws blank stares from people I meet here in Los Angeles when I mention the name of it: dragon boating.

(Eh, what the heck: Go ahead and read the Wiki-planation of it. It's true that I don't write about it much here.)

I got in the habit of describing in this manner when it came up in conversation for the first time with someone: "It's a paddling sport called 'dragon boating'--you haven't heard of it." I didn't even wait for the puzzled look before offering the follow-up. (Every once in a while I would run into someone who had heard of it, which would be a tiny thrill, but that still proved too infrequent to cause me to change the habit.)

So you can imagine my surprise when I was getting lunch on Friday at the fine "Chinese" dining establishment Panda Express and saw what was on the medium drink cup:

The cup even had a reasonable explanation of the history of dragon boating on the back (considering the space available).

They also feature it on their website.

Now dragon boating is going to explode in popularity, and soon it will become a household word, and I'll never be met with another blank stare when I mention it.

Except for one little thing: Although it alludes to races being held around the world (which is true), no where on the cup does it mention how to celebrate the dragon boat festival--except, by implication, by eating Panda's latest menu item.

(Like the American public is going to do the legwork to find a festival near them. If you're in Southern California, the Long Beach festival is coming up on July 28-29.)

So really, Panda Express has co-opted a sport that is still virtually unknown in this country to seem culturally aware while promoting their food. It's like they're primarily interested in making a profit or something.

On behalf of dragon boaters everywhere, I feel kind of used. On the other hand, there is part of me that feels kind of validated by seeing my sport mentioned this way.

I wouldn't have this dilemma if I'd joined a bowling league.


  1. Panda Express could show their appreciation for "using" our sport by sponsoring some teams or maybe even a festival. Win-win.
    Steve K.

  2. Dragon boats were featured on The Amazing Race a couple of weeks ago. Nice new title bar, but the maroon doesn't show up very well against the picture.


So, what do you think?