As a first-generation Filipino-American that grew up on the promise of the American Dream, I always feel the most patriotic when watching sports.
Hard work always pays off, the possibility of beating the odds remains a reality within reach. So, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when Manny Pacquiao carried the Phillippine flag during the opening ceremony (even though he was not competing), I felt a complete sense of invincibility.
That stronghold of pride was shattered when Pacquiao lost in a rather confusing split decision in his fight against "undefeated" Timothy Bradley. It's not that I saw arguably the best boxer in my lifetime fall, but that even Pacquiao with his high status still falls victim to American exceptionalism.
According to ESPN's Next Level results posted during SportsCenter broadcasts following the fight, Pacquiao threw 493 punches and had an overall punch percentage 10% higher than Bradley.
How he lost has left professionals like HBO's Harold Lederman and Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum confused. "It's an injustice to the sport," said ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas to SportsCenter, "an injustice to the fan base."
Perhaps the Nevada judges thought giving Bradley a win would draw people back to a rematch in November. Or maybe even, it was a weak gesture of showing that America can still win overall in an international sport.
The fight gives more than just doubt in the credibility of boxing judges; it questions if a Filipino-American can really succeed in the American spotlight today.
Like most Asian-American kids, I grew up under the fear of getting a "B," or what's considered an "Asian F," on my report card. I was always reminded that racial injustice still exists in America, but that hard work has no ethnic background.
But watching Pacquiao go down for no apparent reason shows the harsh reality of otherwise. As the second largest Asian population in America, Filipinos take pride in being the true birthplace of Tim Tebow and Journey's lead singer Arnel Pineda.
Last month, they called in masses to support half-Filipino Jessica Sanchez on American Idol. But despite an early elimination round, she made her way back to the top to come in second place on a show where the past five winners were white men.
You can sing a song like Whitney Houston herself, or fight with complete accuracy, but in America today, it's not enough for Filipinos to truly win.
Sure that despite losses, Sanchez and Pacquiao leave with heavy pockets, but what kind of message does that give millennials of Filipino descent? It feeds on a racist notion that Asians know everything, can succeed at anything, so when someone decides to compete with them, their opponents should get the benefit of the doubt.
If they don't, then other races stop trying. Bradley, after admitting that he did not know if he won a fair fight, told Pacquiao they could do a rematch. Would he really have asked the same if Pacquiao took the belt?
America's minority populations continue to grow significantly, so the everyday Filipino-American is bound to win a reality television show, and a superstar will eventually get a fair, big money fight in Las Vegas.
But when they do win, I hope everyone spares the drama. The best performances must always be judged on a fair platform, not expectations or the flag draped behind one's back.