- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

Shaq to Yao:
That is your cue to laugh.
Or take offense.
America's No Fun Police have pursued the latter course, predictably enough, while imposing a quickie multicultural lesson plan on O'Neal.
Oh, please.
Hung-wung-sung. That is Chinese for lighten up.
Or as Uncle Benny, in "Lethal Weapon 4," said: "It is fried rice, you plick."
What would Master Poe of the old "Kung Fu" television series say?
Master Poe was a fountain of wisdom, if you recall, the deepest thinker around in the disco age.
Master Poe would appear in flashbacks to Kwai Chang Caine, the onetime student named Grasshopper who was walking the earth to figure it all out. A nugget of profundity inevitably would be dispensed in these flashbacks, usually in question-answer form.
Grasshopper: "Master, why do birds fly south?"
Master Poe: "Because, Grasshopper, it is too far to walk."
The cliche-ridden device appealed to a stereotype. It was what it was, as culturally instructive as Ned Beatty's squeal-like-a-pig situation in "Deliverance."
Master Poe, no doubt, scored 1600 on the SAT, however unimpressive that is to the admissions types at Cal Berkeley.
Shaq has a lot of Kazaam in him. Shaq Fu, too. He is a 7-foot-1, 315-pound jokester.
The weight, by the way, is a rough estimate. His listed weight as a rookie was 301.
You have seen clips of O'Neal back then with the Magic. He was almost skinny compared to the behemoth he is today. Yet, according to the NBA Register, O'Neal has gained only 14 pounds in 10 years. Right. This must be one of those dog years-like things. For every four pounds O'Neal adds to his frame, only one pound shows up on the scale, and not just any scale. Maybe that is the problem. Maybe, to end the debate, O'Neal should be required to pull over to a truck weigh station along the interstate.
To be fair, the "ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh" thing appears to be a cultural hybrid. Isn't "ah-so" Japanese?
One question leads to another, which is: How is it that two of the premier chicken recipes come from the great military minds of Gen. Tsao and Col. Sanders? In that matchup, in the kitchen or on the battlefield, which military strategist do you like, Gen. Tsao or Col. Sanders? That is a tough one. That probably is one for Master Poe.
Grasshopper: "Master, why do chickens cluck?"
Master Poe: "Because, Grasshopper, just because."
The subject of O'Neal and Yao Ming is convenient. Their first meeting is Friday night in Houston, assuming Yao's sprained left knee is as minor as news reports indicate.
When the Lakers and Rockets made their initial introductions of the season in November, O'Neal was recovering from his late decision to have toe surgery.
Yao is the heir apparent to O'Neal, the real deal, no "ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh" about it. In the years ahead, it will be amusing to recall the Rookie-of-the-Year chase between Yao and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, and nothing against Stoudemire.
It is just that the 22-year-old Yao, as long as he stays healthy, has the capacity to be dominant because of an unnatural amount of skill and understanding of the game for someone 7-5.
With Yao and Steve Francis, a center and point guard in the tender stages of their development, the Rockets promise to be awfully good for an awfully long time, perhaps in the championship manner of Shaq and Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen before them.
Yao certainly has eliminated the initial skepticism that marked his arrival as the No.1 pick overall in the NBA Draft last June. A slow start by Yao empowered the doubters, among them Charles Barkley, so desperate to cause a stir that he agreed to kiss Kenny Smith's backside, a donkey purchased by Smith as it turned out, if Yao ever scored 19 points in a game this season.
It was all in good fun, although members of PETA might have wondered if the donkey's mental well-being was harmed by the goings-on in a television studio.
You can't be too certain in these ever-sensitive times.
Being sensitive is a growing occupation in America.
Shaq goes: "Ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh."
The sensitive, before fainting in horror, go: "Tsk, tsk."
To which Yao says: "Chinese is hard to learn. I had trouble with it when I was little."
How about that? Yao is funny, too.
Yao, in a commercial for the NBA, leads a class in kung fu, the most public display of martial arts by a center since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went chop-for-chop against the late, great Bruce Lee.
Grasshopper: "Master, why does Steven Seagal wear black pajamas in all his movies now?"
Master Poe: "Because, Grasshopper, there is so much more of him to love."

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