Wednesday, June 11, 2008
As an obsessive NFL fan, I often find myself idly leafing through my pro football encyclopedia looking for something interesting. Well, one day I came across the entry of this player: Sneeze Achiu. Obviously no detective work is needed to determine how Mr. Achiu came to be known as “Sneeze”. His full given name was Walter Tin Kit Achiu and he briefly played for the NFL’s now-defunct Dayton Triangles in 1927 and 1928. Intrigued by this heretofore unknown-to-me player, subsequent research on him revealed two things: (1) Everything I’ve written here so far has been completely lacking in originality; and (2) Sneeze Achiu holds a unique place in NFL history. His on-field contributions weren’t much--in 11 games he rushed for 27 yards on 27 carries, caught two balls for 17 yards, missed a field goal and threw an incomplete pass—but he made history just by stepping onto the field. It turns out that Walter Tin Kit Achiu was the first player of Chinese descent to play in the National Football League. Unfortunately it’s not quite the inspirational story we might like it to be. Not only was Sneeze not much of a player, to this day he remains the NFL’s only player of Chinese descent. Yes, almost eight decades have passed since the heyday of Sneeze Achiu and the world’s most populous nation has yet to produce another professional football player. And while all of the above facts were easy enough to find on the internet, all of the web pages I found discussing Walter Achiu (perhaps understandably) failed to mention one other fact about him—Sneeze wasn’t his only nickname. Total Football II lists his other nickname as “Chink”. I’m going to go out on a limb and say if we do ever see another Chinese player, nobody’s gonna be calling him “Chink”. Progress.