Thursday, February 23, 2012

THE JEREMY LIN STORY: Race, Business, Game, Himself, and New York City

IF Jeremy Lin were of Italian, Greek, or other European descent, there likely would not have been a comparable article speculating about this topic.” –A post in NYTimes message board.

In response, let me elaborate on Jeremy Lin:

(1) HIS RACE: Look back in time, the “firsts” in competitive sports, in terms of hurdling the racial barrier in white America—Sugar Ray Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, and most recently, Tiger Woods (golf) and the Williams sisters (tennis), who excelled in sports games that were once dominated by whites (whether they were Irish, English, German, Italian, Swedish, Australian etc). Jeremy Lin is the first legitimate Asian-American sports personality who actually created such a tremor of an impact. It’s uprecedented, it’s new, it’s novelty. Imagine if there are 15 other Asian-American superstar millionaires in NBA, would people be this Linsane? There’s Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Lincecum (and the upcoming Yu Darvish) in baseball, Troy Polamalu in football, and Manny Pacquiao in boxing—but Lin, so far, is a lot more than his game of basketball. For one, he is Taiwanese or Chinese descent: We are talking about the most gargantuan heap of humanity on Earth—who, whether we are happy or not, kind of controls the world’s economy at this point in time. When the Chinese of the Universe yell “LIN!” expect a tsunami.

(2) THEIR BUSINESS: Time Warner and MSG fixed their quarrel in the name of cable TV profit, all NBA arenas that Linsanity visits posts record-highs in attendance, sale of shirts and merch is simply Linsane (there’s even one dude who just moved to copyright“Linsanity” as trademark), and VOILA! Chinese all over the globe are watching like the kid is their biological kid—Asia bought TV/NBA coverage rights in all Knicks games, which means moolah generated from this hoopla is even bigger than the Super Bowl. And corporate America is just warming up.

(3) HIS GAME: It all boils down to his game. Lin can play ball, no doubt. He is a multi-tasker: he shoots, passes, steals, rebounds—and he’s only 6’3” and 200 lbs. He is not the typical ball-hog or selfish ball player, he makes his teammates look good as well. He turns the ball over quite frequently—it’s primarily because he’s all over the court most time (more than 36 mins per game), handles the ball 80 percent of the way, and takes more risks than the average point guard. More than all, he wins games. When he was given the nod to take the floor by his coach, he almost single-handedly put New York Knicks back in a winning pace from a badly-losing situation.

(4) HIMSELF as PLAYER: His rise to stardom is an enticing and intriguing Hollywood feelgood blockbuster. After receiving no athletic scholarship offers out of high school and being undrafted out of college, the 2010 Harvard University (Economics) graduate reached a partially guaranteed contract deal later that year with his hometown Golden State Warriors. Lin seldom played in his rookie season and was assigned to the National Basketball Development League (D-League) three times. He was waived by Golden State and the Houston Rockets the following pre-season before joining the Knicks early in the 2011-12 season. He was again assigned to the D-League and continued to play sparingly. In February 2012, he unexpectedly led a winning streak by New York while being promoted to the starting lineup.

[5] HIMSELF as HIMSELF: He has sterling humility—a trait that is not usually seen in most superstar athletes these days. He doesn’t trash talk, he acknowledges God and his teammates before he even mentions his achievements on a particular game. Before he shot to prominence, he was crashing in his bro and friend’s couches—since he wasn’t even sure if his non-guaranteed contract will amount to anything. That was about two weeks ago. He is the ideal role model: Modest beginnings, immigrant dreamer, accomplished academic background, God-fearing, humility/determination/perseverance/hard work, exceptional ball player. No wonder, people from 5 to 75—irrelevant of color, creed, culture and social standing—come out to join Linsanity. He is the personification of the Great American Dream, especially at these times when the Dream seems to be fleeting away…

[6] NEW YORK CITY. Linsanity happened and is happening in New York City, the grand stage of America’s insane love affair for bombastic melodrama, boisterous fanfare, and magnificent corporate brawn.

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