Linsanity [lin-SAN-i-tee] n. 1. a derangement of the mind brought about by New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin 2. the fervor over Jeremy Lin causing seemingly level-headed people to behave irrationally. 3. an unnatural use of bad puns incorporating the prefix "lin-."
For the past three weeks, linsanity has overtaken this country. Dispassionate basketball fans have rediscovered the game, once-cynical citizens have embraced a new hero, and the airwaves have become linundated with feel-good features, all causing the Federal government to almost grind to a halt ... (although in fairness, that seems to be a regular occurrence with our government and may not have anything to do with basketball).
Jeremy Lin is the ultimate Cinderella story, not unlike a former groundskeeper on the verge of winning the Masters. (I bet Bill Murray could play Lin in a movie. He's just that versatile.) And with the blossoming excitement, it stands to reason it would come with the requisite controversy. The phenomenon has spurred linappropriate comments, linciting anger and linspiring bad puns from commentators. (I propose that, more than anything, people are only enamored with him due to the bad pun thing.)
(Side effects of linsanity may include restless leg syndrome, shortness of breath, excessive breathing, bad breath, goose bumps, redness, bouts of racism and selected ethnic slurs, swollen tongue, itchy scalp, and puffy combs.)
Why just this past week, an ESPN copy editor was fired for using the derogatory term a "chink in the armor" when referencing the Knicks star. Similarly, a Fox Sports columnist tweeted a crude sexual innuendo about Lin. And others have opined that had the point guard been black, he would not have garnered the same attention he has as an Asian-American Harvard graduate. (It's more reasonable to claim that had the point guard been black, his name would not have been Lin.)
The sudden rise of a hero different than one's own depiction of a hero tends to leave many people at a loss for words, or more appropriately, at a surplus of words, the wrong words, resorting to trite prejudices masquerading as sooth. Larry Bird, John Stockton, Rex Chapman have fallen prey to the same argument. Had they not been white, they would not have been praised as widely. Donovan McNabb has found himself in the crosshairs of Rush Limbaugh's short-sighted mouth rifle before as well.
In fact, skin color is not the only criteria driving such irrational claims. When diminutive Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox won the 2007 Rookie of the Year trophy in the American League and others said it was only due to his height, he had to be defended by the AUI (Association for Undersized Infielders). And when pitching great John Rocker burst onto the scene and frequently made news, he had to be backed by The League of Extraordinary Idiots who claimed he wasn't only being recognized due to his incredibly stupid actions and words.
Now when Jason Terry claims that Jeremy Lin is only a product of Mike D’Antoni's system, we have to wonder, what are Terry's motives? Does he really believe that? Would he say that if Lin were black? Has he convinced himself that he really believes that? Or is he just angry that Lin torched his team, the Dallas Mavericks, whose best days are behind them?
Either way, does it matter? John Stockton may have only gotten so many assists because Karl Malone was his wingman. Karl Malone may only be No. 2 on the all-time points chart thanks to Mr. Stockton. Charles Barkley may be thinner because of Slim Fast or the fact that he earned enough money from them to hire a nutritionist to give him some good, healthy food. The beauty of sports (and sometimes the scourge) is that what you see is what is.
The subject of race in sports is representative of the country as a whole. We can convince ourselves that someone is one way, and rationalize our hypotheses with flimsy logic. Instead of rational thought, we see only race or color, most often, the color of sports uniforms, and can tailor our arguments toward our views.
From time to time, I, for one, have been guilty of bashing players on the hated Lakers, most notably one Kobe "Beef" Bryant. Is that because I only see a Laker and thus presume him to be an overrated crybaby? No, of course not. That would be prejudiced and I am an objective basher. On the contrary, I see a basketball player ... who is an overrated crybaby that just happens to play for the Lakers. (He's whining that the front office hasn't done enough to surround him with players worthy of his skills, yet again.)
But the story here should be that Jeremy Lin, be he black or white, Asian or American, University of Miami- or Harvard-educated was unknown two weeks ago, living on a pigeon-stained bench in Central Park. (This is not entirely true, but will be depicted that way in the Made-for-TV movie that I'm working on.)
The media have found their Golden Child, not unlike Eddie Murphy was "The Golden Child" until he opted to make stinkers like “Vampire in Brooklyn,” "Pluto Nash," and “Meet Dave,” and now he's barely a "Norbit."
As unbelievable as Lin's escapades are, perhaps they've been just a smidge overblown. Though among the top four in points and assists through his first eight games, he's also had more turnovers than anyone in their first eight games since turnovers were first recorded. But the theme of the story cannot be sung enough -- through perseverance and faith, one can succeed in our world. And we've seen no one do this better than Jeremy Lin in recent memory.
If Jeremy Lin gets into the Hall of Fame -- and I think we need to give him at least through the end of the season -- it won't be because he was in a good system for his talents or because he was Asian American or because the media have blown this way, WAY out of proportion, no, it will be because everyone would have forgotten about all the immaterial stuff like his color, ethnicity, or situation and focused on his career accomplishments and the fact that he's not going to be nearly as good as Larry Bird and John Stockton and Rex Chapman. And I should know this, because I'm a white guy.
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