*It’s incredibly hard to believe that only a few weeks ago, no one in the world (save for the hardest of the hard-core basketball fans) knew the name of Jeremy Lin. Now, he’s more ubiquitous on Sportscenter than annoying catchphrases. He’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated and Time’s Asian edition.
It appears that every single New Yorker owns a 17 LIN jersey (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2012/02/in-merchandising-terms-jeremy-lin-is-a-sellout.html), whether they be authentic or one of those street-produced fakes that will dissolve into a Ken doll outfit once they’re washed with hot water.
Why has “Linsanity” taken hold so quickly and so fervently? The uniqueness of his success as an Asian-American in the sport has to be part of the discussion, and cannot be understated. It’s given the growing and vastly influential Asian-American population of the country a true shining star in sports – and an American native, at that.
It’s a unique story. Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideo Nomo and Hideki Matsui were established stars in Japan – and Japanese natives – before they came to America.
The Yao Ming comparison can be made, but its imperfect. Ming was a press phenomenon when he came to America, for sure, but (aside from that one Visa commercial) he never seemed to leap into the heart of the nation like Lin has. Lin is an exciting, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him guard; Ming was a towering center. Both important, for sure, but Lin’s game plays more to the television that Ming’s did. That’s not even mentioning the various ailments that Ming suffered from; that immense physical talent undercut by feet that just weren’t made for his body. It was Bill Walton version 2.0.
Beyond the ethnic reasons, though, “Linsanity” is just, at its heart, a good story coming from a place starved for one, starring what seems to be a very good guy. Let’s break it down. It’s the classic out-of-nowhere story – an undrafted rookie, cut from a few other teams, coming from nowhere to lead a team out of the cellar with remarkable play and last-second heroics. He’s going to a place that loves the sport, one that’s unfortunately been mired in the grip of mediocrity for the better part of a decade. Best of all, Lin seems to be that rarest thing in sports – genuine. He’s a well-spoken, thoughtful and overwhelmingly humble Harvard grad who seems unfazed by and appreciative of all the success he’s suddenly had.
“Linsanity” can’t last forever – after all, we saw what happened to “Tebowmania” when Tom Brady decided to take charge. However, until it’s over, we should all just enjoy the ride.