#Linsanity. You’ve seen it all over the social networks for weeks now, but what is the key story in Jeremy Lin’s meteoric rise on the Knicks? Sure, he’s phenomenal to watch on the court. No one can deny that he works hard.
Looking purely at the numbers, Lin’s performance has been spectacular. He has set records for scoring the most in his third and fourth career starts since the ABA-NBA merger in 1977. I’m sure that meant something to someone; I could barely figure out what that means. But just catch any game and you can sense his undeniable tenacity and instincts. So let’s accept for the moment that Lin would be a standout player no matter his race or career history.
But the story isn’t that simple. Lin is not just a great player, he’s the greatest (and first) Taiwanese-American player in the history of the NBA. While in an ideal world, his race shouldn’t even be an issue, we’re not at that point yet. He’s being recognized for standing out and breaking stereotypes. As Eric Adelson writes in his report on Floyd Mayweather’s tweet, the hype is equivalent to if “a black golfer came out of Stanford and started winning golf majors…[or] two black sisters from Compton dominated the world of tennis.” For Asian-American men, who are too often emasculated by American media and culture, Lin represents something much more than a star basketball player. He expands the public consciousness of what an Asian man can do, especially athletically. Undaunted by bigger foes, he fearlessly drives towards the net. As point-guard, he demonstrates great leadership in leading the team. Courage and leadership, two traits that aren’t commonly attributed to Asians are now generously lavished on Lin.
I’m not going to write about how Lin was overlooked likely because he is Asian. That topic is covered extensively in the media and especially well sexplicated by Timothy Dalrymple in his post on “Jeremy Lin and the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations.” Instead, my focus is on supporting Lin despite whatever basketball allegiance you might have. No doubt if you have Asian friends, you’ve seen them eagerly jump on the Linsanity bandwagon. People who had previously never watched a basketball game in their lives were buying #17 Knicks jerseys and crowding into bars to watch the games. Being an Asian-American, originally from the Bay Area and now living in New York, I am exactly that demographic that should be fawning over Lin. I’m not a sports fan. I have no qualms about cheering on the teams that my friends care about. In short, I have no team loyalty.
Bandwagoning has such negative connotations in the world of sports fanaticism. Supporting a team only when it’s doing well or because it’s getting more media coverage seems anathema to what real sports fans do. Indeed, there is truth to that. Teams rely on their core fans through the good times and the bad. All I’m saying is that no matter your loyalty to your own team, there’s no reason not to support the rise of diversity in sports. In other words, don’t be a hater. Lin is bigger than basketball. While he’s no Jackie Robinson, he is hopefully just the start of shifting public perceptions of Asian-Americans. You don’t need to support the Knicks if you’re really desperate to hold onto your own team, but that does not mean you can’t support Lin’s personal success. Linsanity is hopefully not just a fad, and treating it like one will ensure that Asian-American basketball players will remain that way.