#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.

Photo Credit: iamhannah

Let us begin with the defining features of a soap opera: 1) it tells the tale of a group of entities and their interactions, 2) the story continues ad infinitum with no clear purpose or resolution, 3) the audience has an unusually strong emotional reaction to it, 4) the audience lives vicariously the triumphs and defeats of actors playing characters which have nothing to do with the audience members, 5) it is purely for entertainment, but taken far too seriously i.e. special magazines detailing the plot twists. The plots of soap operas generally involve domestic affairs such as family, relationships, illness, career, and evil twins. Their target audience is housewives for whom these things are also major concerns. How would one create a soap operas for the average man who cares about beer, physical violence, tits, beer, and the dominance of the alpha male? The answer is obviously sports. However, watching sports need not be this way. Here’s how to tell if a person treats sports like a soap.

  1. They care about the journey of a team, the different cities that hosted it, how many championship games it has played, when it changed management, etc.
  2. They know a lot of trivia about individual players to the point of arguing with other fans about it.
  3. They get overly excited or disappointed and express it invariably with violence.
  4. They are not athletic enough to play, but they wear athletic gear with team logos and talk constantly about how they used to play.
  5. They listen to or watch sports talkshows where other people talk about watching a game.
  6. They read ostensible autobiographies of semi-illiterate sports stars ghostwritten by some nobody.
  7. They care about the score of a game even if they don’t watch it.
  8. They are fans of a specific team or player because that team or player lives near them.

This last point deserves some further comment. All sports teams have a region from which they are based. If it is a franchise, that region is chosen because it has the most potential for profit. Being a fan of the Titans because you live in Nashville is stupid. It’s like celebrating Starbucks and hating Pete’s because Starbucks opened a franchise location on your block. They’re there to get your money, they don’t represent you and have nothing to do with you. National teams are no different; a group of manchildren playing ball and arguing with the ref does not represent the country they are from. A legitimate reason to follow someone specific might be a black American living under segregation who is a fan of Jackie Robinson. Another is a person, such as myself, who is proud of the US Women’s soccer team because they believe that the team’s success demonstrates the strength, independence, and equality of our women as superior to other countries’ cultures. Or perhaps one player plays the game with extraordinary honor and maturity and we wish to laud them for it. In short, if one cares about the game for the game’s sake then it’s sports. If one cares about the players or the teams or the stats or the score or which high school the back-up pitcher for Toronto got drafted from then it’s a soap opera for men.