As a longtime Knicks fan, the concept of “Lin-sanity,” is challenging to me.
Born into the Championship era of the late 60’s and early 70’s, I admit having a reason to watch NBA basketball in 2012 is great, especially when the 2011-12 season began with a horrible labor strike.
Following the lock-out, the Knicks had moments of promise followed by a sustained amount of disappointment. During a troubling stretch of five or more loses in a row, it looked as if the season was over before it began.
Coach D’Antoni didn’t look as though he cared and he then turned multi-million dollar forward Carmelo Anthony into a point-forward/point guard. By the end of January, ‘Melo was hurt and on the DL and Amare’ was on bereavement leave.
Then almost overnight – things changed.
An undrafted, D-League point guard named Jeremy Lin was thrown into the mix and nothing would ever be the same again. The 23-year-old guard from Harvard University touched off a new era of winning in New York City – dubbed “Lin-sanity” by the media.
So why does the mention of the term annoy me?
Because during what was supposed to be a pure for me, the emergence of a young point guard, (something I hadn’t seen since Mark Jackson or Rod Strickland) the media, with all of its exploitative and divisive powers, found a story that it could ride for eternity.
When the “Jeremy Lin Era,” began in New York, the media pounced on the situation and recklessly began injecting Jeremy’s surname into every pun-based headline in could fit into American pop culture.
It was “Lin-sanity,” “Lin-sane in the Membrane;” “Lin-ing;” “Lin-mania,” when the Knicks went on an unprecedented 8-game run that lifted them from 8-15 to 15-16 in February. Led by the first ever Taiwanese/Chinese American point guard, a Knicks winning streak was accented by day-after-day of screaming pun-laced headlines.
His name was everywhere, his jersey was the hottest item in all of sports and the media fabricated legend of Lin grew overnight. From Ben & Jerry’s “Taste the Lin-Sanity,” frozen vanilla yogurt, with fortune cookies and honey swirls, to a multitude of marriage proposals, to rumors he was dating NBA sweet trap Kim Kardashian – nothing was hotter than this former backup.It was disturbing and inescapable for someone living in the New York metropolitan area and it had to be overwhelming for Lin.
Now don’t get me wrong, I praise Jeremy and all he has overcome to become the starting point guard. He wasn’t drafted, rode the pine on both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets; got cut; played in the developmental league; and was again benched when he came to New York on Dec. 28th.
He overcame all of that and ended up living on temporary league contracts while sleeping on his brother’s couch and ultimately the more luxurious sofa of teammate Landry Fields, before getting his big shot against the rival NJ Nets.
Since his Feb. 4th debut, Lin has set new NBA records by scoring more points than any player in his first three starts and averaging 26.8 points and 8 assists in five games – which is noteworthy and impressive.
However, you know the pendulum of public opinion swings both ways.
For all of the silly Lin-sanity – there had to be some Lin-sensitive angles on his story conveyed through an often short-sided media environment that has never had this much unbridled exposure to an Asian American sports star before.
On February 10, FoxSports.com writer Jason Whitlock insinuated Lin had a two-inch penis and even World Champion Boxer Floyd Mayweather tweeted that Lin was only grabbing national attention due to his ethnicity and not due to his accomplishments.
Forbes Magazine ran a headline of: “Jeremy Lin Destroys Notion That Asians Can’t Drive,” and there was a similar head posted throughout Facebook. Just before we could draw another breath – there was the NY Post’s – “Am-asian” headline and the MSG graphic of a crumbled fortune cookie with the inscription of “Knicks Good Fortune.”
The Grand-daddy of all “subtle” racist slurs came after a loss to the Charlotte Hornets when ESPN ran a headline that read: “Chink in the Armor.”
ESPN later fired the employee responsible for the over the top racist header and Lin was seemingly unfazed by the shocking casual racism displayed by the national media over his ethnicity. Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) – praised the firing.
“We had not asked for anyone to be fired nor suspended,” stated MANAA Founding President Guy Aoki in a group press release. “King (ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Media) was supposed to get back to me once he understood the intention of the editor who wrote the headline—was it his attempt at humor? Was he not aware ‘chink’ is a racial slur against Chinese people? But he never called back. The apology should’ve extended to the entire Asian American community, not to just Lin. However, we appreciate how seriously ESPN took these gaffes.”
For me, I was actually mildly happy that Lin-sanity came to a crashing halt with losses to the Nets and later the Miami Heat, just prior to the All-Star break.
In the Heat game, Lin shot a nightmarish 1-11 and scored eight points, with just three assists, which normally would have pissed me off, but instead, I breathed a sigh of relief.
I thought we finally may have seen the end of the media hype campaign and a return to the reality of being the improving Knicks, led by a young point guard.
Where the mania of Lin-sanity may have made others go bonkers and obsess over all things Jeremy, it made me wonder what is being said about Lin and others of his ethnicity when there is no media spotlight.
As it turns out, after a small dose of the international reaction to the amazing play of this young man of Asian-descent, too many people are sadly still racially “Lin-sensitive.”