Jeremy Lin: Why Every American Should Be Rooting for Linsanity to Last
Let me preface this by saying that I don't typically write about New York teams or their players.
I figure that their fans have enough of a monopoly on the media. Besides, my heart and soul resides in Michigan sports, even if my person resides in Portland.
So I typically hold my opinions to myself when it comes to Mark Sanchez, Eli Manning and Derek Jeter (even though I like Jeter, given his Michigan roots).
I was planning on continuing to hold those opinions on New York personalities through this Jeremy Lin phenomenon, but a funny thing happened this morning.
I was watching the postgame press conference after Lin's thrilling game-winning three-pointer against Toronto, and I was really impressed with his candor and humility.
He repeatedly pointed out that this was a team effort.
That is nothing new for a postgame presser. They are generally ripe with cliches and boring answers.
The funny thing about this was that Lin meant it. You could tell that he truly believed that this was a team effort, and so he deflected the praise.
For an athlete to say this isn't new. For an athlete to actually believe it is.
As I was thinking about this obvious anomaly of a humble athlete, I started to wonder if this Linsanity craze would last.
For the first time in my life, I felt myself pulling for a New York athlete.
The Jeremy Lin story isn't just about a flash-in-the-pan talent that came out of nowhere. It isn't your typical underdog story, and it sure isn't a Tim Tebow story. It's much bigger than that.
The Jeremy Lin story is remarkable because it encompasses the American dream and it splices it with the great American city against the backdrop of a new American era.
Lin was born to Taiwanese immigrants that came to the United States in the 1970s.
His father, Gie-Ming Lin, came here to work on his PhD at Purdue University.
He came to love the sport of basketball just from watching it on the tube.
He taught himself how to play and when his kids were old enough, he brought them to the YMCA and began instilling in them the love of his new passion.
This is what American fathers have been doing in this country for generations. Whether it is their first game of catch in the backyard or the first time you made that hoop, there is nothing more American than a father teaching his kid a game that he loves.
Now, like many things in sports, this has been corrupted over the years. Whether it is the slimy world of AAU basketball or the obsessive little league dads that are living vicariously through their kids, sports have become big business, even at the lowest level.
But Lin's father wasn't trying to make Jeremy his meal ticket. He was just bonding with his kids and playing the game he loves.
He also was helping to integrate his American-born children into his new home.
For immigrants, it is easy to retreat from your new land. It is a foreign place full of new and sometimes scary situations.
Therefore, seeking shelter amongst those that came from the same culture can be tempting.
But Lin's father realized early on that he wanted to integrate his children into his new country.
Personally, my family came over from the Netherlands many years ago, and as a way of assimilating ourselves into our new country, our family's native Dutch was forbidden, forcing the children to quickly acclimate to our new land.
Now this doesn't mean that we don't celebrate our heritage in our own way. It means that we made a choice to live in a new country, and we would do our best to become a part of that culture.
I have no doubt that Lin's father's decision helped Jeremy assimilate into this country and become a true American.
Not Another Tebow
The national media sometimes does a great job with new stories, but often times they become lazy.
The biggest story in sports this year was Tebow-mania.
It was a big story because it tore a scab off of the culture war that has been playing out across this country for years.
Tim Tebow is an unabashed Christian who is profoundly open about his faith. For this, a lot of people that have similar views were smitten with Tebow.
And some became obsessed and dominated the airwaves and Internet with their zealousness.
For many Americans, religion is a sensitive topic and they began to associate Tebow with their feelings on religion.
This led to a backlash and extreme divisiveness driven by one of the nicest kids to play competitive sports.
Whether you love him or hate him, Tebow is not a bad kid. He just is a young one that found himself in the front of one of the most sensitive topics in our country.
So it is convenient for journalists to try to link the two phenomena.
Tebow-mania was the easiest way to get your story published and read.
But this is not Tebow-mania.
And this isn't because of the fact that they play different sports or because they may or may not have different talent levels.
Linsanity is a better story because of where Lin came from.
He wasn't a first-round pick that had a storied high school and college career.
He wasn't a Heisman Trophy winner that won national championships.
He is a first-generation Taiwanese-American citizen that played basketball for Harvard and was not drafted to the NBA.
Earlier this year, he was a fringe player that was one level away from playing basketball overseas.
If things didn't break right for Lin, he could have been playing in Israel next month.
But through determination, hard work and good old-fashioned luck, Lin has become the NBA's biggest story.
Tebow is a great kid, but the level of adversity he battled was not nearly on par with what Lin faced.
Why All Americans Should Root for Lin
What I like most about the Lin story is that he represents what many of us fear is an endangered idea, and that is the American dream.
The American dream is that through hard work, determination and sheer will, anything can happen.
You can be born to immigrants and not only assimilate into a new country, but go to its best college.
You can be an unheralded high school basketball player and make it to the pros.
You can weather adversity and eventually become a star.
Linsanity captures our hearts as Americans because we see ourselves in him. And if we don't, we really should.
I personally want to believe that the United States is still a place where Jeremy Lin can happen.
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