Jeremy Lin and Our Nation's Thirst for Short Stories

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Jeremy Lin and Our Nation's Thirst for Short Stories
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
It's been a meteoric rise for Jeremy Lin.

Have you heard about Jeremy Lin

I bet you have. I bet you've read countless stories, seen his plays repeated on Sportscenter. Read numerous columns about his amazing path to the NBA

His ethnicity, his college pedigree, his religion. his jersey sales, and of course a never-ending stream of puns regarding his name. " Linsantiy," "Linning" and so forth and so on. 

There's nothing really wrong with any of it. Yes, he may or may not be getting the attention he's getting because of any number of factors. In reality the most important of all of them is probably that he's doing this in New York City. That's something that Mark Cuban the Dallas Mavericks owner pointed out two days ago in an interview with espn.com . When Cuban said that "If it was happening in Charlotte, no one would know," 

What's most amazing about it though is the hype regardless of the various metrics impacting it. Jeremy Lin has started in eight games and the Knicks have won seven of them. It's nothing really. Yes, it's turned the fortunes of the Knicks around. The optimism in the city is actually refreshing even for someone who's not a dedicated Knicks fan. 

It's still a bit over-the-top though. New York fans and all fans for that matter should know better. 

The 1998 Yankees were one of the greatest teams of all time but the 2000 Yankees went 87-74 and also won the World Series. Far more recently the 2011 New York Giants went 9-7 but that didn't matter when they won the Super Bowl just two weeks ago. 

With individual players, things are even more treacherous. Good players and good coaches get caught off guard all the time. No one is perfect but the good players study film of their opponents, learn from mistakes and come back to rectify them. 

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Lin and the Knicks fell to the New Orleans Hornets last night in a sloppy home loss.

 

 

Jeremy Lin might be the next great NBA point guard. He certainly has displayed traits that make it apparent that he's got a shot at becoming a very good NBA Basketball player. 

He may also just be an aberration. A guy at at the right place at the right time who was able to take advantage of system thirsting for his skill-set, a fan base that desperately needed optimism and a team that needed something, anything to rally around. 

None of that type of thinking has entered into the hype machine that's driving the story though. The NBA has altered the NBA All Star weekend lineups to accommodate the Jeremy Lin story.

Knicks and Madison Square Garden Network owner James Dolan and Time Warner Cable reached an agreement to halt their childish standoff over which company is a greedier more exploitive corporate entity and graciously agreed to allow millions of New Yorkers to actually view Knicks games on their cable packages.

All of this is further proof that the ultimate validation for Jeremy Lin and his story isn't wins and losses and it isn't really who he is either. It's just another sales pitch. Everyone is happy to jump on board when the money is flowing. Madison Square Garden shares have shot to record prices, so this must be a winner right?

Kevin Mass created hysteria in New York as a rookie in 1990.

It's too soon to say. Last night the Knicks lost to the lowly New Orleans Hornets. A team whose fortunes are so poor that the league itself owns them. Sunday, the Knicks play the defending Champion Dallas Mavericks on national television.

Jeremy Lin will dominate the pregame buildup but the Mavericks are a sophisticated enough NBA team to realize that if Jeremy Lin continues to leave his feet to pass the ball then he's also going to continue to turn the ball over at a rate far too high to be a consistently great (or even good) NBA point guard.

 

 

The first test for Jeremy Lin was already passed with flying colors. Making an NBA team as an undrafted player, becoming it's starting point guard and spurring a win streak are all accomplishments that should be celebrated regardless of media market, or ethnicity.

The second test is now in the process of happening. It's called "consistency" and plenty of one month, or even one year flashes in the pan have found that to be quite difficult.

Jack Armstrong started the 1990 baseball season 11-3 with an earned run average of 2.28. He was the National League's all star game starting pitcher. In the second half he went 1-6 with a 5.96 ERA. He was out of the league less than four years later before the age of 30.

In 1990 Kevin Maas burst onto the scene for the New York Yankees. He hit 21 home runs in less than half a season and would finish second in the Rookie of the Year voting. Maas would hit only 44 home runs in the next four seasons and was also out of the league at age 30.

Jack Armstrong had a memorable first half in 1990 but a brief career as a whole.

Basketball and Baseball are both very different sports but there's no getting around the fact that both sports feature long regular season. Both sports have players who are always looking to exploit weaknesses and both sports can have flashes in the pan who flame out after opposing defenses, hitters, pitchers and coaches learn to properly match up against them. 

Now we have Jeremy Lin. His miraculous binge of scoring, dishing and, most importantly, winning are all well worth praising but we have no idea how this story will end. The Knicks could make the playoffs or they could miss them. The Knicks could win a title with Lin in a few months or with someone else running the team in a few seasons.

For now, Lin is a short story which sometimes seems like all anyone ever wants to pay attention to. As good as Jeremy Lin is - or could be, he's not as good as Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or a host of other prominent NBA players all of whom are actually battle tested for several years or more against the rigors of the league.

People would be far better off letting the Lin story play out before placing judgement one way or another. Only the irrational expectations of fans with short attention spans and a media that can't avoid clamoring for a new "hot" story could create a bad ending to this story. 

The Knicks are now 7-1 in the Lin era. The teams they are 7-1 against have a combined 89-155 record. Jeremy Lin got to where he is by being patient and diligent. He knew things wouldn't happen overnight because he knows that the NBA season and life in general is a marathon, not a sprint. It would be wise for the fans and media to emulate that quality.      

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