Stop The Linsanity

For all intents and purposes, I should be enjoying the heck out of the Jeremy Lin story.

For those of you who have been living in a cave somewhere for the past two weeks or so, Lin is the former Harvard graduate and NBA bench-warmer who has suddenly emerged as the starting point guard of the New York Knicks. He went from virtually zero playing time to scoring over 20 points in each of the Knicks’ past six games (The team won all six games, by the way.). He was actually cut by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets prior to coming to New York, and he was probably close to being let go by the Knicks as well.

There are many, many things to love about Lin’s story. For one, he seems to be a very likable guy. He’s very open about his Christian faith, and he hasn’t flashed any of the ego that’s made fellow NBA players like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant so unlikable. Most of all, though, Lin is the ultimate underdog story. He is the embodiment of what we all wish we could do one day – point to our detractors, the people who counted us out and told us we had nothing to offer, and say, “I knew I could do this. And now you know, too.”

Yes, Jeremy Lin has got people talking about a sport (basketball) which I feel has gotten the short end of the stick as far as media coverage has gone in recent years (Well, except for maybe hockey … or soccer.). The NBA is a hot topic again. Basketball highlights abound. All is good. Right?

Well, not exactly. You may have noticed the word “pessimist” in the title of this blog. There’s a reason for that.

A few years ago, my brother and I went to see the Memphis Grizzlies play the Denver Nuggets in Memphis. This was back when Pau Gasol was still a Grizzly and Allen Iverson was still a Nugget, if that gives you any indication of the time frame. The Griz were basically tanking what was left of their season to move up in the draft, so most of their big guns (including Gasol) weren’t playing. They still won the game, though, because a guy named Tarence Kinsey dropped 20-plus on the Nuggets. He outplayed Iverson that night … and now he plays in Turkey.

One column I read yesterday said Lin could be a “perennial all-star for years to come.” Really? The guy had only played five games at the time that column was written. He hasn’t even made one full round through the league, so most teams probably haven’t even got a real file on him yet. Last night in Toronto, he turned the ball over eight times. He also made the game-winning three-pointer, but would the Knicks have been in the position of needing last-second heroics if Lin could have held on to the ball earlier in the game? Lin hasn’t gone head-to-head with guys like Steve Nash, Derrick Rose, or Chris Paul yet. And leading up to his recent six-game outburst, Lin had scored a grand total of 32 points all season.

I’m not begrudging what Lin has accomplished. He’s had a great run, no doubt. But the media’s fascination with him has been utterly ridiculous. ESPN has become the Jeremy Lin network, saturating both the network’s television and radio coverage. I’ve seen four columns today alone espousing how Lin is the real deal, while similar inspirational leader Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is obviously talentless and can’t even be compared to the Knicks’ new star. Lin hasn’t had the chance to earn my interest because his every movement has been so painfully forced upon me every waking second of the day.

Without meaning this in a derogatory kind of way, part of the interest in Lin has to do with his ethnic heritage. Even though is American, he doesn’t look American, so he’s a bit of a curiosity in that way. I believe the main reason he’s getting so much attention, though, is because he plays in New York. Ask yourself this question: If Jeremy Lin were playing for the Memphis Grizzlies this season, would he be receiving the hype he is right now? I don’t think so. It’s that northern, east coast mystique, something I’ve never understood and will probably never understand as long as I live.

I really do want to like this story. Think back to last year’s NCAA tournament for a moment, though. Remember how everyone was so crazy about Jimmer Fredette? I watched him play and thought he was way too out of control most of the time, didn’t read defenses particularly well, and more often than not shot his team out of games rather than helping them win. What’s Jimmer doing these days? Averaging a little over 8 points a game this season with the Sacramento Kings. “Jimmer Time,” anyone?

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