Saturday, February 11, 2012

An NBA Anoma-LIN

Before I begin, let it be clear that I've been clinically diagnosed as being Lin-sane. Truthfully, I think I have a predisposition to rooting for New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin simply because he's Asian-American. Is that prejudice? Kind of! The key part of that statement to me is "American."

I think Jeremy Lin's rise to near Tebow-like media and social networking prominence is a watershed moment in Asian-American culture. Lin's success, and I don't know how long he can sustain it once Carmelo Anthony returns from injury, is a first for an American-born Chinese (ABC's as known in the Asian culture, but technically Lin is an American-born Taiwanese; I digress). That's a different level of relatability for myself and so many other Asians born in this country but often viewed otherwise. I can list a handful of Asian star athletes: Yao Ming, Ichiro - well I can't really list too many of them apparently - but none of them were born and bred here in the states. 

(This brings up a side note. My buddy - he's white - and I played the Name-Asian-Actors Game - heretofore known as NAG! We tried to name ten living Asian male actors. We couldn't. Try your luck!)

Watching Lin play an incredible four-game stretch where he's clearly established he belongs with the big boys, has been a testament to his work ethic and perseverance. No need to read about that here, there are other far better articles where you can learn of his roots. But why is there so much hoopla surrounding this guy? Let's not be naive, it's all about race. Dude is an anomaly. 

People may root for Lin because he's an underdog. I think the reason he's labeled such is his appearance. He's 6'3, 200 pounds. That's bigger than Chris Paul. Steve Nash. Strap a helmet on him, he's bigger than Drew Brees. He's won at every competitive level, but ended up at Harvard because no legitimate college basketball programs (sorry Harvard) offered him anything. Why? Perception. Hell, if I was a coach recruiting players, I would've passed on him for the potential "upside" of someone else. As an Asian-American, there might be a ceiling to his talent, unless we're talking cello prowess - then dude might be the next Yo-Yo Ma. No Asian-American has gone to such prodigious heights in hoops before; why would he be the first? But as he's clearly shown repeatedly throughout his career and again Friday night by dropping 38 points on the Lakers and reversing the fortunes of a team in total disarray, he is the first.

The year is 2012, and Jeremy Lin is blazing a trail like me in 4th grade playing "Oregon Trail" on the Apple IIE. Through his play and attitude, Lin has defied the perception of what makes a successful basketball player, much like Tim Tebow did for what makes a successful quarterback. Although it can be argued that Lin plays his position better than Tebow does his. (I still heart you, Timmy!)

The uniqueness of Lin's success has certainly become a popular talking point; for most, a feel-good story, and far less polarizing than Tebow's. However, as Lin breaks down some physical Asian stereotypes, others are strong as ever. Former ESPN writer and current FOX Sports columnist Jason Whitlock tweeted this shortly after the Knicks beat the Lakers:

 Jason Whitlock 
Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.

While an attempt at humor, it's comments like Whitlock's that keep too many ceilings low. I mean, really,  the year is 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, I seem to remember you and I having a conversation (or rather, argument) about Asian actors and I can name 10 off the top of my head: John Cho, Daniel Dae Kim, Telly Leung, Paolo Montalban, Jose Llana, Ken Jeong, Ken Watanabe, Chao Li Chi, Ken Leung, and -- why not -- Jet Li.
    Not sure, but I think you got served. Also, both Rob Scheider and Darren Criss are half Filipino so together they count as an entire Asian!