Buzz Bissinger penned “Jeremy Lin Already a Legend? Reality Checking the Hype” for Newsweek.com prior to the Knicks’ comeback victory over Minnesota last night, though if defeating Kobe Bryant didn’t impress the “Friday Night Lights” author, it’s doubtful his assessment of New York’s undrafted PG sensation would’ve changed much after beating Ricky Rubio. And while I’m not compelled to debate Buzz’ claim that after 5 games, Lin is not yet worth of Hall of Fame induction, it’s Bissinger’s take on why Lin has been so widely embraced that harder to stomach. If you’d like to call it Buzz’ McNabb/Limbaugh moment, please go right ahead. You don’t even need to credit me.
Because Lin is not black and not from Europe with a thick foreign accent, he fits a pervasive stereotype much closer to a white player than “the great yellow hope” pablum that too many writers and bloggers are trying to pedal. It is no mistake that he is being compared with the Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow. Both are Christian. Both hold deep religious convictions and pray after games. Both sustain the belief of fans that professional athletes who are not African-American succeed because of hard work, struggling through adversity, and basically overcoming their physical deficits with nonstop determination. It is stupid, but so is life.
For the past 20 years, the NBA brass and fans have been craving a Great Hope, and Lin has become the latest candidate. Yes, he is Asian-American, and his ethnicity should not be mitigated. From what he said in an interview with Time, he took his share of shocking racial abuse when he played opposing Ivy League teams.
But I don’t think fans are going wild over him now because of his breaking the Asian-American pro-basketball barrier. They like him because he is talented and exciting, at least so far. They also like him because he is light-complected and in his Christian beliefs and prayer penchant, does echo much of white America.
As a Knicks fan who has suffered thru point guard play that has ranged from erratic to incompetent, some of us would’ve gone apeshit for Lin if his skin color was green and he told “Good Morning America” he was a practicing Satanist. If Buzz wants to argue that 5 games is too thin a resume to call Lin a better undrafted free agent than Ben Wallace or John Starks, fine, he’s 100% correct. But Starks was another (relatively) out-of-nowhere story that won over New Yorkers and he was neither Asian nor a loud Bible-thumper.
If Buzz is simply sick of hearing about Jeremy Lin, alright, there’s enough other things happening in the sports world worthy of his commentary. What Bissinger cannot possibly deny is that a week ago, if you’d placed a sizeable bet on the Knicks going 5-0 without Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire, your family or friends would’ve had you institutionalized. I’ll continue to bristle at the Tebow comparisons for one simple reason (and it isn’t because I have a rooting interest) ; unlike Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin actually knows how to play his position at the professional level.