(Jeremy Lin is no match for the sheer magnetism of the young man above)
OK, that’s not exactly what Bryant Gumbel had to say at the conclusion of tonight’s “Real Sports” on HBO. But in tackling the subject of Knicks PG Jeremy Lin — who finds himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the second week in a row (c’mon, when did Louis Orr pull that one off?) — Gumbel is rather insistent that once baseball season takes hold, the Harvard grad’s heroics will be an afterthought (transcript courtesy Fang’s Bites)
As Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban suggested last week, Lin is getting a ton of attention not just because his is a great story, but also because he plays in the media capital of the world, and in this capital, Lin has had the town to himself since his run began. Which is why it’s going to be interesting to see if his exploits continue to be headlined after New Yorkers start hearing news about Joba Chamberlain’s surgically repaired right arm, A-Rod’s troubled knees and Derek Jeter’s battle with age.
Baseball may be ho-hum in some places, but this is still very much a pinstriped city. Yes, fans here love an underdog and a winner, but history suggests that nothing in sports surpasses Manhattan’s obsession with the Yankees. The Knicks, thanks to Lin, are the hot team. The New York Rangers are among the Stanley Cup favorites and the New York Giants just won the Super Bowl. But make no mistake, the Yankees are the big bully here in Manhattan and opening day is just six weeks away.
I’m gonna assume Gumbel actually converses with however many New Yorkers he can actually stomach to make eye contact with, and unless he’s living in a very different city than the one I’m familiar with, 100% of the population aren’t baseball fans. Of those who are partial to baseball, a healthy percentage — despite the best efforts of a bumbling, incompetent, unethical Brooklyn Dodgers-obsessed family — are more interested in the New York Mets. And others still, manage to follow more than one sport at one time.
All of that said, if Lin continues to rack up double-doubles and the Knicks play anywhere near the level they’ve managed since his emergence, it’s hardly a stretch to think the team will remain a very hot topic. During the playoff runs of the 1990′s, do you recall interest in baseball stifling local enthusiasm for either Knicks squad? Me neither. For decades we’ve been told that NYC is a hoops city. If you’re to believe Bryant Gumbel, this long-standing love affair takes a back seat… to Joba Chamberlain’s rehabilitation.