Monday, February 20, 2012

The Asian Assassin - (The Asian is just as important as the Assassin)

I hope people see Lin as the underrated
Harvard star, not the Knicks legend. 
Everyday I'm Shuffle-Lin
Okay I tire from these puns just like the rest of you but I couldn't help it. This Jeremy Lin episode has exploded silly over here, over there, over everywhere and his name is tailor fitted for an HBO documentary. I don't normally type up blogs on sports because there are enough other paid people to do that. Then why type one up on Jeremy Lin? Jeremy Freakin Lin? He's got all the hype that any professional could ever want or need. The thing is though, he doesn't want or need all of it. He is climbing the classy ladder in the NBA right now as fast as he climbs on the scoresheets. The media thinks he came out of thin air. Why would anyone care about him before he lit his last two weeks of unassuming NBA opponents on fire? People think he's become an Asian Assassin but I think he's always been one. I believe his fame stems from a two step process. I like to call the first of the steps is Assassin  and the other step Asian.

Assassin - lethal by sudden attack
This is the credibility part of the kind of fame any reserve athlete (note RESERVE athlete) gets when they step up and perform like no one has seen them perform. You don't get famous because you are bad. You get famous because on paper you are impressive. However, being bad at the beginning seems to help. Note Tim Tebow in the NFL (um... pretend quarters 1-3 didn't count) intended to be a backup QB and Chris Wondolowski in American soccer who spent years in the laughable reserve league before becoming major league soccer's leading goal scorer in 2010 and getting called up the the USA national team.  They were assassins, Wondolowski with his right foot and Tebow with his left arm (in err... the fourth quarter) because they came out of nowhere and when they showed up, they showed up in a big way. Lin showed up in a big way. If 38 points against the Lakers, a game winning 3pointer against Toronto, and 14 assists against the Mavericks is not big enough for you, you will perhaps never be convinced of anything.

Asian - A salient incomprehensible awesome novelty
This is the kind of fame not every athlete gets when they step and perform like no one has seen them perform even if they have the stats for fame. This is the part where they make a good story. Sometimes these stories start years in advance. For me back in high school, I didn't care about basketball. I didn't really care about the NBA, my school's team, or the departed Sonics. However, I oddly seemed to care about Jeremy Lin of Harvard. Why did I know about him? It's simple, he was Asian and at Harvard. It was a matter of pride. He was the only Asian college athlete prominent enough to be proud of at the time. I was proud of him because he was waving my nationality's flag. It's the same reason I feel proud of Kei Nishikori in the world tennis tour. He's the only real prominent male Asian tennis player on tour right now so I want him to do well and I feel happy when he does well. He was Asian, and that was his novelty. Before you scoff at me for calling Asian a novelty, I'm not talking about the amusing kind of novelty. I'm talking about the "a new or unfamiliar thing or experience" kind of novelty. Without that novelty, I wouldn't have cared about Lin. I would have just gone back to caring about Kei Nishikori. I'm sure I wasn't the only Asian who felt this way back in Lin's Harvard days. I thought for sure that Lin was going to be drafted and be an immediate impact player for the NBA, I thought he deserved success and that the Asian community would have an athlete to be proud of.
Well... Lin didn't get drafted, he didn't become an instant impact player, and literally speaking, everyday he was shuffle-Lin (with new teams). He wasn't getting chances, he wasn't impressing, and I thought he would never be able to come back. Being underrated out of college doesn't help and it was just pure disappointing I'm sure for him. But he was still Asian and he had yet to show that he could still be an assassin.
Fast forward to February 2012. Lin got his chance with the NY Knicks. First the double digit points (not like 10 but like 28), then the 7 straight wins, then the assists, then the fame. It's funny how these things work out. He became the impact player I hoped he could be. The media and community ate it up because it made good headlines, but this whole Linsantity thing would never have happened without the catalyst from the Asian community and from everyone else who was excited that another race had entered the fold. Asian sports fans looking for someone to affiliate rediscovered Lin the same way I discovered Lin three years ago. It is not a stretch to believe that Asian children are going to be more inspired to start playing more sports from this because of the emotion. All this and I haven't even mentioned his other novelty of Christianity and his belief in God. Now people of faith affiliated with Jeremy. In a way, Jeremy affiliated back with his fan base. He fed off of it and never disappointed. He stayed humble and took his chance. all this and the story still probably has a few chapters left before it concludes.
This is how big it was for Jeremy to be Asian. It is not something to be ashamed of, only something to unite a large and diverse community and acclimate a growing league to a new circumstance. Did the novelty present problems? Absolutely. ESPN has already fired one of its writers for a racist comment. Do I really care? As long as this general euphoria exists around Lin, I would say it is a small step back in a big step forward in the sport.

The Asian Assassin - Jeremy Lin
I hope people see Lin as the underrated Harvard star, not the Knicks legend. His full journey is what makes his story captivating. It's captivating, it's compelling, it's incredible, and it's Lin-sane.