Linsanity Jeremy Lin. Some say he is a god-send, literally. Others say hes just a one hit wonder whos had his fifteen minutes in the spotlight. However, many argue especially from the Asian American community, that hes not just a fad or trend but a full blown star athlete, pushing the envelope not just for Asian Americans, but athletes across all social classes, races, and creeds. So really, with all the media hype and hysteria, who is Jeremy Lin? Why is he the chosen one? More importantly, what has he been labeled and how has he faced this discrimination?
What is the cause of this Linsanity? Before the question, Why Jeremy Lin? can be answered, we have to start at his roots. Jeremy Lin was born August 23, 1988, to a Taiwanese emigrant couple. He grew up playing basketball in Palo Alto, Northern California. He excelled not only as an athlete in his young school years, but was also an exceptional student. He went onto Harvard, a fallback school, and continued his academics, majoring in economics. While at Harvard, Lin played for the Ivy Basketball League and quickly made a name for himself.
This is where he first encounters racism and discrimination. In short interviews throughout his college days, Lin spoke of his opportunities and how his race had been a factor in his recruitment. Im not saying top-5 state automatically gets you offers, but I do think (my ethnicity) did affect the way coaches recruited me. I think if I were a different race, I wouldve been treated differently. He was never drafted after graduating college and continued to play basically for free as a D-League athlete with the Golden State Warriors.
He never sees much action on the court in California and is quickly shuffled across the country during draft season. Rex Walters, an NBA veteran and Asian American says, People who dont think stereotypes exist are crazy. If hes white, hes either a good shooter or heady. If hes Asian, hes good at math. Were not taking him. Lin had a brief stint at the Houston Rockets before being traded once again to the New York Knicks. Here, his time came to shine, and he lit a fire under everyones collective rear ends that had ever doubted him.
It was as if the stars and the heavens lined up for a once in a million year eclipse; so too did Lins fortune. He took all his frustration, all his doubts, and all the racism hes ever faced on and off the court, and brought it to the best, which included the Los Angeles Lakers, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the NBA Champions Dallas Mavericks. With every successive and progressively impossible win, his infamy grew and so did the media hype. Linsanity had come to full term. Linsanity and many other coined adjectives became headline news.
His fame crossed oceans and racial lines making him an overnight media sensation. Shockingly but not surprisingly, during a victory celebration on February 10th of 2012 against the Lakers, Fox News columnist Jason Whitlock posted on his Twitter account, Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight, a sexual reference to an Asian male stereotype. A few days later after a loss to the Orlando Hornets, ESPNs Max Bretos reported during a taping of SportsCenter, We have found a Chink in the Armor.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., a professional boxer and fellow athlete tweets, Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because hes Asian. Black players do what he does every night and dont get the same praise. Linsanity was bringing in a negative backlash that Lin was all too familiar with. He looked past it, and went even as far as to forgive. I expect it, Im used to it, it is what it is, says Lin. On the Chink in the Armor slur, Lin responds, I dont think it was on purpose or whatever. At the same time, theyve apologized, and so from my end I dont care anymore. [You] have to learn to forgive.
And I dont even think that was intentional, or hopefully not. He was willing to brush it off and be the bigger man and not let it affect his game. But aside from the blatantly racial comments from the media, is Linsanity a breeding ground for unintentional stereotyping? As many members of the Asian American communities can attest, stereotypes of Asian Americans are seen everywhere. A case in point, the corporate world of advertisement tried to cash in on Linsanity. Ben and Jerrys Ice Cream Factory tried capitalizing on Jeremy Lin by coming up with a new flavor called Taste the Linsanity.
The ingredients were basically vanilla ice-cream with a hint of caramel and the addition of fortune cookies. Many members of the Chinese/Taiwanese American community cried foul in this instance, as it did play to some degree more or less on Lins Chinese/Taiwanese heritage. In response, an Asian American protestor went as far as to picket the Ben & Jerrys store on Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco. He held a sign that read, Taste of Lebron Watermelon and Fried Chicken in every scoop. Now piggy-backing on another racial stereotype isnt exactly politically correct, but it did bring awareness.
Taste of Linsanity quickly made its way off of shelves and into trash cans. However, it wasnt only corporate America playing on stereotypes for publicity. It was the Asian American community itself looking to address positive stereotypes. In the Youtube video Superior Lintellect by studio64comedy, creators Lawrence Kau and Kunal Dudheker (both Americans born of Asian descent) portray Lin solving complex math equations in his mind in order to best his competition during tough situations on the basketball court.
Each playback of Lins on-court moves are narrated by a forced Chinese accent, and are accompanied with on-screen quadratic formulas and physics theory. Its no doubt that Asian Americans are poking fun at the Asians are good at math stereotype. But yet in some ways, it just feeds fuel to the fire that stereotypes are okay. The question ultimately comes down to, How far is too far? and Who can and who cant stereotype against Asians? In conclusion, Jeremy Lin is a unique individual. Yes, he is a Harvard graduate. Yes, he is an incredible athlete. Yes, he is a fiercely loyal Christian.
And finally; Yes, Hes Asian. But despite all his unique attributes, why is his race the only thing that seems to overshadow his qualities? After all this time, when the name Lin appears on TV based on performance and skill, the media is still focused on what school he went to and what GPA he had or whether he was Chinese or Taiwanese. Is it the scarcity of Asian Americans in the media that makes it so socially acceptable to shift focus? Is it the Asian American fans all across the country coming to support him, regardless of team pride that focuses the medias attention to his ethnicity?
Is it the blatant ignorance of the general populace? Maybe its all of that and then some. But regardless of where all of this attention originates, it is safe to say that Jeremy Lin is on to something very special. Hes allowed Asian Americans into mainstream sports and has brought a positive light to an arena once absent of it. All racial jokes and stereotypes aside, no one can deny his ability and talent, doubt his fierce sense of faith, or question his moral fiber. Jeremy Lin is definitely an Asian American all Asian Americans can be proud of.