When Linsanity first swept America, I was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. I don’t like bandwagon fans, and I think I have the ultimate reason to dislike bandwagon fans: After Michael died, thousands of “fans” came out of the woodwork. All I’ll say is, “Sure.” Honestly, though, it’s really stupid to try to prove you’re a “better” fan than bandwagoners or fair-weather fans. A fan is a fan. You both love the same person or thing for similar reasons; there’s no need to hate or classify. If anything, trying to prove you are a “true” fan is selfish. I find it very annoying. In the end, I’m glad so many people came to love Michael’s music. Sometimes I wish people would have loved it sooner.
Concerning Lin, though, I was adamant that I wouldn’t be like “those” Michael fans. I thought I would appreciate Lin, but not necessarily follow him.
Well, that plan fell through. I was caught in Linsanity, and of course my mind explored why. I love Jeremy for a number of reasons. Wherever he ends up in the NBA, I’ll be a fan. He’s made me love the Knicks, thus keeping my sports allegiance to New York (Giants and Knicks; if I watch baseball . . .).
Concerning Linsanity, though, a lot of my basketball savvy friends weren’t buying into Lin. I’ll agree: the media definitely overhyped him. I will argue, though, that he had to be overhyped. He is the underdog story inherent. I want to clarify, though, that I am not a Jeremy Lin fan simply because he is Asian American and happened to stumble into the limelight. That’s only part of my reasons. Let me share with you why Jeremy Lin gets me so excited!
- He is Asian American. When is the last time an Asian American (not an Asian international) has gained prominence in the American mainstream? When was the last time anchors and reporters were sharing a story about an Asian American? Yao Ming doesn’t count. Jackie Chan and Jet Li don’t count (I actually like Donnie Yen a lot more than either of them). What was the last Asian American thing to grab the national conscious? Fortune cookies? Wong’s Wok? Anime? Japanese schoolgirls (don’t even get me started on that)? Arguably, Bruce Lee in the 1960′s (it is currently 2012 FYI) was the last respectful Asian American icon that pierced the American mainstream–and he had to do that with an “exotic crutch”: wushu (AKA martial arts). Jeremy Lin is the first Asian American to gain respectable prominence in America since Bruce Lee. This 50 year hiatus is finally filled! All the more, Jeremy is surfacing in a very “American” thing: basketball. He has surpassed the national idea that Asian Americans are the eternal foreigner within, always having to be domesticated to become “American”. Jeremy Lin is American, America. And he’s doing something so America very well (debatable, but grant me rhetorical license).
- He is InterVarsity alum. Lin and I share something in common: We both were a part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I’m so glad that Jeremy and I were able to share in this college ministry. Faith is usually something that wanes at college, and I know my faith would have dissipated had it not been for InterVarsity. I was able to find a core group of friends that shared in my love for Christ through worship, Bible studies, conferences, and just by trying to discover what it means to be a Christian at college. I know Jeremy experienced similar things at Harvard, and I’m glad that we have this common denominator between us.
- He is a follower of Christ. It’s uncanny that Lin would follow Tebow, and that the two athletes would give Christianity prominence in American sports. Unlike Tebow, Lin is a bit more soft spoken about his faith on the court (i.e. there is no Lin-analog to “Tebowing” . . . unless you count this cute thing he does with Landry Fields). I’m sure there are many other Christian athletes that don’t go the route of Tebow (and I’m not saying that Tebow is doing bad things for Christianity), but it’s always good to have a spectrum of character within Christian profession. Should all Christians be vocal about their faith? Yes, but to what extent? If you ask me why I do whatever I do, I’ll always tell you because I want to do a good job or something like that, but then I might tail that explanation by saying something about my savior: “God’s blessed me with this opportunity and this ability, and I want to give it back to him for his glorification.” Jeremy is tactful about his witness, and tact is something that has been a fixture in my faith story.
- He is the underdog inherent. Unrecruited out of high school–after being named first team All-State and Northern California Division II Player of the Year? Walking-on at Harvard instead of being offered a scholarship to hometown Stanford? Undrafted out of college? Picked up and dropped by two NBA teams before settling with the Knicks? Only given playing time with the Knicks out of desperation, likely to have been cut the next day? Add onto this Asian American stereotypes, and you’ll understand that Jeremy embodies the underdog story. I love the underdog. That’s part of the reason I’m a Giants fan too. No one expected Eli to pan out and become an elite quarterback (yes, I’m saying that). No one expected the Giants to beat the Patriots in 2007–and then again in 2012. Likewise, no one expected Lin to be a starter in the NBA–let alone, make it into the NBA. But he did it, and I love it!
- He is the surfacing of Asian American exigencies in the national American culture. Like my first point, Jeremy Lin is addressing or bringing to light so many inadequacies of the American national culture in accommodating, mediating, and incorporating Asian American culture. This is evidenced by the insensitive and ignorant headlines: Chink in the Armor? The Knick’s Good Fortune? America clearly doesn’t know what to do with Asian Americans besides talk about them in a racially infested manner or to relegate our culture to “good food” and “subordinate women” (though Lin hardly brings to surface the latter . . . though he does do much for Asian American male sexuality). America can only progress from her failure to understand her own Asian Americans. That is why I’m so excited Jeremy Lin has received so much media attention. He’s arrived at a time at which I believe Asian Americans are finally integrating into the national culture, and I would mark “Linsanity” as the beginning of this act. I’m excited to see what is in store for Asian America. All the more, I am so glad my vision that a Christian Asian American would be the spearhead of this movement. Quick note on that last link to my “vision”: 1) Interesting to see how that within 2 years I developed a taste for the West Coast over the East Coast 2) I don’t necessarily speak about my vision for the Asian American movement to be led by Asian American Christians, but that is my heart for the coming years.