By Jeff Girod
Quick! Say something inappropriate and regrettable! An Asian-American man is dribbling—what, how can this be?—some sort of basketball?!
For three weeks, Jeremy Lin has been starting at point guard for the New York Knicks and the rest of the America has been tripping over itself like the New Jersey Generals trying to out-racist everybody.
Sports columnist Jason Whitlock tweeted a small penis joke. Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. said, “Black players do what [Lin] does every night.” And ESPN.com ran the headline, “Chink in the Armor,” because either “Knick in the Armor” wouldn’t pass spellcheck or apparently ESPN is run by redneck, racist frat guys.
“Have to learn to forgive,” Lin said about the ESPN headline.
Excuse Lin if he doesn’t get worked up about a stupid website headline. He’s too busy winning 7 games in a row and trying to catch the Boston Celtics for a playoff seed.
Until two weeks ago, Lin was sleeping on his brother’s hide-a-bed. And before joining the Knicks in December, Lin was just looking for a job after being cut by the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, and getting a no-look pass by all 30 teams in the 2010 NBA Draft.
Then came the last 3 weeks, a game-winning buzzer beater against the Toronto Raptors and several awkward national apologies.
As for boxer Mayweather Jr.’s comment that other NBA players have done all this before? How’s this for a knockout? According to NBA.com, Lin’s cumulative 109 points over his first four starts are the most by any player since 1976-77. Lin is also the only player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and have seven assists in his first four starts.
More importantly, is America really still this racist and up tight? C’mon, people. If we can’t handle a kid in a tank top playing a 100-year-old sport, how are we going to handle the important stuff: Gay rights, stem cell research and who’s going to be responsible for smothering Lindsay Lohan with a pillow?
Lin isn’t some “foreigner” from a distant land. He’s one of our own. Lin was born in Los Angeles and raised in the Bay Area. And if you’ve ever heard Lin talk, he has an easy, laid-back drawl, like he should be delivering the Huntington surf report.
So is it really a big deal to see Jeremy Lin playing NBA basketball? Sure it is.
Lin is the first Asian American to play professional basketball since Wataru “Kilowat” Misaka, way back in 1947 (coincidentally also as a point guard for the Knicks). But if Lin never put on NBA sweatpants, he’d already be a role model—and not just for Asian Americans. Lin won a California state championship in high school and graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics and a 3.1 grade point average.
Then again, Asian Americans have been around as long as America. According to the 2010 Census, more than 14.7 million people living in the United States identified as Asian. Athletes of Asian descent compete in professional baseball, football, tennis, golf, boxing and even hockey.
And just like Michael Chang, Paul Kariya, Hines Ward, Tiger Woods, Michelle Wie, Apolo Ohno, Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi, youngsters are watching Jeremy Lin excel at professional sports and thinking, “Hey, we can do that, too.”
Young Asian Americans are hooping it up across the country at playgrounds, schoolyards and tournaments. In a few years it won’t be such a big deal to see someone who looks like Jeremy Lin running point in Madison Square Garden. And hopefully the United States won’t lose its ever lovin‘ racist mind whenever the next Lin makes his or her jump shot.
And while we’re at, enough with the puns: “Lin-sanity, Lin-conceivable, Lin-vincible . . .” We get it: Things that start with “I-N” sound similar to “L-I-N.” It doesn’t make you sound clever. It just makes you sound like a “Lincompoop” who’s never heard a one-syllable Asian last name.
Know what I think whenever I see Jeremy Lin? I don’t see a flash in the pan or want to blurt a racial epithet. I wonder how the Lakers ever let a future all-star escape L.A.
Our point guard is damn near 40.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org