But first, let’s take a moment to acknowledge one truth on which everyone can agree: Jeremy Lin is amazing.
This is an incontestable fact. Jeremy Lin is the best story these days, in sports or out of it.
If you aren’t living under a rock where the ESPN reception is spotty, you have heard this before. It’s the tale of the 23-year-old Harvard graduate, unsought by Division I basketball recruiters, not drafted, benched by the Knicks until the 11th hour — and then unleashed, to score 136 points in five starts (more than anyone since the ABA-NBA merger, as our actual sports columnist points out) and lead the Knicks to a string of six victories. He’s magic. He’s like Midas, but everything he touches turns to really excellent basketball.
I have nothing to add. For me to compliment or criticize an athlete would be like Beethoven complimenting or criticizing a piece of rock music. After he went deaf, that is. I know nothing about basketball. The only thing I know about basketball is that it’s something I wasn’t particularly good at in the eighth grade, which does not narrow things down particularly.
But watching Jeremy Lin play, I almost feel as though I understand the game.
If only I were as good at praising Jeremy Lin as Jeremy Lin is at playing basketball, this would be the Greatest Ode of All Time, and you would love it and be impressed by it no matter your creed or heritage or political persuasion, unless you were Floyd Mayweather, about whom the less said the better.
If all of us were as good at what we do as he is, the world would be an incredible place, although robberies would be a lot more efficient.
It will come almost as a relief to me when Lin stops playing Insane, Superhuman Basketball and starts playing merely Really Excellent Human-Level Basketball. To sustain this sheer level of perfection is — mind-boggling. I have no words! And I never run out of words, a quality that does little to endear me to people at cocktail parties. But in Lin’s case, I am content to gape silently and bow in homage.
It feels strange to wax semi-lyrical about someone who was in my college graduating class. But this Lin phenomenon is like discovering too late that you went to school with Zeus — a friendly, pleasant Zeus who was outstanding at basketball and never attempted to do weird things to swans. And you were too big an idiot to show up at any of Zeus's basketball games. Now you have to pay twenties of dollars for the privilege, and it serves you right. True, you never went to any sports games, except once when you wandered into a hockey game by accident, mistaking it for experimental theater. And it took you a whole act to realize your mistake.
This is different. Someone quipped that this is the only time people have ever been surprised by the success of an Asian-American Harvard graduate. But no one thinks of Harvardians as being good at sports. The only time the Big H won at football was in the era when no other schools had teams. And no one expects this level of excellence. So Lin’s success really is expectation-shattering — and beautiful.
But to borrow a bit of the Gettysburg Address, what Jeremy Lin does on the court is far above my poor power to add or to detract.
He makes me proud to be an American. This national pride would not happen in France, mainly because basketball does not seem very big there.
Of course we’re Linsane. He is someone who almost didn’t get the chance to prove what he could do. And then he did — and it was incredible. That’s the American dream, in a nutshell — to get the chance to show what you can do, and to do it so well that everyone stands up and cheers wildly.
When he made that three-point game-winning shot with 0.5 seconds on the clock on Tuesday night against the Toronto Raptors, even the Raptors fans cheered. (Are there Raptors fans?)
You can’t do anything but cheer.
Go, Jeremy Lin!
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