All I can say is I’m ashamed I didn’t think to call Tamir Goodman myself, to ask the former Jewish Jordan what he thinks about the Jeremy Lin phenomenon.
Goodman, of course, became the subject of an ethnic-fueled media madness during his high school career in Maryland, especially after appearing in Sports Illustrated and then flirting with the Terps. He recently told ESPN 600 in El Paso that he had 700 media requests in the first week after that SI story appeared, and that “my private life was gone, literally, in one night.”
“Sixteen, 17 years old, I couldn’t even go to class any more,” Goodman told the station. “There were cameras inside the school. I’d come home at night, there were cameras. I lost my private life overnight, literally, during that time. But [with] my family and Judaism, it was never about me, so when it wasn’t about me, that made it a lot easier for me.”
And so, Jeremy Lin?
“People keep mentioning it to me everywhere I go,” Goodman said. “I guess it reminds them of my story, Linsanity. Obviously I can kind of relate to what he’s going through, but I’m just so proud of him, because of his humility. He kind of brings the world back to what sport is supposed to be about. You know, perseverance, sportsmanship, humility, work ethic, dedication, understanding the game.
“He was able to succeed, because when he was on the bench he wasn’t just moping or being down, he was in the game even when he wasn’t in the game. When he was on the bench, his mind was in the game, so when he finally got his chance, he was ready to go right away. That’s mental toughness, preparation, dedication. All these things that you learn through sport, he’s kind of bringing to the table now, and reminding everybody was sports are all about.”
(Me, I’m a raging cynic who sometimes fails to properly write about sports with passion and happiness and a smile and all that, but I’m also a total sucker at heart who actually thinks sports are a weirdly magical conduit to childhood joy, which I embarrassingly wrote about in my first cover letter to The Post, and so I will sit by myself and watch Jeremy Lin highlights on repeat and jump up and down and mentally fist pump and perform air kicks and have imaginary conversations with dear friends about the phenomenon, although I’m obviously ashamed to admit it, which is why I’m burying that news in a parenthetical aside halfway down an item about the Jewish Jordan.)
“And that’s what I love about it,” Goodman continued. “Everyone’s kind of forgetting what sports are all about. We’re paying so much attention to so many negative things. It’s fresh and it’s positive and it’s good, and I hope that his character can have a positive influence on other athletes and remind them what sports are about, what it means to try to be a role model, what it means to show humility and life skills and character.
“I just like the way he’s handling everything. I guess for me maybe more than other people, I kind of relate to the story a little bit more, but it’s a positive thing and I hope that it continues to have a positive effect on as many people as possible.”
Then the host asked Goodman whether it was hard to adjust once the cameras went away, which happened fairly dramatically in his case.
“One hundred percent,” Goodman said. “I feel bad whenever I see in the news about childhood celebrities. I feel bad when that happens to people, and I would always like to reach out to them and help them and explain to them.
“Because for me, I feel like when the cameras left and I could see, I could understand how some people would feel hurt by that and not be able to handle that. My family, my friends, my religion, I was able to handle everything, I was able to handle not being in the spotlight any more, I was able to understand losing my body physically, not being able to play any more, losing my biggest professional contract, losing the money from that, seemingly losing everything that’s important in life.
“But again, it depends on how you definite success. Is success just a materialistic thing, pursuit and making a lot of money and being famous? Is that really the most important thing? Or just being the best you can be, and reacting to every situation positively or trying to at least. That, I believe, is really what success is about. Handling the challenges.”
Goodman’s career crashed out amid injuries and frequent team changes, but he started a non-profit that attempts to help basketball coaches use their sport not just for “teaching [kids] how to shoot or make a backdoor cut, but how to enhance their lives forever.” He said he has coached more than 30,000 kids, as well as producing guides for coaches and athletes on how to learn about life through basketball. And he seemed entirely upbeat about his own experience.
“How can you inspire somebody in their life if you haven’t been challenged?” he asked. “It may seem like I lost my dream when I couldn’t play basketball any more, but my challenge in life was how am I gonna react to that. In 2000, I’m the MVP of the Capital Classic, and in 2009 I can’t even play basketball any more. Most people would look at that career and say what a failure. And what I’ve learned through the whole thing is it depends how you define success....I don’t know if I would have been a better person than I strive to be today had I not gone through all those challenges.”