POPSspot welcomes first post by “The Race Doctor”.
By now, if you are a breathing human with a beating heart, no doubt you have heard about the Linsanity phenomena that has swept the nation and arguably parts of the world. If “Linsanity” does not ring a bell for you, you have another stream of income coming in teaching people about how to avoid mainstream media. Just to be on the safe side, when I say “Linsanity,” I am making reference to the media hype surrounding the first Taiwanese-American basketball player to break out in the National Basketball Association as a significant player with the New York Knicks, Jeremy Lin. My thoughts can be organized in three parts:
1) As a sports fan, my default position is to support the underdog. I have been conditioned to keep the flames of inspiration warm, even in the face of imminent and impending defeat. This is arguably, the magic of sport and why I find sports more interesting than reality TV — because the drama is real. No matter what it looks like on paper, you have to play the games first! The underdog storyline is the fodder for numerous memories within sport lore, whether it be the “Miracle on Ice” with the ’84 Olympic Team, Buster Douglas defeating Mike Tyson (!) or the opening round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. That being said, I instinctively root for Mr. Lin as he first was presented as an underdog. Initially, I accepted this premise wholesale. Now, not so much. Underdog in what sense? at 6-3 he is not vastly “undersized” like a Nate Robinson. Having played at an endowed, elite HS and elite 4-year NCAA Division I program, his skill set is assumed a certain level of competency. So what do we mean by underdog? Perhaps what initially endeared me to Mr. Lin was that he dealt with adversity in being shuffled and cut, but exploited his opportunity to the fullest in a major way and at poor Union President Derek Fisher’s expense (it was a nice spin move, though).
2) The subsequent “Linsanity” developments struck me as odd. I did not immediately jump on board and purchase my T-shirt and the like. This I feel, is largely a by-product of a mostly white-male dominated national media system. Mr. Lin played excellent ball during that first 11 game stretch, and has been decent thereafter. Unlike Tebow whose stats were laughable, Mr. Lin has posted solid numbers worthy of respect. But for me, it was too much too fast. Nike shoe contracts in less than two weeks? Really? The phenomena said more about the white male media culture than anything else. And this brings me to my second point, that the puns, innuendoes and smarmy jokes all reveal how latent the psychology of white racism really is — it does not take much for this aspect of society to be revealed. In much of our daily routines and operations, we know on some level racism exists, but hearkening back to the debates we had over the summer, is it worth it to confront such instances each and every time, or is it more efficient to figure out another way? But the implicit consensus is that racism does in fact exist, the principal difference in opinion stemming from strategies on how to respond to its presence. The Lin story is an excellent litmus test for how race is very much on the minds of white america, despite our post-racial status.
3) But finally, and more cynically, I wonder about the sincerity of those who are behind the Linsanity craze. Basketball is a worldwide game in which Americans are no longer dominant. The idea of David Stern leveraging one player to foster a United Nations moment is going a bit too far. Much like the unstated fact that much of the fascination of Tiger Woods has to do with the fact that he is not white, much of the media’s fascination with Mr. Lin stems from the fact that he is not black. We saw a similar phenomenon in the NBA when Steve Nash was branded the league MVP twice and was given an automatic first-ballot golden ticket entry into the hall of fame for averaging 10 assists. Hopefully, Lin’s story will become more common and he will continue to ball his arse off as long as he can like every other player in the league. To me, it’s ironic how in hyping up how this one individual is “breaking the mold” the media simply refashions the same stereotypical molds by emphasizing Lin’s “model citizen” profile (e.g., family life, family of affluence/scholarship, Harvard University as alma mater, hard work ethic, etc.).
In conclusion, I will continue to root for the underdog, but refuse to be exploited by white (male) media privilege bullish*t.
As far as Mr. Lin is concerned, time will tell his story all in due time; in other words, ball don’t lie…
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