Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jeremy Lin Beats The Odds...

I have been hearing so much about Jeremy Lin the past couple of weeks. I am not a huge sports fan, so I had to look into who this amazing athlete was and why was everyone talking about him. People were so hyped about Lin that they created a whole new language to express their feelings and I heard that somewhere in China they even started a class to teach students these new American words specifically created for, Jeremy Lin, an amazing basketball player. Some of the words that I’ve heard are: “linsanity,” “lintastic,” “lin it to win it,” “nothing is linpossible” and on and on,

Jeremy Lin played great basketball in high school, but none of the college recruiters gave him a second look. Speculation has it that it was because he was Asian and there had never been an Asian-American basketball player before. And the perception that Asians cannot play basketball caused Lin to take himself to Harvard University and get an education there. A coach at Harvard told Lin he could be in the NBA, but he was never drafted. What happened was a series of events that can only be attributed to fate. Lin was picked up by the Golden State Warriors, only to be cut because they had enough guards. The Houston Rockets took him, but then cut him for the same reason, too many guards. Knick guard Baron Davis sustained an injury and the Knicks took a chance and picked up Lin. But, before they allowed Lin to play, Baron was due to come back and they were going to cut Lin. However, Baron was not ready to return to the game, and Lin was finally put in the game to show what he could do. Two weeks later, after Lin made phenomenal plays in game after game, his name became a household word overnight and, the Knicks, who had been losing miserably before using him, had a six game winning streak. It’s an unprecedented rise in success based on his extraordinary talent and especially surprising to many because Lin is Asian-American.

But, the same racial perceptions that kept Lin from getting his career in basketball off to an earlier start, has caused some controversy the past day or two. When the Knicks lost their last game, after several wins credited to Lin, ESPN ran a headline “Chink in the Armor.” Not only a racial slur and derogatory use of the word, but Lin himself has spoken about being taunted at Harvard by the use of that particular racial slur. A couple of days ago, after a win, a picture of Lin over of a fortune cookie with the caption “The Knick’s Good Fortune.” And let’s not forget The New York Post’s headline on it’s back page after a win in Toronto, “AMASIAN.” 

Jeremy Lin was obviously talented, but college recruiters couldn’t look beyond his race to see his outstanding skills as a basketball player. While in college, at Harvard no less, his coach thought he was good enough for the NBA, even as others on the prestigious, ivy league campus referred to him by racial slurs. He was cut by a couple of teams, before he was even given an opportunity to prove himself. And, when he was finally given an opportunity by the New York Knicks, because they desperately needed a guard, he rose to the occasion, exceeded all expectations and lead the team in a six game winning streak. An overnight sensation! Everyone is thrilled. The only thing is that the media still cannot see beyond his race. They think they are being cute, they forget their political correctness, they use racial slurs, “clever images,” and coined terms to refer to his race even as they praise him. 

Something is just not right with this picture. Imagine all the odds this young man has had to overcome to get where he belongs?  He still cannot seen as a great basketball player, without first being seen as Asian American, above all else. The same erroneous perceptions about his race, that kept him out of the sport, is still haunting him in the limelight. First he got no attention because he was Asian American, now he gets tons of attention, not so much for his skill, as his heritage. Imagine if every athlete had to put up with those kinds of insults in guise of praise? I can’t imagine how Lin must feel to be finally able to get an opportunity to play on the Knicks, in New York, and get some much attention for his skills on the court, only to still have to deal with thinly veiled bigotry. 

Jeremy Lin beat the odds in basketball, but unfortunately he still has some challenges ahead of him.

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