You know, it’s odd that sports are still viewed as a monogamous endeavor. Franchises flee cities overnight, cut or trade players on a whim and will lock us out if they feel like it. Players, largely presumed available to the highest bidder, openly court new teammates and tease us with their decisions. Fans, having the most options and least invested, are perhaps the most fickle bunch of the lot, our commitment wavering by the box score.
Ultimately, this is just a business for them. However we’d still like to believe they love the business they’re in, just as they need to believe we’ll keep coming back. Which of course, as the lockout has proven, we will. It can be frivolous, maybe even a waste, but that’s why we call them pastimes.
Don’t be mistaken though. This doesn’t mean we aren’t looking for something substantial. Many of us are bound by loyalty to nothing other than entertainment, but what casual and hardcore fans will always have in common is the love of a good story. We all want to believe in the triumph of will and spirit against any odds or opponent. It’s enjoyable and more importantly, inspirational.
It’s why we’re all talking about Jeremy Lin.
The New York Knicks, as bloated and incompetent a franchise as any in sports, stumbled upon the league’s best story in years. Now, regardless of familiarity with the sport or affiliation with the team, America wants to see the Harvard grad help a big business succeed.
Which surprisingly means, if only for a moment, we’ve found something more adorable than Ricky Rubio. Maybe even more entertaining.
Both are standouts if only for the fact that they aren’t black. Or white. Let’s be honest, this is still a sport in which the fans and players aren’t exactly mirror images. While that hasn’t affected attendance or performance, we’re still compelled to root for someone who looks like us. Rubio and the Gasol brothers have established Spain as an international powerhouse, however Asians have lacked the opportunity to display such pride. Sure, Yao Ming was a sensation, but he’s gone now and he was the only one. (Yes, I’m aware of Yi. We’re talking about good players though.) Besides, he was more behemoth than basketball player.
Now considering the crass stereotypes deeming every Asian a master of martial arts, it’s strange to see how many don’t consider them athletes. Of course Lin is no more an intimidating presence than Rubio, however his dexterity-especially at the rim-has drawn far more raves. Perhaps it’s the excitement of shattering a stereotype, but it could also be the sheer surprise such things are possible. There is a difference, you know. Rubio will always be appreciated as a passer, but Lin’s scoring outbursts have earned him respect as an aggressor. If only because we weren’t trained to expect it.
Either way, Lin’s struggle is far more empathetic. Rubio was YouTube legend, his arrival anticipated years before ever declaring himself draft eligible. Lin went from trivia question to the talk of the sporting world within a week. Yes, the irony of a Harvard grad ever being considered least likely to succeed is well worn by now, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Going undrafted and bouncing back and forth to the D-League before being waived by the Warriors certainly isn’t anything we’d brag about at class reunions. And the idea of sleeping on our brother’s couch before lighting up Madison Square Garden is just unfathomably laughable.
But here he is, guaranteed contract in hand, having bested Kobe Bryant himself last night. Now the only thing that stands between him and another level of Linsanity is the other object of our affection.
It’s just a shame we have to choose one of them.