I promised myself I wouldn’t write another word about Jeremy Lin until he had at least passed the one-month anniversary of the Genesis of Linsanity. (2:4:12: And D’Antoni said to him, “Get in there, Harvard.”)
Contrary to the modern-day sports media model, I didn’t need to immediately crown Lin an NBA superstar, nor did I want to short-change the 23-year-old New York Knicks point guard as the dog’s ass on which the sun decided to shine for a couple of weeks. Seven great games does not make a legend; and at the same time, seven terrible games does not secure one’s spot on the Olowokandi list. So I waited.
Meanwhile, my hope was that sometime during the NBA’s most compelling story since LeBron James and “The Decision,” somewhere in between the off-color commentary and off-kilter delirium from fans and media alike, an intelligent debate would open addressing the issues of sports, race and social conditioning that Linsanity could have brought to the forefront.
I should have known better. In the midst of chaos, rationality and reflection tap out to emotion and knee-jerk reaction. And when it comes to certain cultural icons – and yes, Jeremy Lin has become a cultural icon – it can take an entire lifetime for supporters and detractors to approach things with a clear head.
Trust me. Barack Obama has been President of the United States for four years, and my instinct is still to ingest every bit of right-wing criticism lobbed toward him as a concealed racial slur. Recently I watched Charlie Rose’s interview with South African playwright Athol Fugard, who said: “I actually think that a lot of the flak Mr. Obama comes in for is a result of a prejudice. The notion of a Black man in the White House (is not accepted).”
My first response: “I KNOW a lot of the flak Obama gets is a result of prejudice.”
So I don’t get upset when readers accuse me of racism for bringing up the color-coded subplots of Linsanity, or for suggesting that Lin’s stellar opening act had as much to do with favorable circumstance as it had to do with Lin’s basketball ability.
First, because I know certain segments of society will react to (real or perceived) Lin criticisms the same way I react to any harsh words spoken against Obama, LeBron, Michael Vick or Serena Williams.
Second, because I’ve learned along the way that the people who are most often offended by the mere introduction of race into a conversation are the same people who have been least impacted by racism.
But there is another reason why, I believe, tying the soaring epic of Jeremy Lin to the anchors of race, politics and stereotypes is met with what appears to be a mood hovering between uncomfortable resistance and outright revolt.