It’s because we don’t need a story this pure – and so rare because it is so pure – to be ruined by such seriousness and potential scandal.
Jeremy Lin’s NBA breakout would not have mutated into “Linsanity” were it not for a few factors. Yes, one of them is that Lin plays for the New York Knicks instead of the Indiana Pacers or the Memphis Grizzlies. Yes, another is that he’s a basketball outlier – a Harvard graduate of Asian descent with relatively average size – instead of the 6-foot-8 Black man with a year or two of party-school education under his belt that has become our blueprint of the modern NBA player.
And another is that Lin is a spotlessly positive story at a time when the sports pages are being weighed down by just the opposite.
Negativity in our sports culture is at an all-time high, from the athletes themselves to the media and fans who follow them. Sportswriters and TV personalities, radio hosts and podcasters, bloggers and barstool debaters, it seems none of them are happy unless there’s something to be mad about.
Detailing how the games are won isn’t as juicy as harping on how they were lost. Identifying the next rising star on the coaching scene isn’t as popular as pegging which coaches are on the hot seat. Enjoying this season gets lost in speculation over whether the superstar will leave next season or the season after that in free agency. And rather than celebrate the talents of those superstars – the Dwight Howards, the Cam Newtons, the Alex Ovechkins – we focus our lens on their faults and missteps.
Scandal, for us, looms larger than achievement.
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Consider the case of Ryan Braun. During his 2011 National League MVP season, I heard the Milwaukee outfielder’s name about 1/100th as much as I heard it during the offseason, when a dirty drug test threatened to taint that MVP award. Ryan Braun didn’t become a household name because he was one of the best baseball players in the world; he became a household name because he was an MVP with a scandal. The good story buried by the bad story.
Or consider the case of Clipper Darrell. Here we have an L.A. Clippers fan that received so much media attention that he was turned into a “super fan” … who then used that media-created status to book paying promotional gigs … that the team, overprotective of its licensing and name, wanted control over so much that legal muscles were flexed and Clipper Darrell was forced into fan exile. Which the media then covered as an important story.