Like so many Americans, I’ve been caught up in Lin-sanity. The numbers being put up by Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin are jaw-dropping.
And don’t call him Tim Tebow 2.0. He’s no gimmick; he’s a true point guard who absolutely savaged the Lakers on Friday night. The only real comparisons between Tebow and Lin are the time they’ve been eating up on Sportscenter and their openness about their Christian beliefs.
It’s been impossible to avoid race in the whole Jeremy Lin story. Announcers and commentators love to mention that he has a great basketball IQ—after all, he went to Harvard. But part of the subtext is: We didn’t know Asian Americans played sports. (Like Timothy Dalrymple in talking about Asian American stereotypes, I was pretty embarassed for the Knicks’ announcers in the above video.) Even when the stereotypes are absent, the simple fact is that Lin is one of only a few Asian Americans to play in the NBA.
That’s why Michael Luo of the New York Times writes that for an Asian American “the chants of “M.V.P.!” raining down on Lin at the Garden embody a surreal, Jackie Robinson-like moment.”
But to Luo, Lin’s Christianity is just as meaningful as his race. Luo writes:
The last time I felt anything resembling this was Yao Ming’s first season for the Rockets. I experienced a similar mix of pinch-me-am-I-dreaming befuddlement and chest-thumping pride when I traveled to Houston to do an article on him and heard an arena crowd singing his name, on Chinese New Year, no less. And, yes, I followed Tebow’s extraordinary ride this season, in part because of his faith. More than anything, though, I found the fierce emotions he incited on both sides of the religious divide depressing.
The feelings the Lin phenomenon instill in me are orders of magnitude greater because he is an Asian-American, like me, whose parents were immigrants to this country, like mine. He grew up, like me, in the United States, speaking English; his Chinese, like mine, could use improvement. He went to my alma mater. And, yes, he is a Christian, too, but with a brand of faith, shaped by his background, that I can relate to much better than many I have seen in the public arena.
In the midst of his stellar run last week, I couldn’t help but reflect on Lin’s journey. A Bible verse that he has cited as a favorite came to mind, encouraging believers that “suffering produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”
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