Linsanity: Asian American Role Model Jeremy Lin Should Be Cautious At the Top


Linspiration. Linsational. Linitless. Lindescribable. Linmania. I think Jeremy Lin received a higher blessing with his pun-able name than his basketball skills. For those of you living under a rock, Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks' 6-foot-3 point guard from Harvard University, has surpassed top names in basketball stardom. His performance set an NBA record for the most points scored in a players' first four NBA starts, edging out stars like Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Michael Jordan. 

But what's driving everyone "Linsane" are his Ivy League history and Taiwanese background. As a result, according to analysts, Jeremy Lin is already a legend. His coverage has ballooned larger than Kobe Bryant's ego and his fans among Asians and Asian-Americans are out-of-control. Even the usually meek Chinatown of New York has joined the hype. 

For an Asian-American college student trying to make my own way in the world, I'm elated. Back home in my little Californian town of Arcadia (or Arcasia as we lovingly call it), to us Lin is bounce passing stereotypes, boxing out ethnic boundaries, and dunking on the heads of all those who said he couldn't succeed. It's electrifying. Asian mothers everywhere are saying, "If he can do it, you can too." For the Asian community, here's our chance. We finally have our role model. 

But a word of caution. With the media prying into his life, investigating his background, sneaking around, scrutinizing his every move, I'm worried. The burdens of fame become more and more cumbersome as they build. In Beijing, fans are claiming Lin as a native son. In Taipei, supporters are asserting that he embodies the virtues that propelled their island from an agricultural backwater to a high-tech powerhouse. 

But remember the felled heroes. Recall Michael Phelps and the pothead picture. Remember Tiger Woods. We raise our role models to the status of saints, and one misstep tears some worlds apart. I don't have a cure, only to say be careful. Us Asian-Americans, we're a bit new at this. Rejoice, but be prudent as well. 

Photo Credit: Matt Britt00