Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Today's front page

I had my morning latte and saw this on the front page of today's OC Register.

Here's the Op-Ed I wrote for today's Orange County Register.

Why is Jeremy Lin Important? She Explains
ANAHEIM – Like much of America, I've been swept up in Linsanity.
Ever since NBA phenom Jeremy Lin burst into the national consciousness a few weeks ago, I haven't been able to stop talking about his unbelievable, meteoric rise. Everything he's done on the court – that thrilling, last-second three-pointer he sank when the Knicks played the Toronto Raptors; the huge numbers he put on the Lakers; all the other great shots and great passes and defense – it's all made me utterly proud to be an overachieving, Ivy League, Asian American Christian – just like Jeremy Lin.

It's bordering on obsession. In fact, I think I'm going Linsane.And this coming from a girly girl who never talks about sports – ever.
Jeremy Lin's story resonates deeply with so many of us, on so many levels. It's the story of the American Dream. It's the "If you work hard, you'll achieve great things" story.
And although Lin seems like an overnight success, his journey is the result of perseverance, humility and great faith. His triumph is erasing a history of being overlooked and proving the naysayers wrong.
Who doesn't want to identify with that?
I love that Jeremy Lin's success is turning people's worlds upside down. He's shattering stereotypes and proving to the world that we (and by "we" I mean those overachieving, Ivy League, Asian American Christian types mentioned above) are more than "Asian Whiz Kids," computer geeks or aspiring brain surgeons.
And now, with Lin on our radar, my Asian American brothers can tell American pop culture, which has historically portrayed Asian males as awkward, unathletic and never the leading man, where to stuff it. Take that, Hollywood!
For the next generation of Asian Americans, the sky's now the limit. It's the first time kids from Koreatown in L.A. to New York's Chinatown can tell their parents, "When I grow up, I want to be a basketball star – like Jeremy Lin!"
In fact, as a child, I wish I had a Jeremy Lin to look up to.
As a product of a Tiger Mom (and a Tiger Dad, for that matter), my parents always reinforced the belief that "You can be anything you want when you grow up." But of course what they really meant was: "You can be anything – as long as it's a doctor, lawyer or engineer."
As first-generation Korean immigrants, my folks aren't at fault for this perspective. For them, there was no Jeremy Lin folklore to share with their children. The only success stories coming out of their communities at the time were in the fields of academia, medicine, engineering and, later, law and business. Becoming a professional athlete (let alone an NBA superstar) was not only improbable, but impossible.
But with Lin's Cinderella story ("Linderella?" Sure, why not), even the seemingly impossible becomes possible. "God works in mysterious and miraculous ways," Lin told reporters following his breakout performance against the Utah Jazz – the game that started all this Linsanity.
Perhaps the most inspiring thing about Jeremy Lin is his faith.
It's not the Bible-bashing, hit-'em-over-the-head, fire and brimstone kind of fervor so often assigned to American Christians. His faith is quieter but deeper and more reflective.
And, at the heart of it, it's humble.
"Thankful to God for the opportunity to be a New York Knick!" Lin wrote in a Facebook post on Dec. 27, before he became a household name. In a culture where ballers are known for their bravado on and off the court, Lin's posture of humility is a breath of fresh air.
I mean, who in the NBA posts Scripture on their Facebook page (Psalm 46:10 – "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'") or wears his heart so readily on his sleeve ("This team is so unselfish and has so much heart. Love playing with them!")?
Lin's response to stardom has been amazing too. Everyone has an opinion about him, and he's under intense pressure to keep winning. Yet he's handled it all with grace and a lot of class.
His rise has exposed some ugliness in our culture, in a smattering of offensive remarks and racial stereotyping. From sports writer Jason Whitlock's crass remarks on Twitter and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. claiming all "the hype is because he's Asian," to the most recent transgression – ESPN's racist, post-Knicks loss headline, "Chink in the Armor."
"They've apologized and so, from my end, I don't care anymore," Lin told reporters about the tasteless headline a couple of days after it ran online. "You have to learn to forgive. And I don't even think that was intentional."
Expecting the unexpected – that's what we've come to love about the Jeremy Lin story. Asian American man in professional sports, Harvard grad in the NBA, cut from two teams, then, finally, picked up by the storied New York Knicks only to be parked at the end of the bench until two and a half weeks ago. Then Lin's rise and his status as international sensation – seven straight wins and the victories keep coming.
And to watch him play? What a thing of beauty. To see someone doing what he loves, being excellent at it, overcoming the odds, never giving up, keeping the faith, living out his dream, and inspiring each one of us to do the same – this is what it's all about. This is why Linsanity matters. This is why Jeremy Lin has captured our imagination.
Whether he's Linning, makes you wanna be All Lin (yup, I'm going there), or leaves you Linspired (sorry ... sort of), one thing is certain:
Jeremy Lin is not only changing America, he's changing the world.

Jennifer Cho Salaff is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Anaheim. She's suddenly interested in all things NBA, thanks to Jeremy Lin. You can check out her blog at
(Photos by Ana P. Gutierrez, for The Orange County Register)

It's a cheesy shot, I know. But Linsanity kinda
makes you act, well, a little crazy.
(Photo: Ana P. Gutierrez, OC Register)