Long Live Lin-Sanity
Issue   |   Wed, 02/15/2012 - 00:29

As sports have gained popularity and importance in society, watching sports has gone from a casual, passive form of entertainment to an obsession that plays a central role in the day-to-day mood of countless fans. We pour immense amounts of energy into rooting for our teams and hating others, and our enormous emotional investment in the fortunes of teams we have no direct connection to can seem irrational and ridiculous when looked at from a non-fan’s perspective.

An impartial observer might question the sanity of obsessed fans and ask questions like, “Why do you spend so much time watching sports?” or “Why do you care so much?” After taking a step back from the madness that is the fan’s world, these are valid questions. In the end, the average fan has about as much influence on his or her team’s success as we do on the next day’s weather, but we continue to operate as if life itself depends on the outcome of these mere sporting events.

This dispassionate analysis, however, makes it overly easy to reduce sports fandom to a pointless activity. It forgets the bonds that fandom can forge, whether they be within a family, a group of friends, a city or even a country.

Sports can sometimes achieve solidarity between people when everything else fails (see the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa) and carry an enormous, if disproportionate, power over us.

Since I won’t delude myself into believing that I have the eloquence to explain what my Cleveland teams mean to me, I’ll have to resort to other means to explain why millions of people spend hours upon hours watching games, most of which conclude unremarkably.

By ‘other means,’ of course, I mean Jeremy Lin. How can he be excluded from an analysis of sports’ hold over the population after putting on the incredible show he has over the last several games?

The New York Knicks’ new point guard has scored 20 points on over 50 percent shooting and dished out five assists in each of his first four NBA starts; only the embodiment of sports villainy himself, LeBron James, has as many such games under his belt this season (speaking of James, my laundry took two cycles to dry this week instead of one — it must be his fault, right? Is it too late to start a #blameitonlebron Twitter campaign after his most recent round of whining last weekend?).

To top it off, Lin quieted those who dismissed him as a fluke, scoring a remarkable 38 points on national TV against the Los Angeles Lakers after Kobe Bryant disparaged him in pregame remarks on Saturday.

After watching Lin-sanity unfold, I can confidently assert that Jeremy Lin is the reason we watch sports. Not just the player, Jeremy Lin, but the things he represents — something unexpected, something incredible and something awe-inspiring coming out of nowhere.

For anyone who fails to see the inspiration in Lin’s story, simply Google him and read about his road to the NBA.

If that falls short of impressing you, consider this: Lin was teetering on the precipice of being cut just last week, hanging on to the Knicks’ roster as the last point guard on the depth chart. According to NBA sources, even when New York plugged him into their struggling lineup, they expected to part ways with him.

Facing the prospect of losing a spot on the team, Lin performed beyond what anyone, even his own coach, could have possibly expected. Imagine facing the pressure of losing your job or failing a class, or any real-world analogy that applies to you, and then imagine yourself earning a promotion or an A+ in that situation. Jeremy Lin did just that last week, and even the most ardent doubters cannot refute that point.

Stories like Lin can glue us to television screens as we wonder what this Harvard-educated Asian kid from California will do next to beat the odds against him. Many have already drawn parallels between Lin and Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow based on the popular following both have generated.

While Tebow may be slightly more polarizing due to his outspoken religious beliefs, both athletes have surprised us through their success.

While stories like these above are important reasons for following sports, specific moments during games that go into the making of these narratives can transcend sports and validate the time and energy the average Joe puts into watching sports.
Any sports fan, and most non-sports fans as well, can understand when something truly inspiring happens on the field of play. These moments can stop us in our tracks and send chills down our spines. While these instants don’t come every day, there are plenty of examples nevertheless.

Lin splitting two Lakers defenders and finishing at the rim before screaming with adrenaline as Madison Square Garden drowned him in adulation comes to mind immediately.

For NBA fans, Baron Davis dunking over Andrei Kirilenko in the 2007 playoffs constitutes another unbelievable moment.
On a larger scale, Dirk Nowitzki walking to the locker room to cry as the clock ticked down to the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA Finals victory over the Miami Heat is a prime example.

These moments can even consume entire countries — hearts across the United States skipped a beat when Abby Wambach scored on a header in the 120th minute against Brazil in the 2011 Women’s World Cup quarterfinals.

These events aren’t just limited to professional and Olympic sports events but are present at all levels of competition. Anyone who formed a part of the rowdy LeFrak Gymnasium crowd last weekend against Williams can attest to the excitement and energy in the building when Aaron Toomey ’14 hit a game-winning shot to beat the Ephs and silence their fans.

Sports fans, then, are precisely the junkies that many stereotype us to be –­ we search, often in futility, for moments that make our jaws drop, make us exclaim incredulously and inspire us beyond the field of play.

When these moments do arrive, they are treasured as important memories and reinforce everything that we love about sports, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

In other words, long live Lin-sanity.