Jeremy Lin: Linsanity Was Insanity

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It was just about two years ago when the perfect storm hit New York and the world.  A basketball player that up until that time had been discarded by multiple teams became a starter for the New York Knicks. His play sparked a team but more importantly sparked a worldwide phenomenon.

For a period his jersey was the top selling jersey in the league and perhaps in all of sport.  Comparisons were being made to Kobe Bryant and as well as other all-time basketball greats and the media horde that is normally New York became tsunami like in its proportions.

His every move was chronicled worldwide and the story of a young Asian player here to fore overlooked was as big of a story as there could be.  Eventually a movie was made that chronicled his rise.

Jeremy Lin created a worldwide phenomenon known as Linsanity.  Looking back on it all it had a surreal quality to it—because it was.

Today Jeremy Lin plays for the Houston Rockets far removed from the bright lights of Broadway and the world wide stage he occupied.

Lin who is entering his second season with the Rockets, is not a starter, but appears to have earned significant minutes after playing well when given the opportunity to do so. This comes after a non-descript first season with his new team.

And at the age of twenty five  Lin seems destined to have a career in the NBA that most probably will not land him in the hall of fame, but for  Lin he will always be remembered for  the phenomena he help create–Linsanity.

Lin’s rise to fame was so astronomical that Lin himself talked about the pressures he felt under the scrutiny, the adoration and adulation that he was receiving.  That Lin was of Asian descent only further fueled the fury as cultural pride was a huge part of the story.

It was a rags to riches American basketball  success story that was right out of a fairy tale and one that many on the planet could have only dreamed about. Lin’s story gave and continues to give hope to anyone who is aspiring to rise from obscurity to the moon.

But as usual we tend to take things a bit too far when it comes to our psychological and emotional needs.

Looking back it seems so silly, foolish and downright unfathomable to think that anyone could compare Lin to Kobe Bryant or for that matter any of the top ten players in the league.  In doing so we got carried away and lost sight of Lin’s true abilities and the New York Knicks wisely let Lin go.

Letting Lin go was predicated on a number of factors which included, a cold hearted and realistic assessment of his talents and value to the team. As the league adapted to his style of play and other more accomplished stars and players began gunning for Lin, his fundamental basketball weaknesses were exposed.

As an observer it was easy to see how we all could get swept up in Linsanity as our need to create stars, heroes and just plain media stories to help us escape from our everyday lives is insatiable. It was a feel good story that was too good to be true—and it was.

It was no fault of Lin’s as he got swept up and carried away by the ragging tide and psychological needs of a needy populace that craves the emotions Lin’s and others like him have provided us.

However, the premature adulation that our society consistently engages in only serves to lower the bar for true accomplishment while at the same time watering down standards that can only hurt us in the long run, as temporary greatness becomes a substitute for true greatness, and sustained long term achievement.

It also sends a consistent message to our youth that fame at times is not earned but borne out of our need to adore, escape and fantasize, while at the same time reinforcing the fact that standards for most anything are at an all-time low, as our society struggles to reverse the lowering of standards without much success.

Lin’s story also speaks to our growing sense of impatience, while reinforcing the concept that less work is needed to achieve, while also engendering a sense of entitlement in our populace.

But our psychological and emotional need for someone like Lin over-rides objective common sense, as it always does when emotional fulfillment is necessary.

Our need for the Jeremy Lin’s of the world reflects our growing hunger to both create and discharge emotions at a rate and pace that is too quick for us to process, setting off a continuous need to create them, use them, and then search for the next fix cycle.   

It goes without saying that Lin put in countless hours to achieve what he has attained as only a select few get to play professional basketball.  But to make him prematurely what he was not was unfair to both Lin and us.

Perhaps when all is said and done we can learn from Linsanity in the sense that people who are down and out can still rise up and achieve, while at the same time taking pause to look long and hard at what the negative effects of our need to fill full our psychological needs has on us all.

For more on Lin:  http://psychologyofsports.com/2012/03/18/jeremy-lin-a-different-perspective/