Linsanity Hits Home

Last night, I subscribed to Jeremy Lin’s Facebook profile. The Knicks’ come-from-nowhere star has amassed more than 60,000 subscribers in just two days. Not bad for a previously unknown basketball player whose most recent pastime was warming the bench of three different teams, each shuffling him along like some unwanted party guest.

But what strikes me about Jeremy Lin’s Facebook presence isn’t his soaring number of fans. It’s that I’m one of them. As a married woman of a certain age with three kids and no previous interest in (or knowledge of) professional basketball, I’m not your typical sports nut. And yet, every morning I hear myself asking my nine-year-old son if the Knicks will be playing that night. If he says yes, I set up the DVR to record the game so I don’t miss any of it. I know I’m not alone. Fans across the world, many of whom have never cared about basketball, are tuning in just to see Lin play.

Linsanity, it seems, is about more than basketball. To me, Jeremy Lin’s true gift is not his execution of the pick-and-roll (and, yes, I do now know what one is). It’s the way he waited out the many who didn’t see his talents, patiently honing his skills, zeroing in on his weaknesses, and trusting that everything would work out if he just kept working hard enough. Isn’t that what we all hope we’re doing, even in some small way?

Last night, in true junkie fashion, I scrolled through the comments on Lin’s Facebook profile. One fan wrote: “There r thousands of ppl w/exceptional talent stuck at ‘end of the bench’ like @JLin7 was 2 wks ago, never give up! #Inspiration #Makeitcount.”

I then clicked over to one of his photos, taken on November 5, 2011. In it, he’s sitting on the bench of a barely attended Golden State Warriors game. While other players are semi-reclined, looking either too relaxed or a bit frustrated, Lin leans forward, elbows on knees, a look of focused expectation on his face. Aside from the cotton T-shirt he’s wearing — probably to keep him warm as he waits for his chance to play — he looks completely in the game. And that’s what’s interesting to me about Jeremy Lin — not so much what he’s doing now, with the whole world watching, but what he was doing then, when no one cared.

Every night when the Knicks play, I nestle onto our couch, sometimes with a basket of laundry that needs folding, kids’ school forms that need signing, or email that needs tending to. I never much care which team is going to win, and I’m utterly lost when it comes to the finer points of the sport. But I watch to see what Jeremy Lin is made of, wondering if the rest of us are made of it, too.