Lin story latest in sports’ long line of “out of nowheres”


(YouTube video courtesy user T490MP)


A new chapter was written last night, in Toronto, raising the bar even higher where the Legend of Lin is concerned – that being the story of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin – who, improbably enough, capped off a furious comeback by the Knicks against the Toronto Raptors by scoring the last six points of the game, the last three of those coming from a top of the arc, mano-a-mano showdown with the Raptors’ Jose Calderon as the clock wound down to less than a second to play.


It’s been all over the news of late; if you haven’t managed to hear some reference to “Lin-sanity,” or some other concocted Lin-neologism, well, you just haven’t been paying attention. 


Over the last two weeks or so, the sports world has been on fire with the previously unheralded Lin’s performances.  The previously sputtering Knicks have won their last six consecutive games, of which the last five have featured the Harvard product (last Crimson athlete to have a successful pro career?  Former Cincinnati Bengals punter/wide receiver Pat McInally) as starting point guard.  He’s set a post-merger record by scoring 136 points in his first five starts; next most after that was the 129 posted by one Shaquille O’Neal, no slouch at scoring.  (Shaq’s mark is tied with Hall of Famer Dan Issel.)


It’s not like there haven’t been athletes before who have burst on the scene like supernovae, though.  Think back to 1981, when a pudgy Latino lefthander with an unusual windup and a devastating breaking ball landed on the Major League Baseball scene, seemingly out of nowhere:  Fernandomania.  In those pre-Internet, pre-social media days, however, it took some time for the media hype to build nationally, even as the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela was developing a name for himself in Los Angeles, a major market.  More recently, another mania – Nomomania – took hold in LA, over the arrival of yet another imported Dodger pitcher, Hideo Nomo, but this time you could see it coming, since in 1995, the commercial Internet was in its infancy.


But to say all that is by no means to lessen the impact of Lin’s story today; nay, it’s the underdogs, the guys who seemingly come out of nowhere every so often, that make sports such a joy to follow. 


Whether it be Valenzuela or Nomo in baseball; or quarterback Kurt Warner, who came out of arena football to win a Super Bowl with the NFL St. Louis Rams, or a Heisman Trophy winning Denver Bronco quarterback – like Valenzuela, also lefthanded and with an unconventional throwing style – who wears his faith on his sleeve; or an unrecruited out of high school, lightly heralded in college, Asian-American second year guard making the most of an opportunity presented in the NBA, it adds to our ever increasing pop-culture lexicon, and the legends that make sports great.


Will Jeremy Lin come back to earth at some point in the future?  He has to; what goes up most assuredly must come back down.  It’s the Law of Averages at work.  And, sure, we’ve seen it before.  Without a doubt, we’ll see it again.  But that surely doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the hype and hoopla whenever it happens.  After all, life would be that much less, well, Lin-teresting without it.

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