Understanding Linsanity: 'He Makes Us All a Little More Free to Dream'


I think you're on to something. Lin personifies the American Dream, at least the part of the dream that doesn't involve winning the lottery and/or being cast in a reality TV series: namely, that with hard work, pluck, faith (in God, humanity's fundamental decency, Ronald Reagan's metaphoric morning, the liberating power of the latest Lady Gaga track, whatever), and a relentlessly optimistic never-say-die attitude lifted from our overstuffed shelves of self-help manuals, anyone in America can become a self-made success story.

Thing is, I think Lin's tale also personifies the negative image of said dream, not to mention its attendant anxieties. Call it the American Toss n' Turn, the sinking feeling that keeps us up at night: a nagging, collective fear that toil, talent and chutzpah aren't enough, that we'll never get the proverbial big break, the Disney-esque one moment to shine and show the world exactly what we can do. Because deep down, everyone knows that you can't get there from here, not by your lonesome. Somebody somewhere has to give you a shot. And not just any shot. The right shot.

Consider: In high school, Lin was the California state player of the year—and didn't receive a single Division-I scholarship offer. At Harvard, Lin was a star, both within the Ivy League and against big boy out-of-conference competitors like Connecticut. Pro scouts failed to bite. I personally saw Lin play No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall to a mano-y-mano draw in a summer league game—granted, summer in Las Vegas isn't January in Madison Square Garden—and yet Lin was cut by two NBA teams and came thisclose to getting dumped by the New York Knicks.

Of course, I don't judge talent evaluators too harshly for missing on Lin; given major minutes, he might have been a mediocre washout with teams like Houston and Golden State. Coach Mike D'Antoni's Knicks, on the other hand, seem like a perfect fit, running a point-guard friendly system that also enabled career-best seasons from Raymond Felton and Chris Duhon. Indeed, the dirty little secret of Linsanity is that it almost didn't happen, that it took the Knicks being desperate and Lin being available and a huge helping of sheer dumb luck. Right place, right time, right player, right opportunity. Which is how the world works. By and large, though, Americans hate acknowledging that—it cuts against our frontier mentality, our national song of self-determination, our inflated sense of efficacy.

Of course, denial doesn't make the luck factor any less real. Opportunity doesn't always knock. How many other Lins are out there, dreaming a little less vividly, still crashing on someone's couch?

Hampton, what do you think? Does Linsanity say something about our national psyche? Our love of easy puns? And are you as worried about Lin's penchant for turnovers as I am?


Jump to comments
Presented by

Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgment, and what it means to love their bodies

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Entertainment

Just In