It’s pretty clear, at this point, that New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has become, in the words of The New York Daily News, an “evangelical Christian icon.” It is hard to discuss his fanatical popularity in the heartland of America — think NFL jersey sales — without taking into account this aspect of his life and personality.
However, inquiring minds have wanted to know how well the Tebow persona will play in the bright lights of New York City. Face it. It’s a logical question.
This brings me, of course, to the current debates about whether the New York Knicks should or should not write that big check to retain point guard Jeremy Lin. After all, he is phenomenally popular, right, across the nation and also in New York? Of course, a big part of this is his personal charisma and his marketability in an age in which Asia is becoming more and more powerful in all matters multimedia.
However, Lin is also a born-again, evangelical Christian and, in a quieter way, almost as candid about his faith as Tebow. Does this have something to do with those statements that Lin might be a better fit in Houston than in New York?
So check out the online petition asking fans to encourage Knicks management to keep Lin in the Big Apple. What jumps out at you?
Jeremy Lin is the best thing that has happened to New York Knicks basketball in the last 20 years. With Jeremy Lin as the team’s leader, the team won. He averaged 18 points and 7 assists as a starter — All-Star level performance. He has the largest fan base of any player in the NBA, by an order of magnitude. He’s got the personality and character that fans love. He’s the one player the New York Knicks need to keep, not lose. Don’t let Jeremy Lin go — match the Rockets’ offer.
Anyone want to parse the word “character” in that context?
All of this is big, big news in New York City, of course, including in The New York Times. The headline on one story there is rather provocative: “For Fans of Knicks, Conflict Over Lin.”
So what is going on here?
Lin electrified Madison Square Garden and became a global star in February when he seized the Knicks’ point guard job and sparked a seven-game winning streak, saving their season. His made-for-Broadway story was irresistible: Harvard-educated. Undrafted. Overlooked. Waived twice. The son of Taiwanese immigrants. An Asian-American in a league with no others.
Lin’s No. 17 jersey became a top seller in days. “Linsanity” T-shirts flew off the racks at local sporting-good stores. Sports Illustrated put him on back-to-back covers. “Saturday Night Live” devoted skits to him. Restaurants named sandwiches and shakes after him. Creating Lin puns became a sport unto itself.
But Knicks fans are a tormented, anxious lot, scarred by years of bad basketball, bloated payrolls and underachieving players. The thought of devoting $25 million to a virtual rookie with a 26-game résumé strikes some fans as less than sane. Others cannot bear to see Lin leave, no matter the cost. …
Outrage and despair filled blogs, message boards and Twitter timelines over the weekend, when word circulated that the Knicks were likely to let Lin go. Fans threatened to stop watching games, to cancel their season tickets, even to — gasp — switch allegiances to the Brooklyn Nets.
So what are the key factors here, the emotional buttons that are being pushed?
Obviously (I mean, obviously) I am not saying that religion is the major factor in this drama, as opposed to Lin’s soaring popularity with Knicks fans from various lands in Asia — which almost certainly has entered into Houston’s decision to sign him. However, I am asking if the Tebow-esque faith factor is an element of the story that is worth mentioning.
I would imagine that the Rocket’s management team is taking this factor into account. I wonder how many Asian-American churches there are in greater Houston? Meanwhile, is religion playing any role in the Knicks discussions, in the perception of tensions in the locker room?
Just asking. I did think that it was interesting that this side of Linsanity was not worthy of even a few words in the Times coverage. Maybe it just didn’t fit into the story.