Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jeremy Lin comparisons; Notes on the Islanders, swimming, Tiger and NCAA Tournament

Anyone who has ever read this blog knows I rarely write about the NBA. The last time I really cared about the league was about the same time that the Knicks won their second and last title in 1973.

I watched Magic and Bird and Jordan but not with any great passion. Appreciation yes, passion not so much. I think about the only time I’ve ever gotten really excited about a game in the last 20 years was when Steve Kerr made the clinching three pointer for the Bulls in 1997.

I do, occasionally, tune in when I’m home to see just how poorly The Washington Wizards can play on a given night. Most of their games should be on Comedy Central. That said, Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats are worse.

Right now though it is impossible to be a sports fan of any kind and not be aware of Jeremy Lin—I won’t use the phrase Lin-sanity because it is the kind of silly cliché that trivializes something that is truly remarkable. Let’s just say that what the kid is doing is amazing and leave it at that.

Let’s NOT compare him to Tim Tebow because, other than the fact that he is also a devout Christian, the two of them have nothing in common. Tebow was a star in high school who was recruited by just about everyone. He won a Heisman Trophy, was part of two national championship teams at Florida and—whether the so-called experts agreed or not—he WAS a first round draft choice. He’s been a star all his life. The only thing that accorded him any sort of underdog status was the constant braying about his throwing motion. Ever see Jim Furyk swing a golf club? Does he look like a U.S. Open champion?

Tebow has always been a good to great football player. Do I think he’s the next Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Eli Manning? No. But he’s proven he can play quarterback in the NFL just as he proved he could play in high school and then in college and everything about his resume says, ‘star.’

Jeremy Lin? He was right in Stanford’s backyard and the basketball coaches averted their eyes. He sent tapes to all The Ivy League schools and most of them said, ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ Boston College Coach Steve Donahue, who was then the coach at Cornell, readily admits he and his coaches didn’t think he was good enough to play for them coming out of high school.

Lin was offered a guaranteed spot on the basketball team by two schools: Harvard and Brown. He went to Harvard to play for Coach Frank Sullivan and then played for Tommy Amaker after Sullivan was (unfairly) fired by Harvard after Lynn’s freshman season. He was an All-Ivy Player for Amaker—not player-of-the-year—All-Ivy. He was undrafted, cut by two teams and a month ago was playing in the NBA Development League. Only injuries to several Knicks guards gave him the chance he has now converted into stardom.

No one knows if this will be Lin’s 15 days of fame or if he will turn out to be Kurt Warner, who went from bagging groceries to a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Will the league adjust to him? Will the magic wear off when Carmelo Anthony returns and the ball stops moving whenever it touches his hands?

Who knows?

What we do know is this: Lin has come from nowhere to somewhere his entire career. We know that he has made Asian-American proud with his play. The best sign I’ve seen in a long time was being held by an Asian-American the other night: It said, “Who says Asians can’t drive?”

Is Lin being hyped to the max everywhere he goes because he’s Asian-American? Because no one recruited him? Because he went to Harvard? Because he’s a devout Christian? Because he was cut twice?

Yes to all of the above.

Not because he’s with the Knicks—I’m not going to jump back on that bandwagon after all these years; I’ll keep hoping the Islanders can keep improving enough to sneak into the playoffs somehow—but because he’s a great story, I hope he keeps it going. God knows after the lockout and given the general quality of basketball in this play-every-night season, the NBA could use a legitimate feel-good story.

Anything that keeps people from talking about LeBron James for a few days can’t be a bad thing.


Catching up on a few notes:

--Someone asked the other day if I thought the Islanders could make the playoffs. They’re certainly playing better but losing at home to Florida doesn’t help things at all. They’re going to have to win about two-of-every-three from here on in and that’s tough. Last night was a very good win in Winnipeg but tonight in St. Louis will be one of those games where stealing one point would be a huge victory.

--Master nationals in Indy next spring? Now THAT should give me incentive to get into decent shape. Swim all day, gorge myself at St. Elmo’s at night. Perfect.

--To my friend Bill and the other Tiger-does-no-wrong defenders. 1. He said he was playing for the money in Abu Dhabi only when asked and knowing that everyone knew it anyway. On his web site his initial explanation was, ‘wanting to see new places.’ BTW, how’d you like him marking and refusing to get off the stage for Phil Mickelson on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach on Sunday the way every other golfer on tour would have done for another player who is clearly going to win a tournament? Forget me, every single player on tour noticed that one.

--What does it say about the NCAA that it allowed Jeff Hathaway to remain as chairman of the basketball committee even after he ‘resigned,’ as athletic director at Connecticut. I like Jeff personally, I’ve known him since he was one of Lefty Driesell’s managers 30 years ago, but he was in charge of a program that was allowed to play in last year’s NCAA Tournament while on probation and, as of right now, is not eligible for next year’s NCAA Tournament because of glaring academic deficiencies. The Big East created some bogus ‘consulting,’ job for Hathaway this year so he’d still be eligible to be on the committee and retain the chairmanship. If Hathaway had gone off the committee and his spot had been taken by a new Big East rep, the new person would not have been chairman. So, even though there are no politics on the committee—we know this because this is what we are told, right?—The Big East made sure it would not lose it’s chairmanship. Beyond that, after Gene Smith was allowed to remain as chairman last year even while his house at Ohio State was burning to the ground (see Tressel, Jim) it is remarkable that the NCAA would allow Hathaway to retain his chairmanship given Connecticut’s recent track record.

Then again, it isn’t remarkable. It’s the NCAA.

My newest book is now available at your local bookstore, or you can order on-line here: One on One-- Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game 


Kyle Rovinsky said...

You are the first journalist I've seen to comment on Tiger's marking on the 18th. Thank you!

Erik J. Barzeski said...

Uhm, John, Tiger's group wasn't the last group. There was no "stage" for Mickelson to use. They were already holding up the guys in the fairway.

Plus, if Phil misses his putt and Wi holes his shot (he nearly did), they tie. A win was not guaranteed. And the last thing Phil probably wanted was to see Tiger nearly three-jack from three feet.

Your loathing of Tiger Woods is much stronger than the support others show him.

Michael said...

I recommend going to Nationals, John. The IUPUI natatorium was one of my all time favorite places to compete. In my opinion, it's Mecca for swimming here in the US. Don't pass it up.

John M said...

John I usually agree with you on your observations regarding Tiger Woods but not this time. I read One on One and really enjoyed it. The chapter on Tiger was particularly interesting. I actually found my copy of The First Coming and read it a gain just to compare your take then and now. You deserve a lot of credit for being on point back then. As much as I think you are generally right in your take on Tiger I think you are wrong in this case. In fact I think Phil may have been the one using a little gamesmanship. Looking at the tape, as Tiger is approaching his ball he is clearly looking at Phil probably to say he will putt out. It is Phil who is locked in on his putt and doesn’t even lift his head to look at Tiger. Tiger seeing this marks his ball and differs to Phil and his pre-putt routine. I would not put it past Phil to want to hole out , let the crowd roar in recognition of his victory and then make Tiger put out with the cheers ringing in his ear.

As I said I am not one to give Tiger a pass on anything but in this case I don’t think he deserves to be criticized.

vidstudent said...

I made the mistake of looking down at previous posts, which leads to the following musing: Is this the same Jeff Hathaway that Maryland wasn't able to sign as athletic director, and, if so, did they luck out by not doing so or did they possibly notice something?