Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jeremy Lin: Living Up to His Name

Jeremy Lin lays up on the Wizards. Image from Getty Images

Jeremy Lin: Living Up to His Name
a bleachers' brew exclusive by (my rebound magazine colleague) mike yu

You don’t have to be a hardcore NBA fan to have heard about the evolving Cinderella story of the New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin. How can you miss it? Sports TV and the Web are awash with highlights and stories of what he has done in the past three Knick games -- all wins, by the way, thanks to their new starting Asian-American point guard.

Given that Lin’s story has been covered way too many times to count, there is no need to rehash the stories about his humble Palo Alto beginnings, the struggle to gain respect and break the Asian stereotype in college, and his bouncing from West to East in his young two-year NBA career. I even bet that the plays on his name like “Linsanity”, “Linspiring” or “The Knicks are winnin’ by Lin-nin’” are getting old faster than Greg Oden’s wrinkles. What we can do, though, is take an angle on the story that hasn’t been done yet. Let’s try to answer the question “Who is Jeremy Lin?” in another, more unique way.

Names are an extremely important part of Chinese culture. Given names are chosen quite carefully and very often contain the dreams and hopes parents have for their children. And often enough, in some form or fashion, the meaning of one’s name does come true through some sort of positive, psychological self-fulfillment; the power of positive thinking, in effect. That is why, for example, a very popular Chinese name for young girls is mei (美), which denotes beauty. A popular boy’s name is li (力), which means strength. My own name contains the character jun (俊), which implies handsomeness.

OK, so sometimes, it doesn’t really work the way it’s supposed to. For Jeremy Lin, however, after his breakout performances in the past week of this truncated NBA season, you just have to sit back and marvel at how prophetic his Chinese name is: shu hao (書豪). It has taken 23 years for his parents’ wishes to come to fruition, but what a way for them to come true, indeed.

Shu translates directly as “book”. Although not very common as a name, the choice for this word to be part of one’s name implies having the dream to become learned, wise, and smart. As a Harvard graduate, there’s no denying that Jeremy has the brains. But more importantly, his basketball smarts have been on display for the whole world to witness, and he has somehow put some rhythm and rhyme into the dysfunctional Knicks’ fast paced offense.

The second character in his name – hao -- means heroic. Can there be a more appropriate name than that? Jeremy Lin, rising from punch line status and relative obscurity, has single-handedly brought life back into New York’s season. Before his explosion onto the Madison Square Garden stage, the Knicks were reeling with a dismal 8-15 win-loss record. He has since led them to three straight wins (albeit against sub-quality teams) and are just half a game behind the eighth place Milwaukee Bucks for a spot in the playoffs. It’s early in the season, but there’s no denying that there is a palpable jig in the Knicks’ collective dance now. He’s brought the team to life, he’s brought the fans to life, and he’s bought at least a few more weeks for Mike D’Antoni to prove his mettle as the head coach of one of the most lucrative franchises in the NBA.

The Knicks’ next game is critical in determining Lin’s true worth. He will face Kobe Bryant and a proud Los Angeles Lakers bunch that is slowly building a cohesive defensive character under first-year head coach Mike Brown. Kobe’s team is also coming off fresh from a momentum- and morale-building overtime win against their archrival Boston Celtics. Will the Lakers allow Lin to take the game over just as he has in the past three by either slashing uncontested into the lane for a fancy lay-up or dishing off to teammates off a pick-and-roll or on the wings? Or will Lin finally come to grips with the fact that it takes more than a few impressive performances to play at the consistent high level required in this tough, dog-eat-dog American basketball league?

I’m betting that Lin comes back down to earth fairly quickly, and that his numbers will slowly average out. But, he has earned the right to play with the big boys, and if thrust into the right system to fit his game (just like New York’s), he will have a solid career from hereon.

Come game time between the Lakers and the Knicks, I can’t help but root for the (relatively) little guy, the guy who has inspired millions of hoops fans around the world and has brought a fresh, feel-good story to the table. God knows our world needs a regular infusion of heroes. If only for this, I truly hope that Jeremy Lin keeps on living up to what his Chinese name stands for, and continues to “shu” the world “hao” it’s done.

I know, I know. Cheap pun. Can’t blame a guy for riding on the Lin bandwagon, right?

Note: As Jeremy Lin’s family is from Taiwan, I have used traditional Chinese characters instead of Simplified Chinese.


Additional reading on Jeremy Lin in my Monday here.

1 comment:

  1. Jeremy Lin and Gary David remind me of each other!