Lin-Sanity, 'Busters, Grammys, and Other Stuff
February 20, 2012

A question to my Asian-American family members and friends, is this photo offensive? Even if you do not follow sports, you may have by now heard of Jeremy Lin. Even if you do follow sports, you probably didn't know who he was until a couple of weeks ago. After bouncing around, trying to make it in the NBA, Lin was named starting pointing guard of the New York Knicks, and led the beleaguered franchise to seven straight wins. The term “Lin-sanity” was born, and the story has taken off like a rocket.

After riding the Knicks bench all season, Lin got to start February 4 against New Jersey, and scored 25 points and dished out 7 assists. He has started every game since, averaging 25 points and 9.2 assists. You've probably seen all the Lin puns, and Saturday Night Live even opened their show this week with a Lin sketch, where sportscasters doled out one Lin pun after another (Lin-sational, Lin-credible, the Lin-vasion, etc.).

There aren't very many “kid out of nowhere” stories in the NBA, but Lin, who is from the East Bay, fits that mold for two reasons. He went to Harvard (there are very few Ivy Leaguers in the NBA because those schools don't give out nearly as many athletic scholarships as other universities do), and he is Asian (Yao Ming, who is from China, has retired. Lin's family is from Taiwan).

Some of the references to his ethnicity have garnered national attention, and even been criticized for being racist. In the case of the this photo, the MSG network, which televises Knicks games, had this on the screen as one of their graphics. One major website called this “appalling”. I don't think I'm racist, but I thought it was clever. The New York Post ran a back page picture of Lin with the caption “Amasian” (a takeoff of the "Amazin'" New York Mets). That headline has also drawn criticism.

There was one incident (Lin-cident) that definitely crossed the line, however. When the Knicks' winning streak came to an end, and Lin lost as a starter for the first time. ESPN, on it's ScoreCenter mobile-phone ap, ran the headline “Chink in the armor”. The headline was reportedly only up for about a half-hour during the middle of the night before it was taken down, but it was tweeted around, and embarrassed the network. ESPN issued an apology, and I believe the writer of that headline was fired.

But back to the previous two examples, can't you mention one's ethnicity without being racist? When Fernando Valenzuela completed his no-hitter against St. Louis in 1990, Vin Scully exclaimed “If you have a sombrero, throw it to the sky.” No one ever screamed racism there. I've been reading a lot about the 1960s lately, and it has occurred to me that society of today is the most tolerant and accepting in human history. I know there's still work to be done, but if that's the case, why is everyone so (Lin) sensitive?

More hoops: I'm not sure if it's ESPN, or who gets credit for the “Bracket Buster” idea, but I think it's a great one. I enjoy watching the so-called “mid major” or smaller schools playing against each other. I root for the teams in the west, so it's too bad that Nevada, St. Mary's, and Long Beach State all lost. Long Beach at Creighton was the best game of the day.

Blake Griffin's dunks have made Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawlor a star. You can hear his calls of Griffin's jams on several ESPN highlights and NBA promos. There was also a nice feature about Lawlor in the Los Angeles Times last week. It's about time Lawlor gets some attention after all these years. A broadcaster's note about Lawlor—he never wears a headset like almost all other TV announcers do. He has an earpiece, but uses a hand-held microphone. Old school.

I just realized a few days ago that the Academy Awards and the NBA All-Star Game are on at the same time. That's dumb.

Oscar Countdown: I doubt I'll have my pre-Oscar movie fest like I did last year, but I watched The Help last night. What an incredible movie. Can you believe wealthy white women would have a black maid practically raise their children, but not let the help use their bathroom? I haven't seen the others, but I'm rooting for Viola Davis to win Best Actress. Octavia Spencer had some of the film's best lines.

Grammy recap: I didn't write about the Grammy Awards last week, but two words can sum it up. Adele won. The woman who had to have surgery to restore her voice swept the three major awards, taking home Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year. She also won for best Pop Solo Performance.

You knew with Whitney Houston's death the night before, that there would be some awkward moments in the show, but there was really only one. If I was the producer, I would have pushed back Bruce Springsteen's opening number. After his song had the place jumping, host L.L. Cool J. segued into Houston, saying “there's no way around this, there's been a death in our family.” He then led a prayer. The show could have opened cold with that, and then gone to the Springsteen number.

The best thing about the Grammys (why isn't it spelled Grammies?) is the live performances. During the three-and-a-half hour show, I counted only nine awards presented, but 17 performances. And the lineup was more than first rate. In order, Bruce Springsteen, Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys/Bonnie Raitt, Chris Brown, Foo Fighters, Rhianna/Coldplay, Maroon 5/Foster the People/Beach Boys (Beach Boys Reunion), Paul McCartney/Diana Krall/Joe Walsh, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Adele, The Band Perry/Blake Shelton/Glen Campbell (tribute to Campbell), Carrie Underwood/Tony Bennett, Jennifer Hudson (in memory of Whitney Houston), Chris Brown/Foo Fighters/Deadmouse, Nicki Minaj, and McCartney again to close the show (with Springsteen, Walsh, and many others joining him on stage).

More sports stuff: Have you ever won an item at an auction when all you really wanted to do was bid up the price? That may have been what the Oakland A's accomplished this past week when they landed Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. The A's have traded three All-Star pitchers this winter, let their top home run hitter depart through free agency, and have essentially given up being competitive until they get a new ballpark somewhere. The Miami Marlins were considered the favorite to land the prized outfielder.

It looks like the A's are about to sign former Dodger, prolific hitter, and all-time whack job Manny Ramirez. General Manager Billy Beane was quoted as saying he could be useful as an example to their younger players. An example of what? See, they make an Academy Award-nominated movie about you and get Brad Pitt to play you, then you go nuts.

It's a shame that the talk after Pebble Beach was more about Tiger Woods than Phil Mickelson. What a final round by Phil. Too bad he couldn't pull out the playoff in LA this weekend.

And finally: Happy Birthday to my cousin Diane Hong. I hope she doesn't mind me saying she had a big one Sunday. When I was a kid, I always hated the fact that no matter how far you extended my family on either side, I was always the youngest. Now I'm the only one in my generation under 50. You know I love you Dianey.

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