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February 14, 2012 9:30 AM

Column Awards of the Week (2/7-2/13)

By updating RealClearSports I read hundreds of articles every week but sometimes there are particular passages that need highlighting. And to make these passages more palatable I'm doing them in award form! The awards are completely random and will change weekly.

Column Awards for slide.jpgI'm guessing you've heard a thing or two about this Jeremy Lin character in the past week. I'm guessing you've probably heard much more than you needed to. Have you downloaded his app yet (so it's actually just a Knicks app but they're marketing it like it's all about him)? Did you know he was sleeping on his brother's couch? Have you seen his epic planking picture (you know, that internet meme before Tebowing)? How about his nerdy handshake with Landry Fields? It does seem to be getting a little too much and that's a shame because it's truly an awesome story.

What's not to love about Jeremy Lin? He seems like a humble kid that wasn't offered a single scholarship from a division I school and actually had to edit and send tapes to the Ivy League to gain interest. He was fantastic at Harvard and scored 30 points and grabbed 8 boards against the 12th-ranked UConn Huskies during his senior year. Then he went undrafted. Then he attended mini camps. Then he signed with the Warriors and was cut. Later he signed with the Rockets and was cut. He was even going to be cut by the Knicks before he exploded for 25 points and 7 assists in his first start against the Nets. It's a tremendous story. But with such a story there's bound to be skeptics and there's bound to be writers searching for a new angle (as if this story needs more excitement).

The easiest comparison to make to Lin is Tim Tebow. They have both been doubted; they are both deeply religious; and they both don't quite fit the typical mold at their position. But while it's an easy comparison, it's also a lazy one. First off, Lin isn't quite as outspoken about religion. I haven't seen him praying after nailing a 3-pointer yet. Secondly, some could see comparing the two as an insult to Lin. Tebow hasn't exactly been the most accurate passer and has put up some paltry numbers before coming through in the fourth quarter. Lin has been fantastic and certainly isn't relying on the Knicks' defense to bail him out of games. But the biggest difference is that Tebow was already a media darling well before he busted out this season. He was a two-time champion with the Florida Gators and a first round pick. Lin had been all-but ignored until he got his chance on the biggest stage in the biggest city in the U.S.

But not everyone is ready to jump on the Lin bandwagon and as often is the case race is chief among the topics discussed. Buzz Bissinger hasn't been so impressed with Lin and believes his race (or more accurately, the fact that he's not black) has a lot to do with his popularity.

Linmania. Linsanity. Linsational. Linitless. If you watch ESPN SportsCenter or listen to sports talk radio or read last week's front-page story and sidebar in The New York Times, there is no contest. Better than Michael Jordan? Of course. Better than Wilt and Kobe and Shaq and LeBron? They shouldn't even be playing on the same court with Sir Lincelot.

Who in the world is saying any of this? Most of what I've read has had tempered expectations. Most identify that what he has done is amazing and unprecedented but they aren't ready to anoint him the Knicks' savior quite yet.

He has no outside shot (yes, I know, he made two three-pointers Friday night against the Lakers, but so can some schlump picked out of the crowd at halftime to win a restaurant coupon to Applebee's).

Maybe that's why the Lakers have been so bad at 3-point shooting this season. They're not recruiting at Applebee's. You think that's where Gilbert Arenas was before attending his private workout for L.A.? You know who else never really had a 3-point shot? Jason Kidd and he's a surefire hall of famer.

Because Lin is not black and not from Europe with a thick foreign accent, he fits a pervasive stereotype much closer to a white player than "the great yellow hope" pablum that too many writers and bloggers are trying to peddle. It is no mistake that he is being compared with the Denver Broncos' quarterback Tim Tebow. Both are Christian. Both hold deep religious convictions and pray after games. Both sustain the belief of fans that professional athletes who are not African-American succeed because of hard work, struggling through adversity and basically overcoming their physical deficits with nonstop determination. It is stupid, but so is life.

I'll concede his race does have something to do with his popularity. The NBA isn't stupid. They've been trying to work their way into Chinese culture for years. There are over a billion potential consumers there. Attendance and ticket prices are up and that's partially due to the attention from the Asian American community. But there was quite a lot of hype about Iman Shumpert as well. The fans called for him to get more playing time and some thought he'd be the savior of the franchise at the point guard position. Sure, the hype wasn't nearly as big as it has been for Lin but then again Shumpert didn't do anything close to what Lin has been doing.

As for being the best player in NBA history on the basis of four games, call me cynical but it seems a little much, although a ticker-tape parade down Fifth is probably in the works as we speak. He is already being declared one of the greatest undrafted free agents in history, but is he really in a category with other undrafted players such as Ben Wallace and John Starks?
Of course not. Those players had careers, not radar blips.

I don't know if you can quite call it a blip on the radar. This is more like an Earthquake. He scored more points in his first 3 starts than any other player since the NBA/ABA merger. Maybe he won't be a star and maybe he was fizzle out before the season ends but this is still a story worth embracing. This is still fantastic from a statistical and emotional standpoint. Let's just enjoy it while it lasts. I'm certainly enjoying all the horrible Lin puns and even some of the stabs at humor like this head line from Ray Kwong of Forbes, "Lin Destroys Notion That Asians Can't Drive." He's allowed to write that because he's Asian, right? Am I allowed to laugh at that? I hope so. On to the awards!


Is This Racist?
Let's play the game Tosh.0 made famous (obscurely famous...). Is this excerpt from Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune racist?: David Kahn should send Nikola Pekovic a gift basket this morning. Maybe a dessert. Whatever Serbian bouncers enjoy after a big meal, like the bones of their forefathers' enemies.

Are the majority of bouncers Serbian? And do they feast on their forefathers enemies' bones? I just don't get the analogy at all. It's offensive, right?

Stupid Idea of the Week

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press proposes that short field goals should only be worth 2 points: the NFL Competition Committee should seriously consider making a field goal of fewer than 30 yards worth two points instead of three. ... It really bothered me that New England floating a matador's cape in front of the charging Bradshaw actually constituted common sense with the Patriots leading by two points with a little more than a minute remaining in the Super Bowl. Rise to the occasion. Take a stand. Make a stop. If you don't and lose, at least there's some solace that you left everything on the field.

So this is brought up because Bradshaw was supposed to take a knee instead of scoring the final touchdown in the Super Bowl. But what about teams taking a knee at the 14 yard line in order to ensure that their field goal is worth 3 points? This would cause a ton more problems than it would solve. And yet - I love it. No, not the idea. But I love the article. Hey, it's better than reading another piece about Eli Manning being better or worse than Tom Brady or his brother, Peyton. A stupid idea is better than a retread idea.

Best Comparison of Jeffrey Dahmer to Jim Calhoun's Huskies
David Whitley of the Sporting News didn't think UConn's proposal of punishment was enough to keep them from being banned for next year's NCAA Tournament: Here's [Connecticut President Susan] Herbst's take on [the NCAA not specifying the rules before dishing out the punishment]. "Regulatory bodies should not change rules retroactively," she said. "The NCAA should focus on the future, so that people have a chance to work toward positive change. They should not dredge up the past, and then hurt innocent parties of the present."
If prosecutors couldn't dredge up the past, Jeffrey Dahmer would still be roaming the streets of Milwaukee. Dredging is what investigations do. It would be nice if the innocent weren't punished. Sadly, the NCAA can't go after a guy like Reggie Bush after he's left USC.

Yes! Let's equate killing and raping nearly 20 people with students doing poorly in school. I know he's not directly comparing the two but it's a pretty insane analogy. It's not as if there weren't rules on the books that killing and raping was illegal and that was Dahlmer's defense. UConn didn't know what the standards were going to be and while they still should've been monitoring their students more closely, they weren't exactly having sex with dead bodies either.

Slam of the Week

Will Leitch thinks Gus Johnson has become a terrible broadcaster: He is, essentially, a hired gun of hot air, sort of the Jeff George of broadcasting. Watching a Gus Johnson game anymore is like taking whippets: There's an immediate, quick high, but it's gone instantly and all you've done is kill a bunch of brain cells really fast.

"Rise and fire! Count it!"

Completely Ignorant
Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel isn't a fan of NBA players playing in the Olympics and thinks it has lost some of its luster: Having NBA players in the Olympics has lost its appeal on a number of levels, including the reluctance of the best Americans to participate anymore.

The best players aren't participating? Huh. That's in STARK contrast to the opinion of Sean Deveney who believes the 2012 squad could possibly be better than the 1992 Dream Team. I'm going to have to side more with Deveney on this one. CP3, Derrick Rose, Kobe, Wade, LeBron, Durant, Carmelo, Bosh, Dwight Howard among others? Exactly which top players no longer want to participate?

More Angst Over Probably Losing Dwight Howard
George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel isn't happy Dwight Howard is probably going to leave Orlando and uses it as an opportunity to blast the NBA and praise the NFLThe NFL thrives because teams can keep their stars. The NBA flounders because it can't.

This isn't why the NFL thrives. Last year 16 NFL games didn't sell out and were blacked out. 11 of those were from the Bengals and Bucs. That means that teams like the Browns, Colts, Vikings and Rams had the majority (if not all) of their games sell out. Besides Adrian Peterson there's not a bona fide star on those teams. Not to mention the fact that none of them were competitive so don't even make the argument about parity. The reason the NFL is so popular is because it's only 17 weeks long and usually just a couple days a week and mainly on the weekends. It's the perfect sport for fantasy and is much easier to follow than others.

The funny thing is that the Miami Heat fired blanks on their first try last season, and the New York Knicks _ despite the new-look spark from Jeremy Lin -- are simply mediocre. So the star-system remains flawed, all the while leaving other teams decimated.

Wait. So do stars matter or not? Is he arguing that stars like Dwight Howard are of vital importance but when you combine these vital cogs they are no longer valuable? It seems like a stretch to me and given that the Heat made it to the Finals in the first year with the Big 3 and currently have one of the best records in the league, I don't think it's fair to say that the star system doesn't yield results.

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