Over the last couple of weeks or so, one athlete has garnered a lot more attention in the media than anyone else on the planet. If you don’t pay attention to sports, or don’t follow them as closely as I do, you would have had to have been living in a cave in the middle of the jungle to have not heard about this guy. Even Marlee Matlin has heard of him, and she can’t hear a thing.
That person is Jeremy Lin.
Lin has become a sensation in the sports world thanks to his recent success as the Knicks’ point guard in their run-and-gun system. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he was able to be successful under the microscope that is the New York media (and without Sr. Chucks-A-Lot Carmelo Anthony), but he has become a fan-favorite throughout the world practically overnight.
Is it because of his Asian-American nationality? It is because of his basketball story, where he averaged less than ten minutes in 29 games with Golden State last year and was forced to sleep on his teammate’s couch? Is it because he has done this with the Knicks, who have been irrelevant for the last decade or so? Who knows which it is exactly. But what can’t be argued is the fact that he has become the sports world’s number one story over the last two months.
Now I am not here to offer my opinion on his situation per say, but a situation that has arisen from his instantaneous success.
Recently, an ESPN editor was fired for typing an ‘inappropriate and possibly racist’ headline on the side of the screen. While trying to think of a headline for Lin and the Knicks’ struggles in which they alternated wins and losses after going on a tear and winning seven straight, the editor used perhaps one of the most cliché phrases in the English language: “Chink in the armor?”
Makes sense right? After a few weeks of the Knicks playing well and stringing together a bunch of wins, was it possible that the other teams had caught on to what they were doing and may have exposed some weaknesses? I am sure that is what the editor was thinking.
But no. America, who in my opinion has become entirely too race sensitive in a time where race shouldn’t really matter – at least with my generation - picked out one word from that headline and immediately related it negatively to Lin’s Asian heritage.
Now if that is the first thing that pops into someone’s head upon reading that headline then I am ashamed of our culture. We are supposed to be 60 years removed from all the racial hate in this country and yet it still somehow finds its way into almost any topic.
At first glance of that headline, in no way shape or form do I immediately say to myself, “Oh my, they said chink. Are they making fun of him? Are they saying he wears armor? Are they basically saying he has ancient ancestors that were once a part of the Ming Dynasty? Is he secretly a ninja?” (Stereotypical comments made in jest).
No. Being the level-headed person that I am, I listen to the context in which the headline is being used and understand what point the editor is trying to get across. I don’t see the word next to Lin’s face and instantly stop comprehending what is going on and think there is some underlying racial plot.
Asians are stereotypically known for being good at math. Are they? I have no idea. If they are then good for them. But say the Knicks get eliminated from the playoffs and ESPN uses a headline that reads, “Mathematically eliminated” and they show Lin turning the ball over (again)? Are people going to flip out and say it is a racial comment? Or will they be smart enough to know that there is no pun intended and the Knicks are simply out of the playoff run? I would hope the latter, but who can really tell considering the recent turn of events.
In the end, I just find it ridiculous that everything is immediately turned into a racial issue. Was it maybe a bad choice of words and should the editor have probably noticed a possible problem? Yes. But even so, look at the phrase in its context. It obviously wasn’t meant to defame anyone and shouldn’t have cost the man his job.