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|The Wonderful, Unlikely Online Hive of Jeremy Lin
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|Author:||TheSmoket [ Sat Apr 08, 2017 9:07 pm ]|
|Post subject:||The Wonderful, Unlikely Online Hive of Jeremy Lin|
The Wonderful, Unlikely Online Hive of Jeremy Lin
BY ALEX WONG
From conservative political analysts to moms from the South, the Brooklyn Nets guard has one of the most hardcore and diverse fanbases on the Internet.
It happens all the time online. You tweet about a particular athlete, and their hive appears in droves, whether it’s hitting your mentions on Twitter, or spamming the Instagram comments section with a particular emoji accompanied by some very strong words. At its most extreme: an argument about Kobe Bryant on Christmas Day that resulted in a Twitter user getting in his car and driving 35-minutes to Temecula to fight a stranger. In sports, there are plenty of superstars who inspire that kind of reaction.
Online, though, there’s arguably no fan base more fervent Jeremy Lin’s. Any mention of him means an immediate reaction, whether it’s fans arguing about where he ranks among the NBA's top point guards in your Twitter mentions, or leaving longform messages in the comments section of blog posts. Considering Lin’s improbable rise five years ago thanks to Linsanity, is no surprise. But the best part of the Jeremy Lin Hive is that it spans the world and people of all backgrounds. You might think, and to some extent you are correct, that being the first American player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, Lin’s fans would comprise of a lot of Asians around the world. But they are not just young kids who want to be in the NBA; it turns out Lin is a role model for, well, everyone.
Shirley Lo, a recently retired hospital pharmacist, was originally born in Beijing, moved to the United States after graduating from high school in Hong Kong, and now lives in California. She has been following Lin’s story since he was with the Knicks. “It’s not only that he’s Asian, but to me he’s a complete person, a complete individual in his beliefs, in how he approaches life, and how he stays true to himself,” Shirley says. “He has charisma and not a lot of Chinese people in general have it.” In New York: Joe, who was born in China and is now in his forties, started a website devoted to Lin on the day he signed with the Brooklyn Nets. “People look up to him as a role model and encouraging younger kids,” Joe says. “You don’t have to be a traditional Asian role of being a doctor.” Lisa Tarng, an accountant in her fifties who migrated from Taiwan to the States, says she stopped paying attention to the NBA after Michael Jordan retired… and then Linsanity happened, and Lisa became a basketball fan again.
Then there’s Gwen Campbell, based in Chicago, who has no problem admitting she’s the odd one of the group. “I’m the 50-year-old Southern white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes,” she says, laughing. Gwen calls the online community wonderfully diverse, and did a meet-up with other Lin fans in New York last year. “It was like meeting old friends in high school,” she says. Gwens attends several games each season, and is drawn to Lin for a lot of reasons. “He’s just a genuine person,” Gwen says. “There’s not a lot of fake to him. This is a kid I could have over and I know I would enjoy his company. If my daughter were not married, I would be like yeah, come over and date my daughter! He passes the test.”
Lin has also inspired plenty of content across the web. Paul Villarreal, who lives in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, has worked in sports media since 1997. After Linsanity, Paul started making game report videos of Lin’s performance on his YouTube channel, Conservative News Media, where he also peppers in political analysis of the Trump administration. The editing process for these Lin videos take four to six hours, and Paul isn’t getting any notoriety or making money off the process, but it help fans—especially those overseas—who tune in to watch Lin and might not know about the sport of basketball, to learn the NBA. “That’s important to me,” Paul says. His videos had reached Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and other places in Asia. “It would be even bigger except YouTube is blocked in China,” Paul says.
Linsanity reinvigorated plenty of people’s interest in sports, including Nathan Gottlieb, a long-time New York Knicks beat writer turned mystery novel writer. Gottlieb remembers when Lin was just a benchwarmer with the Knicks who had a breakout game against the Nets. “I write novels. I’m a storyteller. I love good stories,” Nathan says. “His remarkable character, his humbleness, his love for fans and the game, that just made me like him more. Lin restored my love of not only hoops, but of sports. I was a born-again sports fan thanks to Lin. He reminded me of the little kid in me that loved sports.” Nathan started tweeting exclusively about Lin, and estimates that up to 80 percent of his Twitter followers are Asian, who have helped Nathan understand Lin’s impact to his culture. “It was a big education for white bread me,” he says.
The hive converges in person and online, and it’s given Lin one of the largest followings among NBA players. After signing with the Nets, many of them congregated at NetsDaily, a team blog, where Anthony Puccio is in his fourth season covering the team. “I gained like 40 followers within the first hour of Lin signing with the Nets,” he says. “It makes covering a last place team with no draft picks pretty fun…until you criticize him.”
Last year, for example, Hsui Kuei started to notice Lin was being treated unfairly by NBA referees. Plenty of hard contact, whether it was from Kobe or Carmelo Anthony, that would otherwise be deemed flagrant fouls were being uncalled or ignored. “That was during one month,” Hsui says, “and three times flagrant fouls didn’t get called.” Lin fans online started discussing this in group chats and private messages, and Hsui decided to put together a video of all the calls. The YouTube video, which has over 2 million views to date, prompted a response from the NBA, who stood by their officials. Lin also responded to the video and was thankful it had been brought to the league’s attention.
“I don’t think they respect Jeremy,” Hsui says. As for whether the refereeing has improved this season, Hsui says she needs to watch more games and will continue monitoring. After the flagrant foul video went viral, Shirley connected with retired NBA referee Ronnie Nunn, who agreed that a lot of the missed fouls should have been called. The treatment of Lin on the court spoke to a larger cultural issue to Shirley. “He has experienced bias throughout his career and being an immigrant myself I’m well familiar with that,” Shirley says. “My two children were born here and they suffered through some of the same things. When my daughter was young, she was told my our neighbor on our street to go back to China. I got upset about that. [Jeremy] doesn’t need me to have his back, but when I see or read about things, I get upset because I have personal experience with it.”
For Shirley and Hsui, there’s a maternal aspect in watching over Lin. For others, Lin has inspired people’s passion in basketball again. And that’s the special part of this online community that has been fostered thanks to one of the most improbable sports stories of the last decade. Linsanity might have been five years ago, but the excitement that Lin inspired still burns.
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