By Will Sloan
Since February 3rd, Lin has set rookie records for points-scored and assists (although he’s also set the record for the most turnovers). The Asian-American star’s sudden rise to fame has launched an avalanche of American media attention. In Asia, the hype has taken on another dimension. Will Sloan reports.
It has been barely two weeks since the breakout of a national epidemic of Linsanity. In Taiwan, Lin-mania has already become a major industry.
““Every industry, every merchandising opportunity you can think of, they’ve been jumping on the bandwagon. “ Paul Huang is a sports journalist based in Taiwan. He’s been observing Lin’s Asian fandom up-close.
“On coffee mugs, on glasses, you name it – anything under the sun with “Lin” will sell very well. An autographed player’s card has gone from 17 dollars ten days ago, to seven thousand dollars right now. It’ll probably go up even more. This is U.S. dollars we’re talking about.”
Chinese journalists have been making regular pilgrimages to the places where Lin’s parents were born. The Asian-American basketball star has also received the stamp of superstardom from Taiwan’s Next Media Animation, which produced a topical cartoon about him.
The animation climaxes with a geopolitical turn. Lin is depicted throwing flaming basketballs at Yao Ming, Mainland China’s NBA star. He is depicted standing in front of a People’s Republic flag. After Lin defeats his enemy, the triumphant Knicks star steps up to the podium with the Taiwanese flag behind him. Huang says that this strikes a nationalist chord.
“There’s been an argument in the local media as to if he should be identified as Chinese as opposed to Taiwanese. And that’s a pretty touchy subject, because there hasn’t been an agreement as to whether Taiwan has its own sovereignty.”
“Linsanity” is less pronounced in New York’s Chinatown – as of this morning, there was little in the way of Jeremy Lin merchandise available in stores or from street vendors. Still, Wallace Lai, owner of the restaurant Hong Kong Station, says that NBA viewing parties have been bringing big business – from all sectors of the Chinese diaspora.
“In New York City, the Chinese people from everywhere – from China, from Hong Kong, from Taiwan – they don’t really care about, like, ‘Oh, you’re Taiwanese?’”
Jeremy Lin has identified himself primarily as an American. Lai emphasizes that to Chinatown’s Asian communities, the most important thing is which team Lin plays for.
“He plays for New York, also. I think this is a main reason. No matter he is black skin or white skin or yellow skin – he play good, the people like it. And also, like, he’s Chinese.