Jeremy Lin, “38 at the Garden”

After I caught Husband weeping at the end of “38 Madison,” an HBO short film on Jeremy Lin and what he meant to the Asian American community, I didn’t watch. After listening to Larry Wilmore wax poetic about not only the exceptionalism of his game but the tremendous racism this kid faced, I tuned in. I too wept. I remember Jeremy Lin’s spectacular run with the Knicks — it was ten years ago. It got me through my pregnancy with Wonder Twins. (I have blogged extensively about that time. I think I even did an obnoxious post, crediting the two men who were supporting me — Husband and Jeremy Lin.)

To me, someone who does not speak Sports Ball, Jeremy Lin’s spectacular run with the Knicks seemed like magical realism. He did well enough that even I could appreciate the tremendous athleticism on display. It seemed like he came out of nowhere. The media coined him a Cinderella story, and I think he was signed with the Raptors, and I never thought of him again.

This documentary goes through his seemingly meteoric rise and made me rethink how I see his success. Honestly, Larry Wilmore’s thoughtful, intelligent commentary also makes me see the story entirely differently. This was not necessarily a Cinderella story. The kid was working out like crazy and drilling himself all the time to get himself to an elite level. We didn’t know about him because no one let him play. he was the top pick in high school in California, and no one had scouted him. Don’t ask me to quote basketball statistics — but let me say, he is exceptional, yet didn’t get picked up. What is that about? Larry Wilmore thinks it’s racism that’s so entrenched — we are not accustomed to seeing elite Asian basketball players, that despite the evidence, Jeremy Lin did not compute. His run with the Knicks was not a fluke. He was capable of such greatness the entire time. He was just never given the chance.

I remember the joy Jeremy Lin gave Spike Lee — and I was like dude, I don’t know what makes me happier — Jeremy Lin, or Spike Lee’s reaction to Jeremy Lin. Spike Lee spoke with disappointment with Jeremy Lin’s decision to leave the Knicks, and I bought it. Now I understand that it was the Knick who didn’t decide to keep this kid — despite the hype he brought to the team and his incredible talent. How does that feel? When you have indisputable evidence of your greatness, and you still don’t get the job, but they frame it that it was actually your decision? Ay caramba.

The Larry Wilmore podcast also made me think of not only the racism people face but the racism they internalize and how they limit themselves, that it’s funny people’s reaction to “white privilege” is that of capitalism — “I didn’t grow up with money.” His point is no peeps, it’s about you’re allowed to be your full self; minorities are not even permitted to dream of a life beyond certain parameters. This whole old-school approach of raising kids to do well academically and not explore outside interests is from a scarcity mindset — this is your lane. This is where you can thrive and nowhere else.

It really makes me think about how I was raised and how I’m raising my children. (New flash: my mom and I are clashing over my management of my children’s academics. No surprise there.) When I encounter parents who are obsessed with “the right schools” and are focused on Ivy League-or-bust, it strikes me as old-fashioned. It’s also such a way of life that focuses only on the future. If you only focus on the future, you will never be happy now, and these children — they’re actually alive right now. I can see it in my kids — they’re already up and down, find school and conformity a drudgery. I mean, none of us can raise snowflakes. It’s the real world, dude. But I can offer them a mix of living for the future and living for now. Maybe my beef with the old-school way of raising children is that the dreams are too small. Dream bigger.

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