Monday, February 13, 2012

Philosophy of Linsanity

I've been thinking a lot about Jeremy Lin lately--and about the social phenomenon of "Linsanity." I wonder what philosophers have to add that will complement the discussion in the popular press.

Is it the underdog story that is so compelling? i.e., Lin as Linderella?

Is Lin's ethnicity a compelling part of the story? Tim Dalrymple argues that it is, but that Lin's religious beliefs are even more significant.

Is there anyone else here who is fascinated by Jeremy Lin and Linsanity, and why?


Jim Tantillo said...

in today's NYTimes:

"Lin represents everyone who was ever overlooked or left out — and wouldn’t that be all of us at one point? He is Charlie Brown on a field-goal kicking streak."

Heather L. Reid said...

I think this story illustrates sport's ability to subvert social assumptions. One of the social assumptions here is about race. Back when sports were segregated in the U.S. Blacks were believed to be athletically inferior to whites, their performance in integrated sport erased (and maybe even reversed) that assumption. Lin is helping to erase assumptions about Asian inferiority. The other, more interesting, assumption that Lin challenges is that athletic and intellectual ability (not to mention sports and academics) are somehow mutually exclusive. Even after such beliefs become conventional wisdom, a counter-example like Lin work to erode them.

Jim Tantillo said...

agree with Heather. But I've been thinking about the rise of Lin and his popularity as resulting from the perception of his unselfish play. Almost like basketball fans have been waiting for a genuine team player, whose assists are every bit as crowd-pleasing as his baskets.

From a virtue ethics perspective, maybe this is what accounts (at least in part) for his extraordinary popularity. Articles asking questions like "Can Lin save the NBA?" take on this kind of hue, at least on my partial reading of them. Not to downplay the significance of race/ethnicity, but I think his work ethic explains a lot of his popularity.

Heather L. Reid said...

I very much agree, and wouldn't exclude work ethic and team play from the factors that facilitate sport's ability to erode social assumptions about race and the compatibility of intelligence and athleticism. A similar argument about excellent team play was given in today's NYTimes to (at least partially) explain the greatness of Barcelona soccer player Lionel Messi. Of course team play is, in itself, a great way that sport manages to transcend social barriers.