Final Farewell For Jeremy Lin
Sports are a business. It’s the unfortunate lesson we all must learn at sometime like finding out Santa isn’t real. It’s the only way to deal with the fact that players are treated not as people, but as assets and that, because of this, players will likely put money ahead of loyalty. As a kid, it’s an impossible concept to understand and now, as an adult, I still have trouble with it sometimes. We all have that moment when we realize professional sports aren’t the same as the leagues we played in as kids. For me the illusion was shattered in 2005 when the player I then hated most in the MLB, Johnny Damon, left the Boston Red Sox to join my rival New York Yankees. As a Yankee fan I didn’t care that Damon had batted .316 and finished 13th in MVP voting the year before. He had been a star for the Red Sox, therefore he wasn’t allowed to be on the Yankees. The revelation that teams and players treat professional sports as a business first and foremost didn’t ruin sports for me, but it certainly changed them.
For most young fans the illusion ends when a beloved player leaves to join another team. Sometimes the writings on the wall (hello Lebron), sometimes it’s not (hello Peyton Manning). Either way it’s devastating. For many young fans, the illusion was shattered on July 18 when the New York Knicks decided not to match the Houston Rocket’s offer sheet to Jeremy Lin. Not only was the writing not on the wall for this one, the marker hadn’t even been bought yet.
As a long time Knicks fan, I can’t say I was shocked by what happened (after all, I’m not even sure this ranks in the top 10 dumb moves made by Knicks management in my lifetime), but I was certainly surprised. Even Lin, in a rare moment of an athlete being honest and open, expressed how he believed he would always be a Knick in the end.
“Felton’s signing was the first time when I thought, ‘Oh, wow, I might not be a Knick,’” Lin said. Lin’s referring to the Knicks trading for Raymond Felton, a point guard who is more proven then Lin and averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 assists on the Knicks just two years earlier.
Arguing over whether Felton or Lin is the more logical choice for the Knicks is a pointless and futile debate. Lin has started 25 games, Felton just had the worst season of his career. Either one could struggle next year and no one would be shocked. I also don’t care much about the money aspect of the decision and am confused why fans keep bringing this up. Who cares how much money Lin brought into MSG and how it affects the stock market? Does this affect the fans somehow? Does this lower ticket prices? Will a beer still not cost me $8?
What hurts most about the situation, and what Dolan seems to be overlooking, is how this move affects the fans of New York. What made the Jeremy Lin era (can an era be just 25 games?) so special was that not only did Jeremy Lin create the MSG atmosphere we’ve been waiting for, the MSG atmosphere created Jeremy Lin. No stage can motivate a player quite like the Garden.. Knicks fans, myself included, truly believe we brought Jeremy Lin to another level, a level he was only capable of reaching in New York. That’s not to say he won’t be a good player in Houston, but for him to drop 38 points on the Lakers in just his fourth career start? That felt like something bigger then just Jeremy Lin.
For a moment, Lin reminded us that not every aspect of basketball is business. So for all those kids out there that are devastated over Jeremy Lin, know that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. With the Knicks, the tunnel’s been unusually long, but the light is as bright now as its been in a long time. Remember the good and let it give you optimism that one day we can get to that point again.