Unruh is a junior radio and sociology double major and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Obviously, this column is about Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow. Now, don’t go running, don’t throw this paper into a trashcan and don’t pull out your spare flamethrower and blow it to kingdom come. This is about the impact of these particular athletes on the 24-hour news cycle that sports have become. ESPN has a large hand in it, because SportsCenter runs for hours upon hours, and each ESPN afternoon specialty show needs content to be talked about and storylines to be discussed. But these two athletes have captured the limelight not only with their in-game heroics, but because they are severely misunderstood and polarizing characters.
Twenty-four hours of sports news. Yes, there are games of every sport every day of the week. When they are in season, the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, MLS, NCAA football, basketball, baseball (you name it) are all portrayed in one-to-two minute segments of recounting games, major storylines, highlights and scores. So, what goes in between all of those? It’s the compelling previews, analysis and storylines that take hold. Let us break down athletes individually and look at why they are individually a story, and why they are misunderstood.
First, Tebowmania initially swept the nation during his time at Florida. So, many storylines with the Gators cemented him as a national figure in not only the SEC but also national news. He has two national championships, one Heisman trophy in his sophomore year and some critics even hailing him as one of the best college football players of all time. But why is he so polarizing? So many people cannot stand him. For what? Florida Gator fans loved him, and everyone else seemed to hate him. He is severely misunderstood as a person. People cannot understand that an athlete can’t have personality flaws. In the age of the Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco touchdown antics, a person can be so humble and God-fearing. People just flat out can’t understand someone that is good at sports that cannot have any visible flaws in personality other than to dissect his play on the field. Fast-forward to his second season with the Broncos. He plays horribly for the first three quarters of his games, and then rattles off seven wins in eight games (six in a row after his first start), sending the national media into a frenzy. It is interesting where the story will take us into the next NFL season, but who will know whether he keeps up his string of wins. Which brings us to our current main attraction: Jeremy Lin.
Believe me, I agree, the Linsanity has to stop. Lin puns are the bane of my Twitter existence at this time in my life. But the story is so good that why wouldn’t you cover it? After being cut from two teams, getting picked up by the Knicks, playing five games in January and sleeping on his brother’s couch, Lin continued to play. He was unknown until Feb. 4, when he became a reckoning force averaging 21 points per game in the month of February and helped the Knicks rattle off seven-straight wins without Amare and Carmelo. This is an absolutely incredible story. This is as if Harrison Ford came out of Harvard, was teeming around Hollywood, sleeping on his brothers’ couch, and then had the original Star Wars, Indiana Jones and The Fugitive, and everyone was talking about him simultaneously, everywhere. Lin is also the first prominent Asian-American athlete in almost any major sport. Most Asian athletes are from East Asia, Japan, China, Korea, etc. Jeremy is the first American athlete of Asian descent to become a star in the NBA, let alone in about a three-week span. Obviously, ESPN has overplayed this story and his role in creating buzz for the NBA, especially in a media market such as New York. But it is the hot story.
Overall both of these men are a “rags-to-riches” storyline packed into a 24-hour news cycle. They are made for TV stories that ESPN would be completely off its rocker not to run. While they continue to be on TV, the stories will capture an audience. We will have to deal with it, and until these players somehow fall off the face of the earth, they will be a story.