Running Commentary: The Jeremy Lin 60 Minutes Interview

The April 7 edition of CBS’ 60 Minutes featured a segment on Jeremy Lin, including interviews with Lin, his parents, and David Stern. Running commentary on the interview follows, so, open up a new browser window, kick back, and read along as you watch the interview.

Segment Tease, from Charlie Rose: There aren’t many basketball stars who step off the bench and directly into the dictionary, but that’s what happened last season when a third-string guard for the New York Knicks named Jeremy Lin spawned something so new, so crazy, so outside the realm of rational explanation that it demanded its own word: Linsanity.

Nice tease. Props to whoever wrote it.

[00:45]

Charlie Rose: As one New Yorker, let me tell you what you did for the city. It was a magical time. You know? And Madison Square Garden, at that moment, was what it was intended to be.

Good personal touch from Charlie to open the interview, although I’m mildly uncomfortable with teleological statements about MSG. James Dolan probably has a few objections, too.

[1:29]

[Highlights from the first few games of Linsanity are shown.]

Awww, look at Tyson, he’s so happy! One flagrant foul, coming right up, though.

[1:40]

Jeremy Lin: That stretch, that was the most fun that I’ve ever had in my life.

Charlie Rose: That’s what athletes want, one to one with the fans, playing at their best, in a place that is a cathedral.

Jeremy Lin: I agree.

You know the question is a good one when the interviewee responds with “I agree.” Wait, what? On the real, though, it’s actually kind of neat (yes, neat, or neato! if you prefer) to hear Charlie Rose’s musings on Linsanity, with the man himself present.

[1:55]

[Reporter: Can you believe this is happening to you?

Jeremy Lin: No.]

Snip20130418_3_smile

Aw, man, just look at that goofy smile.

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Taiwan represent!

All right, so the night of the Knicks-Raptors game, I was really hoping that Lin would just have a good-but-under-the-radar game so the hype would die down. I was wary of the creatures coming out of the woods, e.g., all the racist assholes popping off on Twitter. Nail that sticks out gets hammered down, right? So I’m watching the game with my boy Harry, and we see Lin ISO-ing above the break and I start freaking out because I just know he’s taking that three. And, well, he’s not a great three-point shooter, and above the break threes are the least efficient threes. Well, when Lin hit that three, I ran into the adjacent room, grabbed my Taiwanese flag, wrapped myself with it, and ran around the house. I kid you not.

[Jeremy Lin: I didn’t know you could turn Lin into so many things.]

League officials like Commissioner David Stern knew a good thing when they saw it, even if they had trouble understanding just what it was.

David Stern: We couldn’t even figure it out. We couldn’t get enough Jeremy Lin material in the NBA store fast enough. And when we did, it was just gone in minutes.

Charlie Rose: You’ve never seen anything like it?

David Stern: No, but we enjoyed it.

Now, I know that editing probably has something to do with it, but the first thing Stern is shown talking about is the money, the moolah, the dough.

[2:40]

On the February night Lin came off the bench, jerseys with his name and number 17 did not even exist. Now, they were the hottest-selling items in all sports.

I should try to verify this, but I bet within hours street vendors were hawking Lin shirts on the streets of Taipei.

[2:50]

[Kobe Bean talking about Lin.]

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I like how CBS opted not to include Kobe’s “WTF?”

Haha, look at Kobe, he can barely keep the act up. Aw, presh.

Kobe, on whether or not he would guard J-Lin: “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.”

In retrospect, especially given the “new” Kobe, you know, the much ballyhooed Twitter savvy, Moonlight Sonata playing Kobe, Kobe’s feigned ignorance is kind of endearing. Who knew Lin would turn out to be the Lakers’… wait for it…  Achilles heel. Uh, too soon? Yeah, you’re right, too soon. And too easy. Like scoring on Derek Fisher. Seriously, though, get well soon, Kobe. Just because I didn’t read the dozens of Kobe Bryant Injury pieces in basketball blogosphere, doesn’t mean I don’t wish you well.

[3:25]

Jeremy Lin: When I shot that three pointer from the corner…

[Sports announcer: Lin from deep.]

Jeremy Lin: That was the loudest I’ve ever heard an arena. And, I literally felt like I was hovering, because of how crazy the place was.

Hey look, happy Baron Davis!

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That was a close one there, Jeremy. I’m glad you said “literally felt like”, because if you had said “I was literally hovering” I would have to take you down a few notches in my book for misusing literally. But, thankfully you added in a “felt”, which makes it way more subjective, so you get away with one here.

[4:50]

(Now Lin and Rose are talking about his departure from New York.)

Jeremy Lin: You know, I think everything happened the way it was supposed to.

Charlie Rose: You really believe that?

Jeremy Lin: I really do.

Charlie Rose: Turned out the way it was supposed to?

Jeremy Lin: Yeah.

Jeremy, I love you, but you have got to ditch that shitty determinist theology. I know fatalism is what has helped Confucian cultures deal with colonization and tragedy for centuries, but that ain’t gonna help. There’s going to be more Asian-American kids who try to make it in sports, entertainment, and other non-stereotypically Asian fields, and shit is going to happen to them, shit that ought not happen. I know the typical East Asian way when someone does you dirty is to put your head down and keep going, but it’s time to flip that.

[6:25]

Lin’s popularity in Asia could not have come at a better time for NBA Commissioner David Stern, who has hopes of turning his league into a global brand.

For the record, basketball and the NBA have been popular in Taiwan and China long before Lin, and even before Yao Ming.

[7:17]

During the Taiwan leg of his China tour…

Taiwan leg of his China tour? WTF? Really, CBS? Oh my goodness.

[8:10]

(Rose is now interviewing Jeremy Lin’s parents)

I have to admit, when I first saw the interview, I cringed slightly at Shirley and Gie-Ming Lin’s imperfect English as a gut reaction. For many of us children of immigrants, growing up we were both ashamed of our parents’ imperfect English and offended when others made fun of them for it. The internal dissonance, the self-loathing: a part of the package of growing up second-generation. Now, I see that most of what I was ashamed of when it came to my parents was judged against whiteness, what I was shaped to see in many ways as normal. And despite the critical race theory, the postcolonial theory, the cultural theory I’ve imbibed, I still haven’t been fully detoxed. But I’m glad Gie-Ming and Shirley Lin got on camera, imperfect English and all, to tell their own story. We children of immigrants have a responsibility to tell the stories of our parents, and all the better when they themselves have the opportunity to tell their stories, too.

[9:32]

Charlie Rose: How good were you in high school?

Jeremy Lin: I would say I was decent.

Charlie Rose: Decent? Weren’t you the best player in California?

Jeremy Lin: Well, I got that award. It doesn’t mean I was the best player. I think that had to l– a lot to do with my team’s success.

He was named California Player of the Year. And he could pass and shoot, plus was incredibly fast. But when it came time to look at colleges, not a single Division One program came calling with a scholarship.

Interesting (and unsurprising) that Lin deflects the praise, and attributes his success to the team’s success. East Asian cultures are high-context cultures, and more often attribute things to contexts rather than static individual traits. See Richard Nesbitt’s The Geography of Thought for more on this.

[10:00]

Charlie Rose: Not one PAC-10 team?

Jeremy Lin: No.

Charlie Rose: Not UCLA. Not Stanford, your hometown? 

Jeremy Lin: No.

I love it. It’s controlled, but you can hear the edge in Lin’s voice.

[10:20]

Jeremy Lin: Well, I think the obvious thing is– in my mind is that I was Asian American which, you know, is a whole different issue but that’s– I think that was a barrier.

Charlie Rose: When you say because you’re an Asian American, what is that? But there’s nothing about being Asian American that doesn’t give you the ability to play basketball.

“Asian-American, what is that?” If you only knew, Chuck, if you only knew.

Jeremy Lin: Yeah. I mean, it is just– I mean, it’s just– it’s a stereotype.

Stereotypes are nothing new for Lin. Growing up, he was often the only Asian player on his teams, and frequently heard racial slurs from opponents on the court. 

Charlie Rose: What would they say? What kind of things would—

Jeremy Lin: Pretty much anything you could think of from stereotypical, you know, Asian food, you know making fun of my complexion, my skin color, or, you know, the way Asians look, pretty much everything.

Note how Lin uncharacteristically cuts off Rose to answer.

[12:15]

(On racial taunts)

Jeremy Lin: I mean there are times when people say stuff and I just laugh, you know? All I do is laugh and move on and just not say anything– and just forget about it. It made me a stronger person.

[13:20]

In Houston, the Rockets and their fans have embraced Jeremy Lin. He has settled in as an above-average NBA guard and the face of his franchise — complete with endorsement deals for sneakers and Swedish sedans.

I actually really appreciate the honest assessment about Lin. And for now, I’m totally okay with Lin being “just” an above-average guard in the NBA, because while he wouldn’t have cultural significance without game, we need not over-inflate his game to recognize his significance.

[13:30]

He’s even made a documentary about himself.

WRONG.

Come on, CBS, a little research could have prevented this. Lin did not make the documentary. Filmmaker Evan Jackson Leong started working on the documentary when Lin was still at Harvard, and Lin was actually initially reluctant to participate.

[End Segment]

Despite its flaws (ugh, “Taiwan leg of his China tour”), this segment is important because while articles upon articles have been written about Lin, the interview gave Lin himself, as well as his parents, an opportunity to speak and comment to a national audience, and while nothing truly radical is said, too often Asian-Americans have opted to just go the safe route when given a national platform. So, thank you, Jeremy, Shirley, and Gie-Ming Lin.

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