Monday, February 20, 2012

Different Doesn't Mean Better

Excuse me if I don't get a bad case of "Lin-sanity".  I'm also going to take a pass on "Danica-Mania" this week.  And I won't be swept up in another tidal wave of "Tebow-Mania" next fall.  You see, I don't think that "different" automatically means "better".

Give the sports media something or someone who is different than the stereo-typical norm and they will beat you over the head constantly with it--usually touting how this is "a great story" or "will change your mind forever about (insert topic here)", or "is (person X) the greatest ever?"

Right now, Jeremy Lin is the "hottest thing in the NBA".  ESPN had a viewer poll last week asking if the two-week starter for the New York Knicks is the "best point guard in the league?"  And USA Today ran an opinion column asking NBA Commissioner David Stern to add Lin to the All-Star Game roster--after he had played JUST SIX GAMES!!!!!

So why is Lin such a media darling?  Because he is "different" from 99.99% of the rest of the league.  He is of Chinese Taipei descent and he went to Harvard.  A smart Chinese-American guy playing in the NBA?  Can't say we ever saw that before!!  It must be better than anything else going on in the league--let's make sure his games are nationally televised and the highlights lead Sportscenter every night!!

Let's step back and look at "Linsanity" from a distance.  If Jeremy was an African-American point guard who went to college at North Carolina and was putting up the same exact numbers for the Golden State Warriors or the Indiana Pacers would he be receiving the same media treatment?  Would ABC News have sent out a reporter to interview black kids shooting hoops in his jerseys on a playground asking if they were interested in basketball before "Lin-sanity"?  Would there be demand to add him to the All-Star game because it would be "so good for the game?"

The same goes for the hype that will surround Danica Patrick this week as NASCAR gets ready for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.  Fox Sports promos for the race feature Danica as prominently as five-time NASCAR champion Jimmy Johnson or defending Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart.  They also had cutaway shots of Danica watching the Bud Shootout Saturday night.  I don't remember Dave Blaney or Ward Burton being shown watching the race--and they've actually won NASCAR races in their careers.

So remember, just because something is "different" doesn't mean it is automatically "better" than everything else that preceded it.  Keep in mind New Coke--or a first-term Illinois Senator who ran for President--as perfect examples of that.

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