Linsanity: Because We Need a New Obsession

Jeremy Lin (photo credit: DvYang on Flickr)

Everyone loves a good confession, right? Here’s mine for today: I hate going to the gym. So much so that I usually go immediately upon waking, preferring to be half asleep and therefore too fogged to realize what I’m doing. My loathing is mostly unspecific, and while I can’t really point to just one thing that explains my distaste, gym TV is probably at the top of the list, especially when ESPN is involved. Daily reruns of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” are bad enough, but watching people exercise while I exercise is just a little too ‘meta’ for me. (Though the Food Network would be much more realistic, given why I go in the first place, I’m probably stuck with ESPN. Rossmann may be giving up ESPN for Lent, but the staff at the gym didn’t get the memo.)

Part of why gym TV annoys me is that it showcases all of our cultural obsessions. Through most of January, ESPN was obsessed with Tim Tebow. (Admittedly, one could say the same about TJP; if you missed our extensive coverage, you can catch up here, here, and here.) Come the end of the professional football season, I was wondering what would fill the Tebow-shaped content hole, whether on TV or on our humble site.

Fear not — a new obsession has been found! His name is Jeremy Lin, a point guard on the New York Knicks, who’s made a record-speed transition from obscurity to serving as the basis of a SNL opening skit. Fully “Linsane,” ESPN appears bent on using a variant of “Cinderella” more frequently than the Disney Channel. In actual fact, the name “Lin” was used more often on SportsCenter than the words “if” or “but.” There is a trademark application for the word “Linsanity.” David Brooks, clearly trying to scoop TJP, has even penned a column on Lin’s faith for the New York Times (and he draws a Tebow analogy!).

Linsanity from SlateV's "Trending" series

Don’t get me wrong: Jeremy Lin’s story is inspiring, and his 2010 interview about his faith is a generally edifying read. What I wonder about, as I endure my early-morning date with the elliptical machine, is whether we haven’t become obsessed with simply being obsessed. Especially given the coverage of the religiosity of athletes, does their faith bolster our own attempts to live our own? Or is it that in the search for something new and exciting to report, we turn the lives of actual people (usually young adults) into ‘content’ to be consumed?

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