Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Who Put Sports in My Twitter Again? The Jeremy Lin Explainer.

Bad news for people who like tech but not sports: You’re going to have to read about basketball for a bit.

I realize that this will be a bummer for some of you who thought you could enter an athletics-free zone, now that the Super Bowl is over.

But in the last week, Jeremy Lin has become a national sensation, and one who resonates with a certain slice of tech-savvy Twitter and Facebook users. Which means you’re going to see a lot of him, at least in the very near future.

Who is Jeremy Lin? Easy enough to Google him, or to read any number of profiles, like this nice piece from the New York Times. But if you’re in a real hurry, and/or lazy —


We can help you out here:

  • Jeremy Lin’s parents emigrated from Taiwan to the Bay Area in the 1970s.
  • Jeremy Lin played basketball at Palo Alto High School.
  • Jeremy Lin played basketball at Harvard, where he earned an economics degree.
  • After Harvard, Jeremy Lin played briefly for the Golden State Warriors, who let him go, and the Houston Rockets, who let him go.
  • Last December, the New York Knicks hired him as a backup player, and he only played briefly for the team until last week.
  • Last week, Jeremy Lin started playing a lot for the Knicks, because they had run out of bodies in his position. Since then, he’s played at a very high level. And the Knicks, who have been very bad for a long time, have won all of their games.
  • The Knicks’ last game was last night, where they beat the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant in a game that lots of people watched.
  • Jeremy Lin’s instant celebrity comes from the conflation of several currents: He is a very rare Ivy League graduate playing and succeeding in the NBA. And he is an even rarer Asian-American playing in the NBA — just the fourth in the league’s history. And he plays in New York, a city that loves basketball and winners, and which still has an outsized influence on media. It’s an underdog story that is almost literally unbelievable. And one that touches on race and culture in a way that’s exciting without making (most) people uncomfortable.*
  • If none of this appeals to you, you must really, really hate sports. Weird. But simple probability is in your favor, since Lin can’t keep this streak going indefinitely. And at some point, the hysteria will dissipate, and you won’t have to feign interest in three-point shots when you talk to prominent angel investors, entrepreneurs, etc.
  • Then again, we would have said that six days ago, too.

Too many words? Okay. Some moving pictures:

*Now that Jeremy Lin is a meme, some of the race/class stuff will unfortunately become much less pleasant.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus