The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Enter San Man: Jeremy Lin Restores Faith in the American Dream

The last time I believed in the American Dream, I sat in my high school English class senior year preparing to listen to the audiobook of Robert Redford reciting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Two weeks later, as Redford described the book’s everlasting image for me — the one of Gatsby’s body floating in his own pool after being shot by George Wilson — I became convinced the “American Dream” was just a bunch of nonsense that a group of suits created generations ago to justify buying Mercedes over Ford.

But after going through life for nearly four years with such a cynical worldview, I believe in the American Dream once again — and I’ve got Jeremy Lin to thank for it.

If, by now, you are unfamiliar with Lin’s story, allow me to briefly catch you up: Over the last few weeks, Lin has become the darling of the lockout-shortened NBA season, seemingly coming out of nowhere to uplift a New York Knicks team that had been 8-15 prior to his arrival and rapidly dropping in the Eastern Conference.

Having been cut by the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, the 23-year-old Harvard product had been relegated to sleeping on his brother’s couch after signing a non-guaranteed contract with New York, and since his Feb. 4 breakout game against the New Jersey Nets, the Knicks have gone 8-2 and are back in playoff contention.

Jeremy Lin was not supposed to have the kind of success he has enjoyed. He just wasn’t. If he was, he’d have been drafted No. 1 overall and had ESPN cameras shaping his fairytale life as it unfolded. Instead, most major college basketball programs overlooked him — though in coming out of high school, Lin was very undersized and showed minimal athletic ability — and pro teams explored other options at point guard.

Players like Lin, flat out, aren’t supposed to make it in basketball. Instead, Lin’s thrived in the most scrutinizing media market as well as the smartest basketball city in the world. New Yorkers know how to sniff out the truly special players from the flash-in-the-pan types, and have only fallen deeper in love with Lin the more he’s stepped on the floor at Madison Square Garden. As a result, Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni has ridden Lin “like friggen’ Secretariat,” and so has the city.

In the span of three weeks, Lin has gone from unknown castoff to the toast of New York and the basketball world. There were opportunities, Lin has cited, during which he could have given up the game altogether, but when his opportunity for success arose he took full advantage of it. Sounds a lot like the self-made man concept Fitzgerald introduced with Gatsby, albeit under more honorable circumstances than his tragic character.

I needed to hear a story like Lin’s, but I needed to see it play out even more in order to actually believe in it. Sure, I’ve seen Rocky and Hoosiers and Miracle, and know that overcoming insurmountable odds to achieve a dream is certainly possible. Let’s get real, though: Rocky and Hoosiers and Miracle are movies, and although movies are made to be reflections of life (yes, Hoosiers and Miracle are each based on
true events), they often portray reality as a bit of an exaggeration in order to invoke whatever lesons their writers and producers intend for audiences.

Movies and novels are meant to make us hopeful (or in my case with Gatsby, slightly hopeless), but they trust that we can tell the difference between fiction and reality. Rocky Balboa, at the end of the day, is still just a character. Jay Gatsby, too, is just a character.

We live in a society where most of us fit the underdog bill. We live in a super-competitive world where there are many more applicants than there are jobs, where the opportunity for social mobility is rapidly declining and where college graduates in fields much more strenuous than mine are moving back in with their parents and amassing more debt than at any point in American history.

Though his last few weeks have felt like a movie, Jeremy Lin is not a character. His story is real. I may not be a basketball player, and I may not have gone to Harvard, but I’m at a point in my life where I’ll have to make the most of the opportunities I will be privileged enough to receive in the first place.

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