There’s a story making the rounds on Facebook that seems particularly relevant in the age of Linsanity.
It’s a newspaper article from five years ago, when The Washington Post conducted a little social experiment. The Post had Joshua Bell, the world’s preeminent violinist, stand in a subway station and play exquisite classical pieces for 45 minutes.
Considering that more than 1,000 people walked by and only seven stopped to listen to one of the world’s great musicians playing a $3.5 million violin, the gist of the article was this: Are we too caught up in the chaos of our lives to stop and enjoy profound beauty?
Reporter Gene Weingarten won a Pulitzer Prize for the article, and for some reason about a dozen of my online friends have independently latched onto it in recent weeks and passed it around.
Make no mistake, it’s a compellingly thoughtful article and well worth sharing. But one of the things it got me thinking about is Jeremy Lin and, more importantly, how we react to beauty.
Jeremy Lin is no Joshua Bell. He’s not the best in the world at his craft, and he has yet to demonstrate any staying power. But for all that he has done in the past two weeks, for all of the unlikely likability of his story, the reaction to it worries me.
It worries me that so many people in the public and the media feel compelled to dissect every nuance of the story. It worries me that ESPN.com is so desperate to milk the life out of this story that it put an undeniably racist headline online. It worries me that we are so hell-bent on describing what it means and what will happen next that we are failing to enjoy the beauty of the moment.
Yes, Lin is Asian-American. Yes, he went to Harvard. Yes, he has revived one of the NBA’s most prominent franchises and likely saved the job of his coach.
And that should be interesting enough. Instead, we are treated to stories about a FedEx driver and amateur basketball analyst who predicted Lin would be a good NBA player. We are asked why two teams actually had him on their roster without recognizing his brilliance. We are bombarded with speculation about whether the Blazers could have a Jeremy Lin — somebody who can turn the league on its ear if given an opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as guilty as the next guy. It’s my job to spend eight hours a day immersed in the minutiae of sports, and it’s my job to pass along stories about suddenly famous FedEx drivers because they are interesting.
But I worry that we can’t see the beauty of Lin’s story because we’re caught up in all the other stuff. And I worry that the saturation coverage will turn sentiment against him out of sheer public weariness.
Mark Fidrych and Fernando Valenzuela provided similar came-out-of-nowhere sports stories that transcended sports. On a more local level, Billy Ray Bates did the same thing. But in the age of the Internet and ESPN and 24/7 sports talk, wonderful stories can have a short half-life these days before they turn toxic.
Sooner or later, that is going to happen to the Jeremy Lin story. And I hope that before that happens, we can simply appreciate the story for its inherent beauty.
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by email at email@example.com. To “Like” his Facebook page, search for “Greg Jayne – The Columbian”