I just spent a weekend in New York City. Sweet baby Jesus, the Lin-sanity levels in the Big Apple blew my mind. I really haven’t seen anything like it. No. 17 jerseys at the Port Authority as far as the eye can see.
Being casually indifferent to the NBA, I’ve had a passing interest in this whole Lin-sanity trend that is apparently sweeping the sporting world. Now, I get it: Asian kid from Harvard comes out of nowhere to lead one of the NBA’s greatest franchises on an impressive winning streak. It’s a cool story.
What made has it even “cooler” however, is that we have 24-hour sporting news machine telling us how cool it is.
When you have 24 hours of sports television, sports talk radio and 30 million sporting blogs with blowhards like myself babbling mindlessly for our readers, we need something to talk about to fill air time and column inches.
This story seems as good as any, so everyone is running it.
Did it matter that during the start of the run, the Knicks were beating horrible teams? Nope. A win is a win in mad-dash, hard-scrambled, effort-driven world of NBA regular season basketball.
Does anyone care that the Taiwanese John Stockton can turn into a human turnover machine? Not at all. Everyone loves basketball’s Rex Grossman.
Did anyone care that without Amare or Melo in the lineup, there really is nobody on the team to actually put the ball in the basket? You are so wrong Mark — they had the corpse of Mike Bibby just waiting to step in.
The Lin-sanity movement has proved something to me. (Well, outside the fact that the NBA is crap.)
It’s proven to me that the level of fundamental basketball is so piss-poor that a second-rate talent nobody but hardcore college basketball fans had heard of a month ago is now the face of the league.
What I have learned, is that as a sporting nation, we have no attention span. We are constantly looking for the next big thing. We don’t care about tradition. We want something new and shiny. Something we can grab on to that to captivate us until the NFL season comes around.
The best way I can describe the mindset of American sports fans is that we have an amazing mix of OCD and ADD. We care so much and so completely about a story that it becomes all encompassing. That is, until something new comes along. Then we need to focus on that with intense and single-minded focus until something else happens to distract us.
Rinse and repeat.
Look at Lin-sanity. You know how long it took the nation to hop on the bandwagon? Six games. Five wins against the cream of the crap in the NBA, and a win over the Lakers, who have not been the Lakers of old this season, and all of a sudden, we have to find a way to fit the kid into the All-Star game.
One bad game against the woeful Hornets and the focus shifted to whether Lin was a flash in the pan, only to have it all come rushing back with a good win over the Mavs this past weekend.
No attention span.
You don’t think this is true across the sporting world? Think about this: The Bernie Fine scandal came out only three months ago. When the new first broke, everyone breathlessly pontificated about how this scandal would completely overshadow the entire Syracuse season and could bring down the legend Jim Boehiem. It’s three months later? Outside of Gloria Allred, is anyone still calling for Boehiem’s head? No. The scandal only gets a passing reference, as we’ve all moved on.
So, what does any of this have to do with the Syracuse move to the ACC?
When I look at Syracuse’s move to the ACC, I don’t see it for what it is now. I see the move for what it is going to be — what the sports fans and the sporting media will turn it into.
All of the critics are telling me that Syracuse leaving the Big East is horrible because of the destruction of all the basketball tradition. We seem to have forgotten that the Big East is only 30 years old. All of this basketball tradition we have gone crazy about is younger than I am.
But, in our world of short attention spans, 30 years is a millennium.
The biggest rivalry in the conference, outside of Seton Hall and Rutgers, obviously, is Syracuse and Georgetown. Enemies forever. Except, not really. The rivalry really got started after John Thompson spoke his infamous words at Manley Field House. Within five years, we were blood enemies. Five years is all it took. But somehow, we seem to have forgotten how quickly that moves, and it now seems completely unfathomable that this could ever happen again.
The rise of the Big East also took place during, and was greatly aided by, the birth of ESPN. A network devoted to sports was able to sell a group of small, private northeastern urban colleges and sell the sporting world that this is where the future of college basketball was. Are you seriously telling me that with our new sporting hype machine, which turns every minor success and failure into the bombing of Pearl Harbor, it is impossible for new rivalries to be created?
A few close games with Maryland team, and voila! Syracuse has a new rival. This rivalry would even make sense, as living in the DC era I have gotten a good look at Terp nation. If there were ever a fan base that was just as aggressively delusional (a delusion that I am part of and delight in) as to what his sports programs should be, it’s Under Armor U.
Yeah, the rivalry might not be the same. But so what? I hate to break it to everyone, but the Georgetown/Syracuse rivalry isn’t as intense as it once was. If it were, don’t you think the brainpower behind the Big East would have made sure the two teams played twice?
Wait. Did I just put Big East Conference leadership and brainpower together in the same sentence? Nevermind.
This isn’t even mentioning football, which is what this whole move was about anyway. Are Syracuse and Pitt having their football rivalries killed? Outside of playing West Virginia, who is a pseudo rival of Syracuse (or at least that’s what the marketing geniuses behind the Swartzwalder trophy have told me) and a real rival of Pitt, the answer is, not really. Nobody is clamoring for the games against Cincinnati and South Florida. I don’t even think UConn had a team 20 years ago. I’m also not sure what Rutgers was playing at the time could even be considered football.
The move to the ACC actually reunited Syracuse and Pitt with teams that were becoming their rivals in the old Big East. Heck, five of the eight original Big East football teams are now in the ACC. But, they all played each other a decade ago. That is a time period longer than four months, so everyone has forgotten about it. We need to focus energy on all the traditional programs like Alabama and Oregon.
Wait, you mean Oregon hasn’t always been a football power? It’s only become relevant after Nike money built the team an awesome stadium and gave the players pretty uniforms? I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Listen, I’m not saying this move is perfect. There is a little something that is lost in realignment. But perfection is not important. Relevance is important, and the formation of an East Coast super conference keeps all teams involved relevant. The sporting media will find a way to find churn this relevance into the super-important sports butter, and we will slop onto our breakfast toast and chow down with delight.
The changes may not be that good, but it’s the best thing we got going right now, and we’re going to embrace it 110 percent.
Just like Jeremy Lin.