By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Linsanity. Tebow-mania. Linmania. In-Tebow-sanity. Te-Lin-bow-maniosity.
Whatever any of it is, was, or will be, it’s sure to bring out every last lunatic — every froth-mouthed ranter, bug-eyed holy roller, unhinged conspiracy-theorist, finger-pointing witch-hunter, and opportunistic offense-taker.
Because everything’s a damn circus.
Jeremy Lin, a hard-working kid taking advantage of big minutes in a wide-open Knicks offense, is just the latest performer in the center ring. And as always is the case, now, a nice sports story suffers from hypertrophy, nourished by healthy amounts of crazy and stupid.
Instantaneousness of all information blurs the line between fans, players and media, bypassing the old channels. Even the idea of something “going viral” seems somehow antiquated, already. It’s all viral, and viruses mutate, adapting to the environment.
Lin can’t just be a guy from Palo Alto who is making the most of this chance with his third NBA team in a messy, unpredictable season. He has to be either imbued with magic, representative of a people, proof that a god exists, or the springboard for conclusions about scouting or coaching that are premature or just completely wrong. Does anybody realize that he’s the fourth – not the first — Asian-American to have played in the league (after Wataru Misaka, Raymond Townsend and Rex Walters)? Does anyone care? Or is that conveniently ignored because it would take something away from the narrative?
As with Tim Tebow, the story becomes the story. It’s not about the person, anymore, but the reaction to the person, and then the reaction to the reaction. We talk about the insanity and the mania, without stopping to realize that we’re causing it, or asking whether or not we should. Mirrors reflect on themselves, and we don’t remember where we are.
Our Twitter timelines crackle. For most of us, sports stories blend visually with politics, business and humor in real time, cascading relentlessly before our eyes. That’s why it doesn’t take long for Tebow to be asked – in all seriousness — about running for office. That’s why the morality play of the dumb racist joke now takes about five minutes to cycle through publication/condemnation/insincere apology.
Agendas glom onto shiny objects, fostering wariness and distrust from even those who consider themselves uncynical. If we are all essentially becoming our own editors, we have greater responsibility to scrutinize the bursts of packaged information that fly at us. There must always be a Big Sports Thing of the moment, and it will always be a vehicle for other interests to be heard and seen.
And all of it tests the edges of reason. Those of us trying to be rational amid the screaming freaks have a tough time registering, and are often forced to escalate into the tribalistic shouting matches, becoming exactly what we decry.
Jeremy Lin has a few good games and has support as an MVP candidate and US Olympian, while Tim Tebow actually had half the nation proclaiming a belief in divine intervention in football, with no trace of embarrassment. The crazy train rolls.
(This is not to mention the dark swamp of sickness underneath Pennsylvania, where a football coach became an infallible demigod, no matter his years of enabling violent crimes against children. The madness that continues there is deeper and more frightening than any other related to sports.)
As this continues to happen – these accelerated, sports-gasmic flash-fires – we will begin to recognize them earlier and act accordingly, with some greater degree of self-awareness. At least that’s my hope. Many of us are only beginning to understand how best to incorporate all the content we have at our fingertips, and how to make sense of it.
Sense that is all too often lacking in our recent sports coverage.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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