When I was twelve years old, I decided it would be cool to wear all green to school—green sweatpants, green shirt, green socks, even green shoes! Sadly, the other kids in my class didn’t think it was such a great idea. I was taunted on the playground and called names like Green Bean, Kermit the Frog and Snot Body.
Bullies chased me through the gym hurling rocks and insults when a young Taiwanese-American boy stepped in between me and my attackers. It was little Jeremy Lin, who was four years younger but in my class because he skipped several years of elementary school. He chased the bullies away and shouted after them, “Pick on someone your own size!” Then, just to cheer me, Jeremy scooped up the rocks and slam dunked them into the basketball hoop. No one ever picked on me again.
It may sound extraordinary. But that was just Jeremy.
A few years later, I was in a high school production of Guys and Dolls when Todd Roystein, the kid playing Nicely Nicely Johnson, came down with mono. It was twenty minutes before curtain and we thought we’d have to cancel the show.
We were all shocked when young Jeremy Lin, who at that point had only built our sets and run lights and sound said, “The show must go on.” Jeremy hemmed Todd’s pants, memorized the lines and jumped right into “Runyonland.” We all thought Todd had really nailed the role in rehearsal, but Jeremy was able to find a sadness that Todd never unearthed; Jeremy’s Nicely was a brute, yes, but he was also a struggling addict and Jeremy found a way into both.
The critics said it was unbelievable. I just said it was just Jeremy.
And when my second cousin Dina was diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder, Jeremy didn’t hesitate to go under the knife, even if it meant possibly losing his coveted spot on the Golden State Warriors basketball team. “Jeremy,” I implored, “You’ve been working toward this your whole life. The Golden State Warriors is your favorite NBA team! You can’t stop playing now!” And Dina said, “I’ve never even met Jeremy! Why would he do this?”
But in typical Jeremy fashion, he said something like, “Basketball can wait. Kidneys? Those are a whole ‘nother story.” And we all laughed, except Dina whose kidney was failing.
And in the recovery room, when we discovered that Jeremy wasn’t a good match after all and he would have to live without a major organ, I said, “Hate to say I toldja so, Jer.” And we all laughed, except Dina who still had to find another kidney.
The doctors said he was unimaginably selfless. I said, “It’s just plain old Jeremy.”
Finally, Jeremy Lin has given me hope as a young Jewish athlete from the suburbs of New Jersey. Although he has recently come out as Taiwanese American by nationality, Christian by religion and a native of Northern California, it is clear he is Jewish by spirituality and, according to my uncle who works near Madison Square Garden, studying at a Rabbinical school in Paramus.
Growing up, everyone told me, “Jewish boys can’t play in the NBA, just look at Danny Schayes.” All we’ve had to look up to was Sandy Koufax, who was Jewish but played baseball, and Spud Webb, who was our height but never won a title. But now, in Jeremy Lin, we have a true Jewish hero like Jesus or Erich “Houdini” Weiss.
Some say it’s Linsanity.
Some say it’s Lincredible.
I say, it’s just Jeremy.