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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jordan’


All They Do is Lin

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Are you a witness to the Linsanity? If you haven’t noticed, there’s a fever sweeping the nation – even the world. And the only cure? More Jeremy Lin.

Another star basketball player – no big deal, right? Not quite. There’s something a little…different about this 23-year-old phenomenon. Let’s take a look at where this guy came from.

Lin played high school ball in Palo Alto, California, where he was a senior year captain.  He was first team All State and was a California Conference player of the Year.

Lin wanted an Ivy League education and had his sights set on UCLA or Stanford, but neither school wanted him.  Harvard said that they could get him playing time, but the school offers no athletic scholarships.  So Lin just went.  He did great at Harvard, being the first Ivy League player to record at least 1.450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists, and 200 steals.  He was a finalist for the John Wooden and Bob Cousy awards.  Through all of this, he managed to get to class and graduate from Harvard with a degree in Economics.

After college, Lin threw his name in the hat for the NBA.  While nobody bit, he did get offers to play on some Summer Leagues and in some mini-camps.  After a brief stint with the Golden State Warriors and an even briefer one with the Houston Rockets, Lin was picked up by the perennially struggling New York Nets. He was, in fact, bumped down to the Developmental League for a brief time, but after an impressive triple-double game he was brought back to the Knicks bench.

Then starter Baron Davis got hurt. Coach Mike Di’Antoni was considering cutting Lin, but with such a struggling team he figured why not see what the kid can do on the court. So in their next game against the Nets, Jeremy Lin went on the court.

February 4  – 25 points, 7 assists
February 6  – 28 points, 8 assists
February 8  – 23 points, 10 assists
February 10 – 38 points, 7 assists (beating out Kobe Bryant’s 34)
February 11 – 20 points, 8 assists
February 14 – 27 points, 11 assists (oh yeah, and also this game-winning last-second three)
February 15 – 10 points, 13 assists

These are not good numbers. These are GREAT numbers. These are record-setting numbers. And yet the numbers don’t tell the story; they don’t fully explain Linsanity.

You see, this doesn’t happen in the NBA. It just doesn’t happen. Of all the big-time sports in America, professional basketball is the most talent-driven and the most star-driven. And the talented are known quantities – often heralded since before high school as future stars. Stars played in the McDonald’s All-American Game when they were in high school. Stars were recruited to NCAA Tournament-caliber programs in college. Because when you have the talent, it gets noticed.

Except…it doesn’t. Not always. Not this time. Lin played for Harvard. Lin isn’t an abnormal physical specimen. Lin is Asian-American (unlike Yao Ming, who is Chinese). There is plenty, and I mean plenty, of discussion on the web about what sort of a factor race plays in the story of Jeremy Lin – and I’m not interested in rehashing that here. Suffice to say that when an athlete is able to overcome expectations and defies the conventions of their sport – be it conventions of race, nationality, physical factors, alma mater, or others – it is always worth celebrating.

What makes Jeremy Lin’s story so fantastic is all the angles – the unlikely hero who was never given a real shot is given one chance before being cut and becomes the redeemer of his struggling team and an overnight sensation. Now that’s a good hook.

What’s Your Rabbit’s Foot? Disco Sports on Superstition.

Friday, December 9th, 2011
Brian Wilson and The Beard

“Look at the ball.  Don’t look up.  Don’t look up.  Back one step, two steps, and three steps.  Don’t look up.  Don’t look up.  Left once.  Left twice.  Darn.  Looked up.  Look at the ball, don’t look up…”

We’ve all seen the pre-kick ritual.  Watched the player at the foul line bounce once, twice. Watched the golfer look and wiggle and look and wiggle.  Many of us have heard the yell, “Mom!  Where’s my lucky hat?”  We have our own quirks at Disco Sports.

Where is the line between ritual and superstition?  Coaches and sports psychologists have long believed in the importance of a ritual and visualizing a goal.  Much of it helps to build and maintain a particular technique.   A good practice swing.

A study of collegiate athletes in the NCAA found a couple of interesting things:

  • Athletes in individual sports (golf, swimming) had a higher belief in superstition influencing results than team athletes.
  • Female athletes were more influenced than male athletes.
  • Gymnasts used more superstitious rituals than football players.

A different study of Canadian collegiate athletes found variations in the rituals by sport:

  • Hockey players focused on equipment.
  • Basketball players on action like sinking the last warm-up shot.
  • Volleyball players on food.
  • Swimmers on the color of a suit.

Maybe it’s Tiger Woods and his red Sunday shirt.  Maybe it’s Brian Wilson and his beard.  Superstition certainly makes the leap to the pros.  Tiger and Brian aren’t alone.

Kevin Rhomberg of the Cleveland Indians would only turn left.  He also had to touch anyone who touched him.  If he was tagged out he would return to the base to touch the player that tagged him.

Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks took a page from Michael Jordan, who famously wore his North Carolina shorts under his Bulls gear.  Except that Terry sleeps in the shorts of his opponent’s team before each game.  At least they were clean.  Steve Kline, a pitcher for the Cardinals would pick a hat, and wear it for every game.  One hat, all season, no washing allowed.

Sometimes it’s food.  Brian Urlacher started each game day with 2 chocolate chip cookies.  Never one, never three.  LSU Coach Les Miles also has a pre-game ritual meal.  He chomps down on a piece of turf.  Keeps him connected to the game.  Does he have to floss after Astroturf?  Wade Boggs was famous for his chicken dinners.

Boggs was also famous for his punctuality.  He always took batting practice at 5:17 and ran sprints at 7:17.  He must have been an influence on slugger Larry Walker.  Walker played for the Rockies, Expos, and Cardinals.  Every batting practice?  3 hits and a rest.  3 swings before every at-bat.  He always set his alarm for 33 minutes past the hour, got married on November 3rd at 3:33 p.m., bought tickets for charities in blocks of 33 seats in section 33, and requested a salary of $3,333,333.33.

Turk WendellThe Kindred Soul Award goes to the duo of Turk Wendell and Mark Fidrych.  Both right handed pitchers, both fan favorites, both superstitious.  Both were notorious hand-shakers, and both had an aversion to the foul line, leaping over it going to and from the dugout.  Fidrych started each inning by carefully grooming the mound and talking to his baseball, while Wendell ended each by brushing his teeth.  Wendell made a fashion statement with a necklace made from the teeth of animals that he’d killed, while Fidrych made his with a mane of unruly hair that earned him the nickname “Bird”, as in Big Bird.  Fidrych liked to take a victory lap around the mound with every strikeout, while Wendell kept his eyes on his catcher.  If his catcher stood, he would squat.  When the catcher went back to his squat, Wendell would stand.  This dance continued into the dugout and the clubhouse.  Musical Bullpen Chairs, anyone?Mark "Bird" Fidrych



Superstition isn’t limited to baseball or basketball.

Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens was one of the best goalkeepers of all time.  It all started with his goal.  He would start at middle ice, skate backwards to the goal, and whip around at the last minute.  He liked to scare the goal into submission.  He thought that they would shrink in fear.  Like, physically get smaller.  He wasn’t without respect, though.  He would frequently talk to the goal, offer encouragement, and thank the posts for deflections and protecting him.

I wonder if he played against Bruce Gardiner of the Ottawa Senators?  Early in his career, Gardiner was having trouble putting the puck in the net.  A veteran player suggested that he was perhaps too nice to his stick.  “Go dunk it in the toilet.  Show it who’s boss!”  He did, he scored, and for the rest of his career took his equipment to the lavatory before hitting the ice.

If you’re a life-long Redskins fan, there are probably some players and seasons that you’d like to forget.  Do you remember journeyman punter Reggie Roby?  Not the fastest release, not the best hang-time.  The Redskins were one stop in a career that sent him all over the league.  Why do we remember him?  He always wore a watch.  Always.The late Reggie Roby