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Bay Area already had 'Linsanity;' so why is it so much better now?

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

The sudden burst of Jeremy Lin mania that is gripping Manhattan (and let's be honest, given their history, the New York Knicks don't resonate very far beyond that) is fascinating for those of us who are getting a second run at it.

You see (and if even if you don't see, it's still a fact), the San Francisco Bay Area got the earlier prototype of Linsanity a year ago. He was a Golden State Warrior, an almost personal project of owner Joe Lacob, who saw and became infatuated with him when he was the star at Palo Alto High School, across the El Camino Real from Stanford.

He followed him through his eye-opening days at Harvard after the Pac-10 schools only offered him a chance to walk on, and when he had a chance to sign him as an undrafted free agent, he seized upon it, signing him in July.

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Between the novelty of his Harvard résumé and the fact that he was the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the league.

These are all things that have been covered in the fresh new batch of Lin stories, with all of them marveling at the things that he was marveled at when he was in Oakland, with a different cult following that came to the arena in hope of watching him get in a few minutes.

Only he was in Oakland, and didn't play much on a team that resides at the outer edge of the NBA's 30-planet solar system. He got bounced back to Reno in the NBA D-League three times, and when the Warriors drafted Charles Jenkins, Lin's days were essentially numbered. He'd become a cult figurine, and eventually got released in December so the Warriors could pursue a futile run at free agent DeAndre Jordan.

Oh, well. It was a nice story while it lasted.

Jeremy Lin played for the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets before his stop in New York. (Getty Images)  
Jeremy Lin played for the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets before his stop in New York. (Getty Images)  
But now, after a brief stop in Houston, he landed in New York, where a healthy dose of Mike D'Antoni and a fan base that always has liked to imagine that there are the Knicks and then there are the league's outposts, have combined to make him the new rage.

For all the old reasons, as it turns out.

And it's odd to watch this fan love coalesce again, in exactly the same way it did last year. Lin is a very popular figure among Chinese NBA fans for reasons of nationality, but his appeal stretches to those who like him for his style of play coming from a brain farm like Harvard; put another way, Jeremy Lin of Southern Mississippi wouldn't be quite the same story line.

Watching an entirely new media gaggle fall in love, albeit temporarily, with the Lin story by using the same old angles that sustained the Bay Area media a year later is actually quite strange, all the way down to the breathless "OhmyGodhaveyoueverseensuchathing?" stories that are pounding the Internet like waves.

It is like having seen an art house film that you kind of liked, then finding out that the director added a love interest and a couple of gas-soaked car crashes and decided to re-debut it in Times Square. Suddenly your art house film is being called the hit of the season, and you're wondering in that speechless way of yours, "What the hell?"

What the hell, indeed. Jeremy Lin has become some other cult's hero now, and Warrior fans lament their lot yet again. They got Mark Jackson from the Knicks' fan base, and occasionally they get Monta Ellis going off as he did Tuesday night, putting 48 on Oklahoma City in a loss. But that's what the Warriors do more than anything else -- lose. And when they get Jeremy Lin, they not only give him up, they give him to someone who has found a better use for him, and a breathless new media group to rave about him.

He's the brand new artist whose show Warriors fans already saw, only they're now scratching their heads and wondering why someone else is enjoying it so much more. It makes Warriors fans slump their shoulders a little more abjectly and wonder when they'll get a nice thing that they can keep and have other people admire for a change.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com)


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