Good Review of “Linsanity” Documentary

As you all know, “Linsanity” the documentary will be shown in theaters in October. The film has garnered positive reviews. Here’s a one that I came across and just thought I’d share it with you.


Linsanity: A show of good faith

By Robert Silverman TrueHoop

Linsanity. Do you still think about it? And if so, why? Is it a curiosity, an impish footnote in NBA history or a landmark event that we’ll be telling our offspring about for years to come? 

Filmmaker Evan Jackson Leong definitely belongs in the latter camp. His documentary “Linsanity” premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, opens in October in select cities and was screened this week in New York City. The Los Angeles Times wrote that it got a “rousing response, easily making it one of the most crowd-pleasing documentaries to play the festival this year.”

Leong has been interviewing Lin going back to his days at Palo Alto High School, well before the world took notice. He also has collected a vast treasure trove of Lin family home movies and yet-unseen high school and college camcordered game tapes to fully flesh out Lin’s improbable path to the NBA.

From the moment that a mop-haired, grade school Jeremy pounds out the same tune at a piano recital three years running, you’re hooked. It’s easy to forget, in the midst of the never-ending punning and the crass denigrations of Lin’s Asian heritage, that he, personally, is such a captivating, charming person. So genuine and unassuming. It’s clear that the last thing in the world he ever wanted was the trappings of fame, fortune and celebrity, and that if he had his druthers, he’d play without anyone watching, existing solely in a realm where perfecting his chosen craft counts for more than the result of his labors.

Once the film rolls clips from the Feb. 4, 2012 game versus the Nets, the incredible, boisterous, implausible energy that drove Linsanity comes barreling back full force. Even if you can recall each game during the wondrous 8-1 stretch, the instant those oft-replayed highlights begin to roll, you’re right back in the thick of it, wholly swept up in the feverish giddiness of it all.

Look, there’s the couch belonging to teammate Landry Fields that a semi-homeless Lin slept on during the beginning of his stint in New York! Ohmigosh, Lin was hours away from being released in favor of the immortal Mike James before his 25-point eruption against the then-New Jersey Nets staved off the executioner’s blade. There’s the blue waggling tongue after a trey, the buzzer-beater on Valentine’s Day to topple the Raptors, Kobe’s feigned lack of recognition, the whirling dervish spin move to flatfoot Derek Fisher during a 38-point outing in a victory over the Lakers, the comeback versus the defending champion Mavericks, and on and on. Pure, unadulterated bliss.

But if you’re not a Knicks fan with a particularly nostalgic bent, the question remains: What is it that still resonates so deeply? Save for brief fits and spurts this past season, for all intents and purposes, Linsanity is a thing of the past. Why all the fuss over an average-to-middling point guard? Raymond Felton proved to be a capable replacement at a fraction of the cost. The Knicks had their best season since their dizzying run to the Finals in 1999. An objective assessment of the current state of Knick Knation would have to conclude that all worked out for the best.

Does it still matter?

Here’s why I think it does: Beyond the improbable set of circumstances that surrounded Lin’s rise to superstardom, the overriding theme that pervades the film is that Jeremy Lin’s magical ride would not have occurred if not for his devout faith in God.

The documentary “Linsanity” is peppered with sequences that delve further into its subject matter’s faith. During a sequence detailing his struggles during his junior year of high school, he described how the defining thing that allowed him to expand his game as a creator/distributor as opposed to a pure scorer was realizing that, “God gives and takes away. God took what I really cared about at that time, and showed me that I can’t accomplish what I want to without him, that nothing in this world will happen not according to his plan.”

While addressing a group of kids at his summer basketball camp after his first NBA season, Lin declares, “God loves me, and that he has the perfect plan for me. His plan will take me through a lots of ups and downs, but if I stay faithful to him that in the end he will work everything for my good. Now when I play basketball, I don’t play for anyone else, I only play for God. That’s the type of purpose that he gave me, and once he gave me that purpose, is when I found my peace, and once I got my peace, that’s when I got my joy.”

In the film’s climactic voiceover, to slow-motion replays of Lin working like a fiend to develop his game, we hear Jeremy say, “God did something supernatural to me … Learning to fight to constantly live and play for God. And when I do that, I’ll walk on water.”

The film’s final credit line is, “And a very special thanks to God,” and its wordmark includes a lowercase ‘t,’ which looks remarkably like a crucifix.

There are people for whom phrases like these will ring absolutely true. There are others who won’t have a clue what he’s talking about.

In the name of full disclosure, I am definitely in the latter camp. I have nothing but respect for Lin’s faith. In fact, I envy it. But there is one realm in which our respective spiritual worldviews cross paths.

The reaction that many people had to Lin’s miraculous ascent was so intense, so filled with ecstatic joy, because fandom works in many ways similar to that of religious fealty. There is a set of traditions, values, heroes, villains and fables that are passed down by parent to child from generation to generation.

The war stories of terrible, gut-wrenching losses are told and retold with a measure of battle-scarred pride. We spend hours scouring articles, consuming unending streams of information, wagering of our emotional well-being on the outcome of a three-hour contest, and when faced with the horrifying fact that our team will fail (again), we do the same thing people have done since time immemorial: We pray, hoping beyond hope that our supplication might in some tiny way influence the actions on the court.

Lin was in a similar state of existential and spiritual despair. He knew he had the talent to succeed. He felt as if opportunities had been denied to him for reasons utterly beyond his control, but what kept him going even in his darkest moments ready to chuck the dreams he’d harbored since childhood into the bin, was an unquenchable belief that it was all part of a plan. God’s plan.

Amazingly, said plan did reveal itself, and in a miraculous fashion. At the defining moment of his life he seized the day. His faith was not only rewarded, it was vindicated in spectacular, glorious fashion. And for Knicks fans, who were absolutely at their wits’ end, after a decade marked by not only futility, but humiliation and mockery, ready to give up on yet another seemingly doomed squad, it’s entirely logical to see Lin as a savior-like figure who descended from the heavens (or at least the rafters of MSG).

Within the context of a valley of futility so deep and wide, it’s not surprising that Lin would inspire such a profound, overwhelmingly joyous reaction; that he could reaffirm the notion that there are such things as magic and beauty and maybe even the occasional otherworldly intervention in this world.

Of course, the film doesn’t detail what transpired after Linsanity ended. The injuries that cut his season short are omitted entirely as is any unpacking of the circumstances regarding the contract he signed with Houston. It’s understandable, from the filmmaker’s perspective, partly because it takes a long time to complete and edit a feature and partly because it’s a myth, of a sort. Ending the film with a more human, mundane coda is not how one recounts the heroic exploits of legends.

Maybe it’s absolutely foolhardy to think of Lin — or any player or team — in such terms. Maybe that degree of fanaticism is just plain bad for the soul. As a Knicks fan, I was absolutely devastated when Lin left New York. But leaving the theater, I wasn’t in the throes of some shirt-rending despair. I was smiling, laughing at myself at the folly of it all. You can love and experience loss and go back. There will be more stories, new loves, and new heroes. We’ll forget and remember and forget all over again. Linsanity is meaningless and totally meaningful.

And that’s OK.

Robert Silverman is a TrueHoop Network blogger and co-author of “We’ll Always Have Linsanity.”


40 thoughts on “Good Review of “Linsanity” Documentary

    • Thanks ycchan. But, the link did not take me to any video. I think a few of us might have the same problem. Is is possible to put it in Youtube and post a link here ?

    • I think you’re referring to solidz’s video he took at a sac/hou game where he sat behind the rocket’s bench and shot some disturbing video of mchell giving lin a verbal lobotomy?

  1. Some of you may like this interview which was one of the activities that he did in the summer in China. Half English, half Chinese? Hope you all enjoy it.

    • Thanks, Mr. Pingpong. It’s great to see the young skinny Jeremy. He played his PG role well, but he wasn’t the best scorer on the team–he didn’t even really attempt to score. He was great at stealing the ball and always looked to pass and dish, playing unselfishly. In a word, he played in a similar style with similar strength and weakness as he does now. It seems to me that it didn’t matter how many points he scored; he was just being a good team player, and so were his teammates–they played well together as a team, just as the reporter commented. Seeing that, I just hope the Rockets can be as nice a team for Jeremy, on which he can be the PG and has a lot of fun playing with his teammates. Well, that may be too idealistic in the NBA since the pressure is so huge–now, aside from being a good PG, he needs to score well too to live up to people’s expectations. I also found this American high school basketball much less nasty and much more relaxing than the NBA games while displaying the same high-level skills. Jeremy often emphasized having fun, and I could see where that fun came from.

    • Thanks for the videos, MrPingPong! Been a while.

      Sorry for my late comment. I’ve been on a 10-day silent meditation retreat:

      Just got back today. I had no access to any form of communication while I was there. So only seeing these comments today.

      Looking forward to the season. When I was away I did have moments when I did wonder if some breaking news about Lin was happening while I was away, like he was traded or something. And then I thought about how much I was looking forward to seeing Lin play with Dwight Howard and then just saw some very positive comments about Lin from Hakeem the Dream. Good to see that. I do believe Howard and Lin duo would be deadly, but still concerned that McHale would get in the way. I have a lot of confidence, though, that Lin will be a very good outside shooter this season. The mechanics of his shots look much better from various videos that I’ve seen of him this summer than last summer or last season.

      • Good to hear from you, Philosopher!

        It is very possible that if one meditates long and hard enough, one might discover that Linsanity was just a dream. Anyway, it seems like the pressure is off Lin now. May be Lin will play with abandonment again…

        I would love to see Lin wearing earrings again, like back in those days when he was a nobody:

        Talking about lost innocence…

      • I dunno but this made me teary eyed a bit…

        “May be Lin will play with abandonment again…” and “when he was a nobody”

        I guess I just miss him on the court…

      • MrPingPong, I keep forgetting that you’re in Houston. You can be our on-the-ground reporter. Yep. training camp is coming up. I think Lin will do well this season, as long as McHale doesn’t get in the way. He’s finally got a PnR big, so he should rack up the assists. He’ll also knock down a lot of threes this season. Hopefully, everyone plays unselfishly. Gonna be tough with two superstars on the team. We’ll see how they all gel. Hope Harden is willing to share the ball more this season and Lin’s usage rate goes up. I do think Lin and Howard can be a deadly combo. But we’ll see if McHale lets that happen or at least doesn’t get in the way of it.

      • Training camp is around the corner. Expectations are super high in H-town. Some particular life long Rockets fan, who is a second year MBA at MIT Sloan, brought out numbers from last season to prove his point that Lin needs to get better this season, or else. Rockets fans and basketball pundits are pushing for Lin to be a good role player, whatever that means. Perhaps it means that if the Rockets do well then that’s because of D12 and H13, otherwise it’s all Lin’s fault.

        But do not fret, Lin fans! Because Lin has changed (bro)…

        Reporting from the ground (up), this is Mr PingPong…

      • Thanks for the link, Tiger. We’ll see about McHale. Yeah, I don’t think he’ll change much the way he uses Lin this season. It’s up to Lin to knock down threes, which I think he will this year. I’m counting on him shooting north of 40% from threes this season. I know others may think I’m being a crazy Lin fan for thinking this, but Lin did shoot 40% from threes during the latter part of last season. I think he improved his shooting tremendously this summer. So shooting 40%+ from threes is something I’m expecting from him this season.

        Here’s some nice comments from a coach who does believe in Lin at the Linsanity premiere:

      • Thanks for your on-the-ground reporting, MrPingPong! Yep, the catchphrase when discussing Lin is “role player”. Just another way for them to belittle Lin in a “PC” (politically correct) way. I think Lin still doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to run the floor. The pendulum on Lin has swung too far in the other direction, but that’s fine. Lin’s better in the underdog role, anyway.

        I think Lin will have a great season, as long as McHale doesn’t meddle too much with Lin. I think as the season progresses, Howard will prefer doing PnRs with Lin versus Harden, since he’ll realize that he’ll have more opportunities to score when he does PnRs with Lin. I’m concerned that McHale is going to over-use Beverley this season and under-utilize Lin. That’s my biggest concern for this season. Beverley is a good spark off the bench. He’s a good energy guy, but he’s not a floor general or a leader. Lin is a great floor general and leader. A lot of people still have their blinders on when it comes to Lin. I have all the confidence, though, that when it’s all said and done there will be no Lin doubters and the only anti-Lin folks will be the Haters, who will hate no matter what. When it’s all said and done, McHale will realize what a gem he had in Lin. The gem that he took for granted and kept throwing back in the dirty pond.

      • ‘Good to hear from you, CH, and thanks for the link to Chris Baldwin’s latest article on Lin. I am not sure about this CB guy though. Have you read this article in which he questioned Lin’s heart?

        Basketball pundits question everything about Lin, like this “second year MBA at MIT Sloan” guy who raised concerns about Lin’s mental toughness:

        It’s a sad/amusing fact of (Lin’s) life that people would take things Lin says and contort them into whatever that would fit their points of view. This makes me think of an Arab proverb a good friend of mine once told me: “Know your weaknesses but never speak of them”.

        Have a good evening/night/day/afternoon wherever you are on this WEB!

      • Didn’t see that article by Chris Baldwin. Thanks for the link, MrPingPong. I pretty much discount everything that was written during that injury, since there was so much confusion. I don’t even think the coaching staff realized how serious it was. It was a very confusing injury. So I don’t fault Chris Baldwin too much for that article.

        I haven’t tracked this writer. It’s just that every article I happen to see from him has been supportive of Lin (except this one that you pointed out). It could just be seeing only the positive ones. But I’m actually glad to see that he’s written a critical article on Lin. This shows me that he’s not a Lin fanatic. He’s an objective Lin supporter, which is why he seems to echo a lot of things I’ve written here in his articles.

        The views on Lin are too extreme in either direction and now the mainstream media has swung too far in the other direction that Lin is not given credit for anything.

      • You are a compassionate and forgiving guy, Philosopher!
        OK, Chris Baldwin, you get a pass from me for this one time, this one time only.

    • Thanks for the link, CH. Love the article. That writer, Chris Baldwin is a big Lin supporter. He says everything I’ve said on this blog in both my comments and my posts. Glad he’s out there writing this stuff. I may have to feature this article in a future post.

  2. @MrPhilosopher : There are a lot of tweets to @LInsanityTheMovie as to is it possible that the movie/documentary will be shown in their places and the reply is that “anything is possible”. So, i believe it may reach Oregon or even in some other states one of these days. Keep the faith 🙂
    @MrPingPong: Like what most people said, the movie is truly inspiring! I like all those baby clips of him and his entire family. Faith in God, Family, and Follow your dreams. These are the top 3 lessons I got in the movie 🙂

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