If the extensive media coverage of “Linsanity”—stricken fans reveling in the basketball prowess of Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin (林書豪), who plays for the New York Knicks — was not bad enough, “Linfluenza” continues to rage at fever pitch and the nation’s politicians have now jumped on the bandwagon and become “Linfatuated.”
Numerous government officials are eager to share their “Linspired” opinions, ranging from Premier Sean Chen (陳冲), who noted “the importance and power of teamwork,” to Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien who said “President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is like the point guard of the government, directing and navigating the scoring of government agencies.”
The latest addition to the party of politicians reaching out for a piece of the “Lincredible” pie is none other than the president himself. During a dinner table chat with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers on Sunday, Ma reportedly issued a directive to Chen, instructing him to put on a full-court press to reinvigorate the nation’s interest in basketball to cultivate the next Jeremy Lin.
Then, on Tuesday, while meeting with Taiwanese participants in the Eighth International Junior Science Olympiad, the president noted that he and Lin were both Harvard graduates, and he encouraged young people to not only study hard, but to also understand the importance of physical exercise.
Given Lin’s Taiwanese heritage and his struggles on the road to superstardom, it is understandable that Taiwanese, including politicians, would cheer for him and draw inspiration from his story.
However, it is a step too far when government officials attempt to ride on Lin’s coattails and try to gain credit for his fame, as if they had had some role in creating his success.
Ma spoke of cultivating “the next Jeremy Lin” — but this begs the question: What did the government do to cultivate Jeremy Lin in the first place? Lin was born and grew up in the US and it was due to his personal effort, perseverance, passion and determination that he got where he is today. The government had nothing to do with the Jeremy Lin story.
As for Ma’s talk of re-energizing basketball in Taiwan, it might seem commendable to have such thoughts, but one cannot help but wonder whether the president is simply making empty promises once again.
Given Ma’s track record, the public has to have its doubts. In late 2009, amid pleas from fans to improve the nation’s scandal-plagued professional baseball league, the president designated 2010 as the Year of Baseball, pledging to reinvigorate the national sport. A couple of years have now passed, but what has the Ma administration actually done?
Many also remember how, in 2010, when Taiwanese tennis player Lu Yen-hsun (盧彥勳) surged to international stardom, having defeated then-world No. 7 Andy Roddick at Wimbledon, the government made noises about cultivating the nation’s talents in tennis and to build tennis courts that complied with international standards. As with the previous case, that bluster soon died down, leaving the nation’s athletes to struggle on their own.
Rather than simply riding on others’ fame and success and making empty promises, Ma — and all government officials — should really take a piece of the Jeremy Lin story to heart, cherish the values of perseverance and determination that Lin demonstrated and use them in areas where they count — say, in facing pressure from the US to ease restrictions on beef imports or China’s incessant malicious ambition to annex Taiwan.