Sports: Lin Shoots For Stardom; Patriot Fans Sour

Lin-sanity grips basketball! Gripes and second-guesses grip Pats fans! And what do we owe great four-legged athletes when they go past their prime? Host Scott Simon talks with NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman about the sports of the week.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time now for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Lin-sanity grips basketball. Gripes and second-guesses grip Pats fans. And what do we owe the great four-legged athletes we have in this country when they go past their prime? We're joined now by NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: What a game Jeremy Lin had last night. Kept our oldest daughter up. Thirty-eight points. He skipped over the court at Madison Square Garden like a dragonfly to lead the Knicks over the L.A. Lakers, 92-85. Eight days ago, OK, Jeremy Lin riding the bench and sleeping on his brother's couch on the Lower East side. Now, and maybe just for the moment, he's the biggest name in sports. What do we make of the rise of Jeremy Lin?

GOLDMAN: I think someone sprinkled sports fairy dust over New York City.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: You know, a week ago, you've got the New York Giants winning the Super Bowl. And then, you know, no time for New Yorkers to catch their breath and Jeremy Lin happens. My answer to your question is simply to quote Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, who said after last night, "This is a once in a lifetime thing. I don't know what to tell you. I've never seen it."

Lin was not on anyone's radar screen for stardom. A guy cut by two teams - Golden State and Houston, oops - after the lockout ended late last year. And then, Scott, a week ago, D'Antoni decided to give Lin big minutes. The Knicks point guards hadn't performed well.

He responded with 25 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and 19,763 fans at Madison Square Garden went absolutely nuts. And Lin has been in the starting lineup since then. He's scored 89 points in those three starts, most by an NBA player in the first three starts in 35 years.

Now, of course, this happening in New York City means he's no longer under the radar. In fact, he's broken the radar screen as the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. He has inspired Asian-Americans. He has inspired basketball fans everywhere.

SIMON: Yeah. You do have to ask. I mean, there are - and this is not a metaphor - there are NBA scouts at middle school games in Croatia these days. So, how does a player from Palo Alto and Harvard - not Dubrovnik - fly under the radar?

GOLDMAN: Several factors. Conventional wisdom was wrong. Conventional wisdom says you're not getting NBA stars out of the Ivy League - Lin played at Harvard - and you're not getting Asian-American point guards to lead an NBA team and be an impact player because there'd never been one. He should have been higher profile. He would have been had he gone to a major university, but no scholarship offers. And one college coach was quoted last year as saying, most colleges start recruiting a guy in the first five minutes they see him because he runs really fast, he jumps really high, he does the quick, easy thing to evaluate, which Lin didn't. And Lin himself said this: In order for someone to understand my game, they have to watch me more than once because I'm not going to do anything that's extra flashy or freakishly athletic. And, Scott, you watched last night. It's true. You watch him. You don't see a guy with blazing speed or mad hops, as they say. You can see him thinking away his way around a basketball court; changing speeds, reading defenses, finding open teammates, and that's what he did.

SIMON: Of course, we mentioned New York Giants won the Super Bowl. They're really taking this hard in Boston. You know, a columnist, talk show caller - they're heaping invective on Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Wes Welker - great receiver who dropped who dropped a not-great pass. Are they spoiled brats?

GOLDMAN: I think so. You might want to ask Bill Buckner that.

SIMON: There goes Boston.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, right. You might want to ask Bill Buckner how New England fans can be a little harsh, you know.

SIMON: Yeah. I want to get to this finally this week. A group of people in the horseracing business announced a thoroughbred aftercare alliance this week, basically to look after race horses who could no longer race. What kind of step is this?

GOLDMAN: You know, horse welfare advocates say this is a good step but they're also asking is there funding for long-term aftercare. Scott, many thoroughbreds end their careers injured because in part of being given injury-masking drugs during their career. And they can't go on a second careers, such as show jumping or eventing. And thousands of those horses are slaughtered. And there needs to be money for keeping these great horses alive. Racing is a multibillion-dollar industry. The money's there. You would think they could take little bits of money from all corners of the industry and help make sure that happens.

SIMON: And they're great athletes, aren't they?

GOLDMAN: Oh, you've been to the paddock. They're marvelous athletes, absolutely.

SIMON: And the bond with us humans is extraordinary. NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

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