Play like Jeremy Lin: The one way to be famous

The recent wave of hysteria surrounding Jeremy Lin has been fascinating. It doesn’t hurt he has a last name that can be used for all sorts of wordplay: linsanity, lindercella, linoleum, etc. It only adds to the furor. Everyone’s been asking who the heck this guy is and how did he rise so suddenly to star on the national stage?

He’s  a player who operated on the outskirts of success for a long time. He was offered no athletic scholarships after high school. He was cut from two professional teams before being picked up on waivers by the New York Knicks.  Due to player injuries, Lin was sent into a game out of desperation. The rest is, as they say, history. He electrified his team and scored more points in his first five professional games than any player in NBA history.

So, how has Lin captured the imagination of America? For me, it boils down to one thing- he used his talents on whatever stage, big or small, he was given. All of us have a stage. It may not be on a national level, but its big for us- our family, our work, the place we volunteer. We contribute our talents whether recognized or not- and in ways large and small we become famous. I’ve always liked the following poem by Naomi Shibab Nye


The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

“Famous” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye.

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