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My Take: Linsanity vs. Tebowmania, key similarities and differences
Stephen Prothero says there are big similarities between Jeremy Lin, above, and Tim Tebow, but big differences, too.
February 13th, 2012
04:35 PM ET

My Take: Linsanity vs. Tebowmania, key similarities and differences

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Is the New York Knicks’ point guard Jeremy Lin the NBA’s answer to Tim Tebow? Let me count the ways.

First, Lin was underestimated throughout his career. The knock has been that Tebow couldn’t throw. The knock on Lin had been that he wasn’t particularly athletic.

Although he led Palo Alto High School to a state championship in basketball, major college programs did not want Lin. And after he blew away the competition at Harvard, the NBA didn’t seem particularly interested either. Undrafted, he warmed the bench at Golden State, then Houston and then New York before getting his big break this year with the Knicks.

Second, like Tebow, Lin came out of nowhere to bring a dying team back from the dead. While Tebow turned around the Denver Broncos at quarterback, Lin has led the previously struggling Knicks at point guard to five straight victories, each with 20 points or more. And his field goal percentage during this winning streak tops 50%, not bad for a guy who supposedly can’t shoot.

Third, Lin is also a born-again Christian whose fans love him as much for cultural and religious intangibles as for his ability in his sport.

In a 2010 interview with Timothy Dalrymple of Patheos.com, Lin said he was raised in the church and became a Christian in high school. In college, he played “for the glory of God.” After his career-high 38 point performance against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, he said, “I just give all the praise to God.”

But Lin, who told Sports Illustrated in 2010 that he wants to be a pastor post-NBA, also has another intangible going for him—his Chinese-American heritage. Yes, the “Linsanity” is driven by his performance on the court, but it’s also driven by his Taiwanese descent, and the fact that he is one of a handful of Asian Americans to make it to the NBA.

Lin also differs from Tebow in his approach to the faith, which is more subtle. On his Facebook page, Lin does quote Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." But the "Taiwanese Tebow" doesn’t “Tebow” after a game. His evangelism is decidedly low key.

In this way, Lin is a reminder that, like Christians themselves, athletic evangelicals come in all shapes and sizes.

Scholars of religion have been observing for years that the Christian tradition is rapidly moving south and east, finding its new home not so much in Europe or in the United States as in Asia and Africa and Latin America.

Lin exemplifies this trend, even as he reminds us that American Christianity is changing its face, too. The Asian immigration boom that began with the opening up of immigration in 1965 did wonders for Buddhism and Hinduism, to be sure. But it brought far more Christians to American shores, many of them (like Lin) non-denominational evangelicals.

Down the road, Lin will probably get some of the same grief that Tebow has gotten for his outspoken faith. And if he is as human as that faith says he is, his shots are going to clang off the rim some day, and with it some of the sheen on his celebrity. In other words, there is at least as much insanity in Jeremania as there was in the cult of Tim Tebow. To believe in either guy takes a little bit of faith.

But for now, "Linsanity" is crazy wisdom, driving Web pilgrims to view the couch where Lin (who makes a paltry $762,000 a year) been supposedly sleeping in recent days and even resurrecting the stock of Madison Square Garden–Linflation?–which owns the surging Knicks.

Lin headlines his Twitter account with “to know Him is to want to know Him more.”

At least for now, Knicks fans seem to be saying that to watch Lin play is to want to watch him more. A lifelong Celtics fan, I've never liked the Knicks. But I want to see Lin more, too. Until he comes to Boston.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Sports • United States

soundoff (691 Responses)
  1. eavesmac

    Is this really news? Especially considering in the last four years the govt. has taken more of our freedoms than in any other time?

    February 14, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • zip

      How many mobile homes can you see from your windows?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • bff

      What freedoms of yours were taken?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Mr. N.

      Zip, I can tell you one he can't see: Yours. Oh, and BTW, just because your cart has wheels, does not make it a mobile home, OK?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @eavesmac
      Uhm... the Patriot Act was Bush's baby and took away your right to privacy, unlawful detainment and a fair trial.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • captain america

      And has no jurisdiction in canada so what is your point, you are not under our laws in your own country and we don't care for what you think about US. There's your sign

      February 14, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Don

      Mr N can't see any mobile homes from his window either, he doesn't have a window under his rock where he was born when a dog took a dump there and suddenly he was and went Hallelujah God created ME!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  2. Mr.Data

    Glory be to Jeremy Lin and the power of God. For God so loved the NBA that he gave this lowly, forgotten son – Jeremy Lin – refinished ability to light up the NBA and please the crowd of knickerbocker fans in NY.

    But alas, when the end is near we will see that whilst Lin is great, the Knicks are less than champions.

    It still takes a team to win a championship. That is God's vision.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • jim

      You really think your god gives a shlt who wins games?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  3. DisReverent

    Linbo Maniacs

    February 14, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  4. fearisenemy

    The NBA is not worth talking about.
    Tebowmania is a media invention to sell products.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  5. Ken C

    Why is this front page news!? Who cares about a bunch of circus freaks that play basketball and get rich for it?!? It must be a NON-news day over at CNN to post something as useless as this!

    February 14, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  6. citizen

    Amazing that several hundred Muslims can cover Times Square on prayer blamkets and it is PC. Let one Christian athlete pray and the bigots run wild.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • fearisenemy

      Who said that was PC?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • zip

      put down the crack pipe. really

      February 14, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Don

      Uh, I happpen to look at the musloms with apprehension as well. ALL of you maniacs are known for strapping bombs on your behinds and blowing up innocent people in the name of imaginary beings you hear while suffering from schizophrenia, you all need immediate mental health care and most of you need to be committed.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  7. AP

    Very little substance in this article.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • substancearbiter

      I thought he did a nice job of teaching me, a non-basketball fan, what all the hype was about regarding Lin. Nice job, Stephen! Keep up the good work.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Silvestre

      Posted on hhaahhhahahaaa! Oh thank you so much!I am a craft lover all be it a rather untalented one, who has just spent the last hour drooling over craft blogs of the perfect kind.I have been left both inspired and slightly depressed.It must after all be simple to acheive perfect for all but me!Thank you for sharing your crafting mishaps and allowing me to feel a little less alone in my failures!

      March 1, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  8. KnowsMore

    I thought the NBA was for Americans, kick the foreigners out and get this country back to where it belongs!

    February 14, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • jim

      He was born in Los Angeles, how much more American can you get?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • DT

      I believe he IS an American and not a foreigner. He's born here.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  9. Amom

    Lin vs. Tebow. And the point is what? That Christians come in all shapes and sizes or that some are outspoken and some are quiet? Perhaps the bigger point the article makes is that Christianity is spreading in the Asian countries. Ask yourself what is going on over there that would cause people to chose Christ. Then ask yourself what would have to happen here in the U.S. to draw people back to the Lord.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • zip

      do you really think asian people are going to accept a caucasian deity?? Now that's funny!!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Mr. N.

      zip, no what's funny is how clueless you are. Caucasian deity? Um, last I checked, Jesus was middle Eastern, Jewish, to be precise, and though know one knows what he really looked like, he certainly wasn't caucasian. But then again, we don't expect you to know that, because you've shown to be pretty ignorant and close-minded already. Have a nice day.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  10. Mr. Kentucky

    You all , think about what you are saying. To disrespect someones thoughts and believes is not the most mature adult thing to to. Especially the Athiest on here. We respect that you have faith in Man and in Yourself, but we dont BASH YOU on this CNN blog JUST because we dont agree with you. I am a Christian, but I do not follow Religion. My father and mother are Preachers , and they do not follow religon. Man made Religion, God made Us. When you die , a part of you goes on but a part of you stays if you are needed . Government even knows that theres a GOD. Satan Worshipers know that theres a GOD. EVEN the Major Leaders in this World that Control the media , news, currency, Federal Banks, they even know that There is A GOD. There is a War going on that we cannot see, and its between Good and Evil. But you will never find that out unless you Search within yourself.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • zip

      So you believe in magic?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Mr. Kentucky

      yes i do

      February 14, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • fearisenemy

      They think there is a god.
      So if someone does not believe in a god, are they evil?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • zip

      where does Harry Potter fit in??

      February 14, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Nicky

      I don't accept as true with this blog post. However, I had oolked in Google and I've found out that you are correct and I seemed to be thinking in the improper way. Carry on publishing top quality content similar to this.

      March 4, 2012 at 12:13 am |
  11. David

    This is ridiculous. Just because Jeremy Lin has said "Thank God for making this possible" doesn't mean he's like Tim Tebow, who wears his religion on his sleeve....and cheeks...and necklace....and about everything else.

    The main difference? Jeremy Lin actually has a high level of productivity and doesn't just "win games".

    This is a stretch....

    February 14, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  12. B

    That is the difference between west and east ...I love tebow and i am 100% for his tebowing ..but we are low key ..culture shaped as like that.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  13. Snake-Eyes

    Who cares? Seriously folks....both of these guys make more $ in one year than most of us will make in an entire lifetime. Neither has a sense of "boots on the ground" concepts that most people have. Sorry, but I am sick & tired of these athletes & "stars" in Hollywood getting all of this attention. They are flawed humans just like the rest of us. It is easy to be cynical of people such as Tebow; is he really that religious or is he establishing himself in this way to differenterate. If God really is causing him to win, who/what is causing the other team to lose? Why are they being caused to lose? Are they evil? Did they do something wrong? Does God really care about sports outcomes with all of the other things going on? (maybe He does, I really don't know). Would I rather my kids look up to Tebow than some gangster rapper? Probably so. One thing is certain, worst case scenario: both of these guys will write a book & be financially comfortable for the rest of their lives.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  14. zip

    think what a great world it would be if people stopped wishing the imaginary voice in their heads would grant their wishes, and instead started to make it happen themselves through common sense

    February 14, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Mr. N.

      And it isn't happening for them, right? Wait, I forgot, they are extremely successful and talented so ... what was your point, again?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Don

      The point Mr N is anyone who hears imaginary beings talking to them is suffering from schizophrenia and needs immediate mental health care, not told they are doing ok. Everyone should strive to help those suffering from extreme delusions or else committed for the safety of those who are not suffering. These people usually go on to strap bombs on themselves and blowing up innocent people at bus and train stations because they are non believers. It is how schizophrenia usually tends to go, BOOM!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  15. Gohard

    Lin is the real deal...Tebow's WHACK!!!!!

    February 14, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  16. jdun

    I don't care what you believe, just keep it to yourself and don't try to sell it to me. If you think your religion helps you through life, good for you.

    February 14, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Mr. N.

      Why? What's the problem with someone speaking his mind? Is the first amendment really that repulsive to you? Where are you from, the former USSR?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Don

      He is NOT from the USSR. He is from the US where when we see people talking to imaginary beings we all try and help them seek immediate mental health care because they are suffering from schizophrenia and need HELP!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  17. dan dalton

    Lin is a great player, and is going to be a big star! Why? Because he knows the fundamentals of the game. I saw him take apart the Lakers the other night. The thing that he understands is that if you go to the basket, you break down the defense. Kobe has yet to learn that. He likes to take fall away jumpers, and fall away three pointers, even if it's with ten seconds left and the Lakers are only down by one or two. He doesn't understand that if you go to the hole, the refs are on your side. You get fouled and put in two free throws and go into overtime, or you make the basket and get fouled and get a three pointer and win the game. Or the defensive center tries to stop you, and you dish it off to your center for a dunk! Kobe would rather take a thirty-five foot fall away three, and be a big hero if he makes it. WRONG! Lin penetrates like Cris Paul does. It breaks down the defense and when you get by your man, you have a five on four. Remember, Kobe never had high school coaching, and pro coaches don't teach fundamentals. Besides, a guy like Kobe making millions, wouldn't listen anyway. Go Lin. He sure is fun to watch!
    Dan Dalton

    February 14, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Brett

      Dan Dalton – I agree that Lin knows how to play the game and has been underrated his entire career for a plethora of reasons. But, even as a Celtics fan – that fact that you don't think Kobe Bryant knows how to play the game of basketball is utterly ridiculous and frankly makes be devalue any opinion that you may have. The fact of the matter is that Kobe Bryant will go down as one of the five greatest NBA basketball players ever, maybe even a close second behind Jordan. At Lin's age, Kobe was doing the same thing Lin is doing now (if not better) but on a larger stage with extended consistency while he had hype around him his entire career. Yes Kobe has taken his share of silly fade aways but there's likely no one you would rather have with his hands on the ball on the last possession of a game when you need a big shot. Your comment about the free throw line is null – Kobe has been to the line more times in his career because of smart play and the ability (which you say he does not posses) to read defenses, react and move with/without the ball. Before you crown Lin, count Kobe's rings – which to your comment about him being all selfish as a basketball player, he needed Shaq, Pau and Big shot Bobby to win in all cases he differed at the right times to win. I take it you don't remember the ally-oop to Shaq to seal the conference finals against the blazers in OT when he could have easily pulled up and shot himself then the finals sweep that ensued. Please consider the body of work before you degrade a player for being assertive on the floor. Will Kobe steal the ball from his own teammate to take the final shot, probably. But that’s the killer mentality that he has and always has had. It’s what separates him from the likes of Lebron. He will win at all costs and make sure the he is the one that gets it done. Is Kobe as good as he once was? No, not athletically. But as for his mental acuity for the game, I'll take him over anyone, especially you as it seems you really don’t know the inner workings of the hardwood. Go read some stuff that Coach K has to say about coaching Kobe on the redeem team.

      So just because you want to use this as a forum to hate on Bryant does not mean you have that liberty, this is an article about an extremely talented and underappreciated player (Lin not Bryant) who just got a shot to do something special and is taking advantage of that shot. Good for him.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Brett

      Just another thing to consider Dan – Kobe and Lin play different positions. Lin is a PG, therefore a facilitator first. Kobe is a SG, therefore a scorer first, facilitator second.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  18. myklds

    God has started to manifest his power unto His people.

    God Bless Tebow, Lin and Romney and to each and everyone who has faith.

    February 14, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • zip

      cue the hysterical laughter. thanks for making my day

      February 14, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Andy Anderson

      2011 called, and there's about 10,585,000 children under the age of 5 that would like to have a word with your deity.

      Why can he help two individuals play a sport better but can't help keep an average of 29,000 children from dying every day?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • sleepyinsf

      Haha...thanks for reminding my why I'm not a Christian, besides the fact that it's utter b.s.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      There have always been famous people– some with faith, some without–but right now religious people are getting a lot of press. Romney gets it because Presidential candidates are always in the spotlight, and Tebow does because he showboats and takes the spotlight for himself when a better man would share it with the teammates who are truly responsible for his success. I think that Lin is having the spotlight foisted on him because of Tebow. I hope he handles it with less selfishness than Tebow.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Snake-Eyes

      Regardless of your faith (or lack of) I think Andy Anderson has posted a very legitimate question below.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • myklds

      May God Bless all atheists too.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Brett

      I couldn't agree with you more Sleepyinsf.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  19. Gonzo

    Tebow or Lin. I don't think it is a matter of God being conerned with basketball and footbal, I think it is the fact that he is concerned about individuals. Two believing individuals that happen to be in sports. This can be said about a believing president or general. The question is: Do you believe God is a a personal God? If God IS a personal God, then no matter where that individual resides, God will be working in that environment.

    February 14, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • sleepyinsf

      Only, there is no God. What a nation of children this is.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  20. Don

    Linsanity tops Tebowignorancestupidity 10 times over. Anyone who tries to make out that an imaginary friend is helping them do anything needs serious mental health help. Looking aat rhe symptoms it is really sad people are going wild over someone suffering from a severe case of schizophrenia when they shoould instead be pushing for him to get mental help, maybe electrical shock threrapy and heavy medication? Whichever Tebow really needs help to overcome his ignorance and extreme mental health issue.

    February 14, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Granger

      Wow..Don..you really have some anger issues...or are you merely jealous of Tebow's success and him being a far better man that' you could ever hope to be?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • oDn

      And your atrocious spellings and incoherent sentences are symptoms of PARKINSON'S or ALZHEIMER'S disease?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • cras

      good call, only people who have this mental disability would actually think that Tebow as actually any good while Lin actually is. religion doesnt matter there are plenty of starts in sports who dont belive in god or arent god crazy. Tebow isnt better than anyone, he is just a bad quarterback.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Steve

      Truth be told, if Tebow was black, we'd be hearing 24/7/365 about his noble "spirituality." And liberals wouldn't dare to mock it.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Don

      I sure am glad all you pathetic believers in those imaginary beings cannot track me down. I am sure all of you are just dieing to strap on a bomb and come blow me up because I am a non believer. What you should really do is seek immediate mental health care, but then insane people usually deny it. Another suggestion is you can find a circus and get in the sideshow section, that is another place that caters to those who are insane, seems people like to look at them and laugh much as I am at all you radical religious fantics right now ROFLMAO!

      February 14, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Carlo

      Dear Don:

      considering that you spend your days in fear of religious fanatics trying to blow you up, and posting the same comment over and over (your "imaginary being" fixation) are you sure you could not use some professional help yourself?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:43 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.