- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Count me among the ranks of Jeremy Lin fanatics, the certifiably Linsane who can’t get enough of his Lincredible story. We’re enjoying every bit of the Lintense media coverage.

No doubt about it, I’m all-Lin. Not because he plays my favorite position in my beloved hometown for my childhood team. Not because he’s an Asian-American who received no scholarship offers before attending Harvard — and then went undrafted after graduating. Not because he seems so humble and genuine while enjoying his rapid rise from obscurity to obsession.

All of that is a factor. But as much as anything else, I’m Linfatuated with him because he’s not Tim Tebow. No matter how often we see such analogies, Linsanity is not equivalent to Tebowmania.

Faith is one of the few things they seem to have in common. Other than that, Lin is the anti-Tebow.

Equating the two is ludicrous and lazy, admittedly a proven strategy for drawing attention online, over the air and in print. Just because we never saw anything like the Tebow phenomenon doesn’t mean the next unbelievable story is similar. There are too many familiar elements to liken Tebow’s tale to Lin’s legend.

Seriously, Tebow was among the nation’s most sought-after recruits when he chose the University of Florida, a national powerhouse. He went on to win two national championships and one Heisman Trophy award. Then the Denver Broncos made him a first-round draft pick.

That’s a common career arc, and it’s not even close to Lin’s path. Tebow was football royalty as he entered the NFL, though opinions on his prospects were mixed. Lin was a basketball peasant when he entered the NBA, and opinions on his prospects were unanimous: He wasn’t worth drafting. Only four teams offered to take a look at him in training camp.

Not only were their routes to the pros totally different, but so are the methods they employed when opportunity knocked.

Lin has been a classic point guard, scoring or assisting on the majority of the Knicks‘ baskets. He joined the lineup Feb. 6 and has accumulated the most points (109) by any player through his first four starts since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77. Additionally, no other player in NBA history put up at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his first four starts.

Conversely, Tebow looks like a quarterback who was mysteriously transported from the Stone Age to the Digital Age. He completed a mere two passes in one start last season; he failed to complete more than nine passes in four other starts. Denver embarked on a grand experiment with Tebow under center, installing an offense that most pro teams haven’t used since leather helmets were prevalent.

Compared to Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and the like, Tebow sticks out like a rotary-dial phone among Blackberrys. But there’s no difference between Lin’s style of play and elite point guards such as Steve Nash, who thrived under Mike D’Antoni when the Knicks‘ coach ran a similar attack in Phoenix.

“Every team in the league runs pick-and-rolls, so I don’t see why you would discredit what Lin has done or qualify it,” Nash told Sports Illustrated. “I think he’s been outstanding regardless.”

This is no knock on Tebow, but he wasn’t “outstanding” last season. He had a few crucial, unbelievable moments in the fourth quarter of a few games and overtime in a playoff game. But Lin has been brilliant since D’Antoni pried him from the bench Feb. 4 and played him for 35 minutes — after playing him an average of seven minutes in nine games prior.

Yes, Lin’s heritage adds to his story (although Floyd Mayweather is crazy to suggest all of the hype is due to Lin’s race). And, yes, Lin’s alma mater plays a role, too. There have been few NBA stars from Harvard and no Asian-American NBA stars.

Throw in the fact that Lin went undrafted and two NBA teams cut him before he landed in New York (a factor that increases the hype but didn’t create it) and you’ve got a Linspirational story like none other — Tebow included.

Since Feb. 4, Lin’s No. 17 jersey is the NBA’s top online seller, Knicks merchandise sales are No. 1 overall and the team’s stuff accounts for half of the NBA’s 10 most popular items. Madison Square Garden stock has risen 6.2 percent since Lin stormed onto the scene. Forbes estimates that his athlete brand is worth $14 million, which would tie him with Kobe Bryant for sixth among the world’s top athlete brands.

Not bad for a player few folks had heard of before this month. Something is wrong if you can’t root for a guy like Lin. The same is true of Tebow, but this is different.

This is Linsanity. And it’s absolutely, positively wonderful.