Not a Lin-stant Success

If you have been following (paying attention to) American sports at all in the past two months, you have probably heard of a 23-year-old basketball player for the New York Nicks named Jeremy Lin. Lin has become what we might call a household name (someone that everyone knows about) practically (almost) overnight (in a single day; very quickly).  Who is Jeremy Lin, and why has he become so famous?

Lin was born in Los Angeles to Taiwanese immigrant parents, but was raised (grew up) in Palo Alto, California, near San Francisco. He was a star basketball player in high school, and led (was the leader of) his team to the California state championship. But while he was an excellent student and a very good player, he was not considered by most college basketball scouts (people who look for and evaluate athletes) to be a great player. He was recruited by (asked to come to) Harvard, which is not exactly (not at all) known for great athletes. Even at Harvard, he was not very successful as a basketball player. But he got good grades, and became the leader of a Christian group on campus (at the college). He kept (continued) working, kept learning, kept improving.

After graduating from college in 2010, he was (again) not very successful in his attempt to be a basketball player. He failed several times over the next two years with different NBA (National Basketball Association) teams, each time being told he just wasn’t good enough. It looked like he would not be able to make it (be successful) in basketball, despite all of his hard work. Finally, he was given a chance to play in the starting lineup (the players who begin the game, usually the team’s best players) for the New York Knicks team in early last month.

Then it happened: Lin became a star.

Lin scored more than 20 points and had more than seven assists (when a player helps another player score a point) in this first five games, the first player in the history of the NBA to do that. He scored more than 130 points in his first five games, more than any player in the past 35 years. Suddenly, he was being talked about by every basketball fan in the country. Sports Illustrated, America’s most popular sports magazine, put him on their cover (front page) two weeks in a row (consecutively; one after the other). Every newspaper, news magazine, and television station has had stories about his amazing success. And Lin continues to win.

Part of the reason for Lin’s popularity is his underdog story. An underdog is someone who is not expected to win, who doesn’t appear likely to win. There have been very few Asian American professional athletes in the U.S. Plus (in addition), Lin had failed so often in the past, no one thought he would succeed. But through hard work and, he says, his prayers, he did succeed.

In some ways, Lin has shattered (broken) the false stereotype (popular or typical beliefs about a group of people) that one’s race or ethnicity is important in athletic success. And he has shown that hard work and persistence (not quitting) can pay off (bring you success).

His name also contributed somewhat to his success, in an odd (strange) way. Because there are so many words in English that begin with an “in” sound, and Jeremy’s last name is “Lin,” American reporters have put his name in front of these words to form puns, which are words that have two different meanings, or that sound like other words, and are used to make a joke. For example, his success has been called “Lin-sanity” (from insanity, meaning craziness). He is a “Lin-credible” (incredible = amazing) player. His success was not “Lin-stant” (instant = immediate; right away). And so on.

What does the future hold for (what will happen to) Jeremy Lin? It’s impossible to say. In interviews, he says he would like to devote his life (spend his time) after his basketball career to being a pastor (a Christian religious leader) and helping those in need (who need help). But for now, he will shoot hoops (play basketball), win games, and continue to be “Lin-sanely” (insanely = amazingly) popular.


Photo credit: Jeremy Lin, Wikepedia CC


This entry was posted in Life in the United States, News and Current Events. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Not a Lin-stant Success

  1. Jade says:

    I saw Lin’s photos on some website. I did not pay very attention about his story. However, thanks for Jeff’s story, I impressed by his underdog story! Some time I feel discouraged when I tried you best and still could not get the goal you want. I think may be what I need is to work hard continuously and wait my big time coming.

  2. emiliano says:

    Nothing is better than to persist once and again if we have a dream.
    Oftenly after trying for a long time we could get a bit of our impossible dreams.
    Today this Jeremy Lin´s life example is a lesson for lot of incipient boys or girls
    who want to success being good sport figures but it could be applied for nearly
    every human´s activities either.
    Mine it has been always just writing, well or badly I am doing it now.

    Nice post Jeff, I think we do need good examples and hopes in our own
    private future life.


  3. emiliano says:

    It seems that the word “oftenly” does not exists, take it as oftentimes or frequently.
    Sorry friends.
    I think there is a great difference between having a type mistake or a word missing
    and the use of a wrong word that could generate bad information.


  4. Peter says:

    Dear Emiliano,
    Thank you for mentioning my name in your comment on the time table post.
    As u know ,I live in Toronto which is an English speaking city for the most part. Having said that,I always try to add commonly used phrases and words on my comments.
    That is all my friend.
    There is a different between learning a new language than living it, trust me I did both.
    All I m trying to do here is share the living part of the language with you as we are going through the learning part.
    You see what I m trying to get at?


  5. Sergio says:

    Don’t worry Emiliano: it’s a POETIC LICENSE.

  6. sara says:

    Thanks Dear was so inspiring.I think it isn’t easy at all to persist on what you want or at least I think I am not strong enough to.

  7. John says:

    My parents are from Taiwan but I grew up and still live in Austria – it happens that my surname is “Lin” 😀
    But no, I’m not related to Jeremy Lin, somehow I’m very glad to see a “Taiwanese/Chinese” NBA-player though.
    Few weeks ago, I Youtube’d a compilation of his 38 points vs the L.A. Lakers……that was really awesome! – that guy is a sniper!

  8. Tania says:

    Hi! Last week I watched on the CNN Channel the Lin’s story understanding he was one of the best basketball player.
    And on the TV screen there were written the words “Lin-sanity” and “Lin-stant”.
    As you explained us the word “insanity”, I didn’t know what to think. Did he have some health problems?
    So, thank you for your funny explanation of the new words “Lin-sanity”, “Lin-credible”, “Lin-stant”, and of course for other many, many new words.

    All the best to you all,


  9. Tania says:

    Hi! The reporter asked a Chinese youth : Who is Lin?
    And the youth answered: He was born in America and he is a Chinese player.

  10. Tania says:

    Hi! Again the verb “to shoot” in the phrase ” to shoot hoops”.
    For sure, it has one hundred meanings.

  11. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the explanation of the phrase “underdog story”.
    “Underdog” means humble, an humble person.
    This week , on one of our TV channels there is a movie named “Underdog” with James Belushi.
    And I found the title translation like “Superdog”. Maybe, taking into account the context of the action…

  12. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the explanation of the phrase “hard work can pay off” – bring you success.
    And in the English Cafe 226/2010 you explained us the phrase “to pay off your home” – to pay the loan to the bank, your mortgage.
    How could I learn all these phrases?

  13. Dan says:


    Yes, I have heard of this guy a while ago.
    I saw about him on BBC.
    I did not pay attention at the time about that because I am not interested in Basketball.
    What can I say?, I am happy for him.
    It is a nice story.
    Thanks Jeff

  14. Betty says:

    Thank you very much indeed, Jeff, for this seamless yet novel way of introducing new words to us.

    Puns = words that have two different meanings, or that sound like other words, and are used to make a joke.

    Insanity = craziness

    Incredible = amazing

    Instant = immediate; right away

    What does the future hold for our English learning? It’s possible to say.

    If we shatter the false stereotype that being younger is important in second language learning success, and if we work hard persistently, our effort can pay off.
    Moreover, with the help of our teachers (Jeff, Lucy and Warren), our English will become incredibly insanely good, although not instantly.

    I am trying to use as many expressions as possible from Jeff’s article. Hope you don’t think I am having moment of insanity.

    Well done, Jeremy Lin, keep up with the good work.

    Betty 😉

  15. Peter says:

    Dear Betty,
    I hate to be the berear of a bad news.
    But the transition from one language to another is not as simple as shooting some is not as smooths
    Belive you me,There is much more to it.
    To get the true concept of a language ,one must gets immersed by not only the lanuage but with the body of culture that the language represents.
    The language must becomes your second nature.
    It must goes deeply into your brain,another words, you must learn it deeply.
    It is not that easy. Knowing some expressions or words does not necessarily make the language an inherent part of you.
    You must live it word by word, you must feel it with your flesh and blood. U must experience it under pressure, when there is no moment to spare;when your boss ,angry and frustrated, who is typically a quick talker is dumping a lot of task on you on the phone;whereas ,the noise in the back ground makes it even harder to make of what him/her is saying. Plus,you can’t afford to miss even a bit of his/her instructions since the outcome of a key project depends on it.
    At the time , no one has the patients to repeat themselves,at the time no one can afford to think even for second that hey ,what the hell my boss is saying ?
    You are doing your regular job while on the phone with your boss,and at the same time some people u are moron addressing a coworker for what he is supposed to do.

    Trust me ,it is not that easy

    The Bonehead:))

  16. Tania says:

    Hi! Watching CNN Channel I often hear the phrase “worst case scenario”.
    I can remember you taught us this phrase in ESL Podcast 545/ 2010.
    Thank you.

  17. Tania says:

    Hi! To Myo ko ko :
    Many years ago we learned at school about Birmania from Asia.
    Today, in newspapers we read about Myanmar like a very important strategic point for the powers of the world.
    Please, let me cite from Wikipedia:
    “Myanmar is the 40th largest country in the world and the second largest country in Southeast Asia.”
    I have just listened to the anthem: Kaba Ma Kyei. It is really nice.
    I like your posts and the idea to analyze the most important comments.
    As I do not know the English language, I think it is useful for all of us.

    Best wishes,


  18. tania says:

    Hi! So complicated elections in the U.S. … I had to read again your post/2008 about “Super Tuesday” to understand better “Super Tuesday” from this week.
    At least I know what “Super Tuesday” means.
    So, I was able to watch the primary elections on “Super Tuesday” this week and…I like the candidate Santorum.
    Thank you for your post “Super Tuesday”/2008.

  19. tania says:

    Hi! I forgot to tell you : I think your Italian accent is very, very good and the same the Spanish accent.
    Our blog friends can tell us more.

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