Commentary: Scouts should "Stop Profile Lin"

The Jeremy Lin story is what's great about sports.

Pick your cliche. The ultimate underdog, repeatedly kicked to the curb, beats the odds, silences the critics, proves the doubters wrong, and turns into an overnight sensation.

Of course, it's also what's wrong about sports.

This guy, whose talents are now obvious, was passed over by every decent college basketball program. Then, he was passed over by every NBA team in the draft.

He did time in the Development League, was cut by two NBA teams and was on the verge of washing out with the New York Knicks, too, until they gave him a chance only out of desperation as their season was imploding.

Why was this? Not because he couldn't shoot. Not because he couldn't beat defenders off the dribble. Not because he couldn't find the open man or handle the ball or make smart decisions.

No one wanted to give him a chance because of the way he looks, plain and simple.

It's not racism on the part of talent evaluators. But the scouts are certainly guilty of stereotyping. Of profiling. Of seeing what they wanted to see.

There's no precedent for a point guard of Asian descent in big-time college hoops or the NBA.

Thus, the best high school player in California got no offers from schools in major conferences. And, four years later, the same treatment from the NBA.

Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards used the first overall pick on a point guard. John Wall. Think they'd like a do-over?

Stereotyping, of course, isn't confined to the NBA. Try getting drafted in the NFL as a 5-foot-9 quarterback or a white cornerback. Try getting a good look from a major leage team with an 82-mph fastball, particularly before "Moneyball" (which effectively made the case that more weight should be given to objective statistics and less to subjective scouting reports).

Conventional wisdom says to go with the familiar, rather than taking a chance on someone for whom there is no template.

That's shortsighted, of course. It's why four teams jettisoned Jamie Moyer then watched enviously as he won more than 200 games after turning 33. It's why Doug Flutie was exiled to Canada for years before finally proving he could win in the NFL. And it's why Lin got no scholarship offers or draft love.

Not racism, just stupidity, although at least a whiff of racism does reside on the periphery of this story.

Whoever was responsible for the horribly offensive ESPN mobile headline after the Knicks' Friday loss should be fired. Ditto Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, after a mean-spirited stereotyping tweet. The MSG TV network's fortune cookie graphic wasn't much better.

And let's not even get started on all the ridiculous puns playing on the superstar's last name. Scouts, however, should heed this one: "Stop Profile Lin."

Bob Blubaugh is the Times' sports editor. His column appears every Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-7895 or bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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