This week's headlines have been dominated by news of Jeremy Lin and Whitney Houston. That's actually good news and bad news for the Republican presidential field. The bad news is that nobody's paying attention to them. The good news: nobody's paying attention to them.
If they want to emulate Lin's fast-growing popularity, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul might want to take a few lessons from the Knicks new point guard. Here, then, are my top five things Republican presidential candidates can learn from the 23-year-old Jeremy Lin.
1. First, You Have To Win
The wave of "Linsanity" that hit the sports world the past week was not based on the usual hype and exaggeration we often see in the media. In one week, Jeremy Lin, the undrafted Harvard graduate, literally transformed the New York Knicks from losers to winners. Lin almost single-handedly lifted the spirits of the ailing Knicks squad, putting up more than 25 points per game to lead the team to six consecutive victories.
In contrast, in the topsy-turvy GOP presidential race, no candidate has been able to break away from the pack and put together a solid winning streak. Santorum took off with an early lead in Iowa, then lost it to Romney in New Hampshire, who fumbled to Gingrich in South Carolina. Since then, it's been back and forth in states from Missouri to Maine, but polls show Republicans still aren't happy with their choices. The lesson: You can't be Linsational if you don't win first.
It's not just that Jeremy Lin has led his team in scoring that's impressive; he's also sharing the ball with his teammates, averaging 7 assists per game. As a student of the sport, Lin realizes no one person can win a game by himself. Everyone has a role to play and everyone gets to share in the success.
If only the GOP candidates understood that rule. But instead of encouraging the wealthiest Americans to pitch in and pay their fair share, Republicans want to create a world of tax cuts and selfishness where the primary goal is for each person to get as much as he possibly can, regardless of the consequences for everyone else. If America is truly a team, then Romney, Gingrich and Santorum are the biggest ball hogs in the game.
3. Be Humble
Until a few days ago, Jeremy Lin was sleeping on a friend's couch. Now that he's the talk of the town, he's getting an apartment of his own, but he's still playing down his success and crediting his teammates. That's humility.
Admittedly, genuine humility is rarely seen in sports or politics. But in politics, we usually get a lot of phony baloney in which candidates recount their humble beginnings. There are two notable exceptions in this campaign. While Romney and Gingrich have looked arrogant and privileged, Santorum and Paul have actually come across as fairly humble during this presidential race. That may be because no one expected either man to win.
4. It's Okay to Be Smart
Mitt Romney graduated from both Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, but he almost never mentions that pedigree and tries to pretend he's an ordinary guy. In today's Tea Party-dominated Republican Party, presidential candidates have to pretend to be dumb to win. They have to ignore the science of global warming, pretend that tax cuts magically pay for themselves, and complain that government can't create jobs even while they apply for the top government job in the country.
One of the most appealing traits about Ivy League-educated Jeremy Lin is that he doesn't hide his intelligence to "fit in," but he also doesn't assume he's better than everyone else, either. There are a lot of smart players in sports who also play down their intelligence, but Lin is reminding us that it's okay — in sports or politics — if people know you're smart.
5. It's Okay to Be Christian
Santorum and Gingrich falsely claim that President Obama and the "secular left" are waging a full-scale war on religion and Christians. But liberal New York City's embrace of the devoutly Christian Lin suggests otherwise. Unlike Tim Tebow, Lin doesn't fall to one knee after every victory and pray in the arena, but everyone is aware of his faith and they respect him.
Back in China, they know something about religious persecution. Proud to see the first Chinese-American in the NBA, the state-run media there has jumped on the Lin bandwagon, but they have carefully censored all mentions of his faith.
Here in America, we still respect religious freedom. That gives you freedom to practice as you wish, or not to practice at all. In this country, the government can't, and shouldn't, tell you what to believe. That's a civics lesson the opportunists in the GOP have yet to understand.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Chris Chambers/Getty Images)