Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 2/15/12
Jeremy Lins star rises ever higher and shines brighter with every slick pass he delivers and game-winning shot he drains. Lins Hollywood story -- an obscure bench-warmer who became a starting point guard -- is being played out on the big stage of New York, where he has resurrected the Knicks withh is performance. Its a reality story that gets better with every episode. Lin closed out another by sinking a three-point shot with less than a second left in Tuesday nights 90-87 victory at Toronto. That made six starts for Lin, six wins for the Knicks -- and another batch of superlatives and takeoffs on Lins name. Lin-sanity fits. So do Lin-derella and Lin-ning Time for the way he comes through in the clutch. A New York tabloid on Tuesday night screeched the headline Val-Lin-Tines Day for the 23-year-old phenom who has stolen the hearts of the basketball world. Never seen anything like it, right? Wrong. We saw it, lived it, breathed it and gloried in it right here in Detroit when Mark The Bird Fidrych exploded on the baseball world with the Tigers in 1976. There have been other great acts in sports, Lin included, before and after Fidrych. The NFL had Kurt Warner, undrafted and spurned by teams to the point where he worked as a stock boy before becoming a Super Bowl champion and NFL MVP with the Rams. From a Detroit perspective, though, no story has ever quite matched how Fidrych became a national cult hero who defined the word phenom with his breakout performance in the summer of 76. There is a cautionary tale in the way Fidrychs meteoric rise ended sharply and sadly. Injuries began to ravage him in '77 and his career plummeted. Fidrych was 19-9 an a starter in the All-Star Game in a magical rookie season wrought in Americas Bicentennial. He won only 10 more games in the next four seasons combined and was out of baseball after going 2-3 in '80. Tragically, Fidrych was killed in an accident while working at his farm in Northborough, Mass., in 2009. He was 54. As a fan, the message should be to enjoy the ride while you can -- every pitch, every antic, every jump shot. More likely than not, it will end before you know it. Step aside. Make way for the next phenom. A takeoff on Jeremy Lins name provides the proper word to define how the magic can go out of these stories. Its Lin-evitable. For the sake of Lin and his fans, the hope is that hell have a long run. The particulars of his story have become well known. As a high school player in California, he had no serious scholarship offers and wound up playing at Harvard. When you think about it -- and thats hard for a lot of fans to do -- playing at Harvard isnt a bad landing spot. It beats East Wazoo Community College. After four years at Harvard, where he graduated with a 3.1 grade-point average and a degree in economics, Lin was bypassed in the 2010 draft. He played 29 games without a start for the NBAs Golden State Warriors in 2010-11. Before signing with the Knicks this season, he also had stints with the Reno Bighorns in the NBAs Development League in 2010-11 and Dongguan Leopards in China in 2011. Nobody could have predicted Lins rise on the court -- or how he has become a star personality -- just as Fidrych becoming a star in 76 was unexpected. Until the last six games, Lin had never started a game in the NBA. Before his first start, Lin had played in 10 games with the Knicks, and only once had he played more than seven minutes. His six-game log as a starter is All-Star quality: six wins, 26.8 points per game, 8.5 assists. The long-dormant Knicks have become relevant in the NBA. And beyond the stats, Lin has something that New York loves -- a storyline. The fact that Lin is Asian-American adds to it. The Raptors got more than 100 additional requests from media wanting to cover Tuesday nights game. The staid New York Times on Monday had three stories related to Lin. Wednesdays national edition delivered in Detroit had three more stories -- none related to Tuesday nights game. Circumstances were far different when Fidrych broke in. The Twitter universe was still a black hole somewhere, and the world hadnt plugged in to cable sports networks. Fidrych was a 10th-round draft pick by the Tigers in the '74 amateur draft. He made the big-league team as a relief pitcher out of spring training in '76. Fidrych had pitched in two games, facing six batters and allowing three hits, before making his first start, at Cleveland on May 15. He went the distance in a 2-1 victory. Slowly, steadily, Fidrych began to attract attention. He had great control and a fastball with movement. And he was different. He patted the mound to give himself the proper footing, talked to the ball and shouted encouragement to teammates who made good plays behind him. Soon, he would stitch together an eight-game winning streak -- all complete games. The national media descended on Tiger Stadium to watch Fidrych, and he put on a show. He made curtain calls after games, with fans chanting We Want the Bird. I covered the Tigers for part of that season and saw Bird-Mania first hand. The reaction of fans around the country was nothing short of amazing. The Tigers were in Kansas City for a game on Aug. 14, Fidrychs birthday. The KC fans sang Happy Birthday. At another stop, the demand for autographs was so intense that a table was set up for fans to line up to get Fidrychs signature. He was as approachable to fans and media as he was unhittable on the mound. Fidrych was a draw at the box office. His start against the Yankees, 1 5-1 victory, on June 28 drew 47,855 at Tigers Stadium. Five nights later, 51,032 were packed in for a 4-0 win over Baltimore. The Birds mark on baseball was indelible and has not been erased by time. Until his death, he remained enormously popular during his infrequent visits to Detroit. For now, Lins star power is similar to the Birds, with the advantage of all the outlets and platforms that provide fans instant access and blanket coverage. Lin is likely to having staying power. His stats are likely to decline, but he appears to have too much skill to be a fluke. He was an opportunity waiting to happen. It makes me wonder about one thing. How much can I get for my Jeremy Lin Dongguan Leopards jersey?
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