Article first published as Jeremy Lin's Jersey Goes Into My Closet of What Might Have Been on Blogcritics.
Perhaps you have one of these too: a closet with old sports jerseys that bare names of those players traded away or lost to free agency. I hate to admit that mine is brimming with old shirts and misty (and sometimes moldy) memories, best left to time and moths.
I just added my Jeremy Lin number 17 Knicks jersey to the collection. I slipped it in between my Dave Kingman (Mets) and Brett Favre (Jets), certainly two of the less distinguished names in the fold. I am speaking of what they did here in New York as opposed to what they may have done elsewhere. Kingman (whom the late great announcer Bob Murphy called "Sky King") was indeed the royal holder of the high pop-up, some of which became homers. Favre is even held in lower regard for his brief and ineffectual tenure with the Jets.
But Lin, oh Jeremy Lin, what you might have been as a Knick. I keep thinking that. I know the deal he signed with the Houston Rockets was insane, that MSG head James Dolan was right in every way not to try to up the ante and outbid the Rockets, because in truth Lin is untested. Still, he brought a level of intensity to the court for the Knicks that hasn't been seen in a long, long time. That was worth something, but not Lin's asking price to be sure.
I stared at the jersey for a long time, pondering how I would one day tell the story to my son. Instead of it hanging for posterity in the rafters of Madison Square Garden, it will hang in obscurity in my closet along with many other might have beens. I briefly ran my hand over the different colored jerseys: the green Jets, the orange and blue Mets and Knicks, and the white Islanders ones with the map of Long Island and a hockey stick centered on it. Ah, the memories connected to these names of a lost battalion of players that (mostly) left us wanting more.
I looked at some of the names on the jerseys: Dineen, Westfall, Trottier (Islanders), Kingman, Seaver, Beltran (Mets), Favre, Riggins, Pennington (Jets), and Starks, Ewing, King (Knicks) and shook my head. Some of these guys made their mark before leaving New York; others either didn't have a chance or missed the opportunity (like Beltran and Pennington). Still, I once proudly wore these shirts, even if only briefly, but now they are to be kept in the darkness, a phantom brotherhood awaiting additional members who will no doubt eventually join their ranks.
I heard on the news this morning that there are something like 15,000 Lin number 17 Knicks jerseys out there on the racks in the city. Obviously, their price has plummeted and in some cases the stores will probably not even be able to give them away. My idea would be to hand them out to the less fortunate or send them off to China for a price, where perhaps they would become a novelty item. Last year it seemed like every other person in New York was walking around town in a Lin shirt, but just like the "Linsanity" he brought with him, that is sadly gone.
As I sat drinking my morning tea and staring out the window, I wondered whose shirt would be the next to go into the closet. My best bets would be Mike Pelfrey (Mets) or Mark Sanchez (Jets), but I am not hoping for either one of them to leave town. The closet has enough shirts in it and too many memories, but I really feel sad about Lin's shirt being in there, while others like Bobby Bonilla's and Stephon Marbury's really bring no emotion at all (except relief that they were gone).
I didn't even get a chance to wear Lin's jersey enough because it was a brief 25 games, but what a great ride that time was. His shirt shouldn't be in there but it is, and now I have to get used to wearing a Stoudemire or Anthony once again. Goodbye, Jeremy, we hardly knew you.
Photo Credit: fansedge.com