Linsanity in Korea? What if...

By Casey Lartigue, Jr.

I was the co-organizer of a freelance project that brought the Harvard University men’s soccer team to South Korea for 13 days last May. (``Harvard soccer team stresses enjoyment,” The Korea Times, 5/26/11).

They toured Korea and played friendly matches with Korea University, Seoul National University, and the Under-20 team. In a wrap-up meeting last June with the wonderful administrators of Korea University’s athletics department, I suggested that we should work together to bring over another team for the summer of 2012 or 2013 ― the Harvard University men’s basketball team.

My main arguments: (1) Korean youngsters could learn from talented student-athletes and (2) we might be able to entice a former Harvard hoopster who was then an NBA backup to join his former teammates here. You may have heard of him recently ― Jeremy Lin.

The folks at Korea University had never heard of him. My business partner, a former college soccer player, wondered if I could bring someone known like Michael Jordan instead. I briefed the administrators about the Harvard men’s basketball team, was politely greeted by several tall members of Korea University basketball team, and I showed the administrators YouTube clips of the Harvard team.

I guess they were expecting to see Harvard gentlemen dressed in tuxedos engaged in passing and dribbling drills. Instead, they seemed to be a bit intimidated when they saw burly 6’8” 240 lb. power forward Keith Wright dunking over the heads of opponents. Kyle Casey, a 6’7” skywalker with a 42- inch vertical leap, seemed to jump through the ceiling to dunk the basketball. And, of course, Jeremy Lin.

Like the college teams that didn’t offer Lin a scholarship, the Golden St. Warriors and Houston Rockets who cut Lin, and the numerous teams who passed up the opportunity to draft or sign him, I am now wondering, ``What if….”

What if I had pushed the folks at Korea University and my business partner and his contacts harder? What if I had found others who might have been interested? What if I had invited Lin at a time he was unknown? What if?

I have no excuse. Many moons ago, I was a sports reporter and executive editor on the student-run Harvard Crimson newspaper. I was the beat reporter for the Harvard men’s basketball team for two years. I have continued to follow Harvard’s basketball (and football) teams. Even though I have known about Lin since 2006, I never expected him to be an NBA star.

Ever heard of Jim Goffredo? Drew Housman? Andrew Pusar? Dan McGeary? They were the guards on the Harvard 2006-‘07 men’s basketball team who played more minutes than Lin did his freshman year. Now, Lin is an international NBA star.

Lin had a very good but not spectacular college career, averaging 12.9 points per game. He did become the first player in Ivy League history to record more than 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals. The team had a losing record overall in the 87 games he started (43-44). Almost half of those wins came in his senior year ― not exactly a recipe for Linsanity.

Jeremy Lin’s success has inspired many people. I have also been inspired ― by my failure not to try harder to invite him to Korea. It is a reminder that it is better to try and fail rather than to regret not having tried at all.

Mark Twain has been quoted as saying: ``Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.” I cheer hard for Lin, but I also ask myself, ``What if?”

Casey Lartigue Jr. is director for International Relations at the Center for Free Enterprise in Seoul. His email address is caseyradio@daum.net. He also blogs at cfekorea.com and caseyradio.org.

This article originally appeared in the Korea Times on February 23, 2012.