Beware Lin’s Bowl Cut
Jeremy Lin’s Hornet Hair Buzzes w/ Nettle & Mettle
When Jeremy Lin was traded to the Charlotte Hornets this summer, owned by a notoriously demanding, vitriolic retired player named Michael Jordan, my friends gnawed their underachieving nails in terror. If the G.O.A.T could reduce Kwame Brown– 2001’s once-cocky #1 draft pick–to a trembling blubberball, what sort of stinging humiliation was in store for an undrafted player who barely came off the bench for last season’s worst franchise, the 21–61 Lakers?
But I — with bowl cut experience and infinite Confucian wisdom — just stroked my non-existent goatee in guarded optimism as I reviewed the Hornets’ pre-season victory against the Clippers. Sure, Lin’s 16–3–4 line was…fine for 28 minutes off the bench, but what was up with that imperfect…turnover?! Without a doubt, the unacceptable mediocrity was correlated with the “cool” Birdman-esque Mohawk he was then rocking. But when he announced that he and his entire family were about to unveil a drastic change in hairstyle, my initial hopes were confirmed.
Lin emerged a few days ago sporting the hideous, asexual rice bowl cut of my childhood. In early 1995, I pleaded and begged my father to let me grow out my hair like the pretty Asian girls who were already passing notes with the pretty Kentucky boys in class. Alas, Mr. Ni was no the least bit swayed. Hair get long, grades get short, he scolded. Somehow, he also convinced his 9-year old that abandoning the bowlcut (which SBnation called “monastic” and Complex Style declared “terrible”) was equivalent to giving up on the scandal-plagued University of Kentucky Wildcats.
We all know how that little situation played out — the 1995–1996 UK team is still considered the G.O.A.T of the NCAA. And due to my rather tenuous grasp on causation, that hideous cut–with slight concessions–was maintained for another decade. So were my grades and asociality. Thus, when Lin debuted his new hair, I immediately recognized it as the untouchable Helmut of Victory–and with damn good reason, you will too by the end of the 2015–2016 season.
Discipline by Deprivation and the Chinese Finger Trap
How do I explain the power of the bowl cut to those who’ve never suffered mockery while slowly discovering–and harnessing–its distinctive powers? America’s illustrious sports media, careful to sidestep the collective wrath of Asia-America ever since that little “Chink in the Armor” incident a few years ago, has resorted to every comparison except the most obvious one in the year(s) of micro-aggressions.
So lemme just flex some Asian privilege and state the obvious. Hey sportswriters, remember Gary Watanabe aka Long Duk Dong in 16 candles? Or course you do–and since the rest of this article is full of self-mocking macro-aggressions, I’ll throw in a trigger warning for those of y’all still clamoring for a piece of the victimhood high ground at the expense of our collective sense of humor.
Long Duk Dong may embody an offensive Asian-American stereotype, but let’s not forget that “The Donger” had his center-parted bowl cut soundly nestled between a pair of humongous breasts before Molly Ringwald — despite her red curls and freckled charm — could utter a single word to her object of pathetic obsession. You may see that John Hughes plot twist as mere comedic fantasy, but in truth, it’s a prescient warning to never underestimate the bowl cut.
It is — literally and metaphorically — Jeremy Lin’s Chinese finger trap. That floppy hair is a perfect metaphor both Lin’s scoring drives and the trap’s only escape — by counter-intuitively pushing forward, not yanking back, the shrewd Lin opens up the paint — er, puzzle, and squeezes through easily with a finger-roll finish.
Is that too many mixed metaphors? I’ll Americanize it down for y’all. Relaxed hair; relaxed fingers — society’s tendency to overlook the dork is his very secret to victory–academic, social, and yes, athletic. He doesn’t look “cool,” but that hair more than compensates–because you know what’s cooler than looking cool? Winning, mofos. Winning is the ultimate cool. I mean–split-second decision in one of those 4th quarter melees–who you gonna guard? Tyler “Crazy Eyes” Hansborough or…Long Duk Dong?
Every Asian kid who’s ever rocked the cut right knows its hidden powers–which shine bright under the watchful eye of a High Expectations Asian Father (H.E.A.F). And as the perfectionist, vituperative Jordan has demonstrated season after desperate season, neither ethnicity nor biology bars him from that oft-meme’d role. And thus, Lin’s biological H.E.A.F may have reminded him of the secrets in that hair. First, adopting the ever-toiling mathlete locks lulls even strictest H.E.A.F into some semblance of trust. Note that His Airness’s main complaints about Brown and last season’s hope, Lance Stephenson 2 weren’t about altitude, but attitude. Has anyone heard Jeremy Lin complain yet? About…anything? I rest my case.
What I’m trying to say here, fellas, is not that Jordan’s helicopter coaching and ironically unprofessional, psychotic intolerance for immaturity is at all forgivable–I just don’t see it becoming an issue in this scenario. There’s nothing wrong with setting the bar high when the man has vaulted over impossible hurdles his whole life–who was the last dude to have dropped an 800 on hid SAT II Math and 38 points on a then-respectable Lakers? To hedge, with the new hair, even if Lin’s ever caught slippin’, the capillaceous hat is designed to maximize impact absorption, minimizing the concussive dangers of borderline abusive paternal whackings.
Most importantly, Lin’s self-imposed ugliness is should be enough to fend off 80% of even the most rabid, visually-impaired UNC groupies 3. Unlike Brown, spoiled by a lifetime of accolades and the uh, feminine spoils of going first in the draft, Lin has never been distracted by the fairer sex, nor boasted a princess attitude of “deserve.” At 27, he’s mature, and also used to the impossible expectations, ones that even when met, just raises the bar higher. (After–at best–an approving eyebrow raise.) Hardened by this upbringing in a culture that reserves hugs solely for horrifically unexpected funerals, the birth of first sons, and Ha-Fuo acceptances4, proudly rocking the no-maintenance, no-distractions, no-street-cred hair means he’s going back to the mental toughness of his roots — and keeping it yi bai.
From Bowlin’ to Ballin: The Balla-Chigga Matrix
Trust me — as a chick who’s spent the last decade bouncing from point to point in the baller-chigga matrix 5, I know Asian
dudes. The mohawked musclemen with their motorbikes, Master Kush, and meager A- marks always end up meandering towards mediocrity. Now, that might be fine for a wingman who goes in and out of your rotation. But for your point guard? Your main man? Bae? Hell no — you bag a bowl-cut boss who’ll do your bio homework and bedazzle you with Bvlgari — with the bezel, sans bitchin.’ The best don’t pull B-game B.S., even when his butt never touches the bench. Brains, balls, bowl-cut — Jeremy Lin’s got the basketball B’s down.
After the Clippers victory, a single post-game head shake from Jordan coupled with that all-too-familiar brow furrow was all the feedback Lin needed. He didn’t shirk from Jordan’s expectations of being the Hornets’ “biggest acquisition;” Lin grabbed his clipper and got his Hornets buzz on. Why would the man waste time gelling his haircut when he should’ve been working his feet to perfect thatC-cut. (Which is — again — not coincidentally known as a “banana” cut) or gelling with his teammates?!
So don’t get it twisted, all you armchair style haters tip-toeing around the F-word. And no, I don’t mean that homophobic 6-letter slur Jordan famously hurled at Kwame Brown. Lin’s fobby haircut might seem limp, bangs and all, but that man ain’t some little [Jeremy] Lamb. He’s no sensitive Lance Stephenson thug, still whining about getting no hugs. That bowl cut’s a helmet fit for any battle — take it from a pro mathlete who has the triangular trophies and emotional scars to know. So while the Vegas odds may be the only thing uglier than Lin’s hair, I’d still bet my ancestral spirits that 2015 is the year Michael Jordan hugs his seventh Larry O’Brien Trophy. Upside-down. Over Lin’s head. As poor Michael Kidd-Gilchrist dutifully trims the overgrown “vase hair” around it.
All in all, Jeremy and Jordan might just be this season’s most unlikely love story. A father figure ready to set expectations, and a player who could hardly be fazed, however feedback is worded.
And it’s simple–Occams’ Razor, really. When expectations spike; the hair drops–and so does the ball.
Through the net, that is.