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Editor's Note: March 2, 2012

On ”Game Change”-ing figures like Sarah Palin and Jeremy Lin

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How much do you love Jeremy Lin? Last week, the Knicks’ instant superstar gave a big interview to ESPN — it was the first time most of us had really heard him speak — and he was everything you’d want a pop hero to be: engaging, humble, grateful, and beaming with good humor. Watching the interview felt good, like finding out that whipped cream actually prolongs your life. Overnight sensations like Lin are the new toys of pop culture. We obsess over them, fight over them, and share them until, eventually, we tire of them (Rebecca Black); or they become emblematic of a moment in time (Michael Phelps); or they disappoint us (the Gosselins); or they evolve into a lasting part of our lives (Julia Roberts, who — like Lin — came with a marketable talent ensuring more than 15 minutes of fame). Of course, the stars we choose to suddenly idolize speak volumes about ourselves, so I can’t help but compare Lin with another overnight sensation, Sarah Palin, whose own fast rise to fame is depicted in the controversial HBO film Game Change, starring Julianne Moore. The film has been lambasted as ”fiction” by Palin supporters, but it’s based on a good, solid piece of journalism — Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s nonfiction best-seller — so I’ll give the movie the benefit of the doubt. Game Change humanizes Palin — it reminds you how horrific it must have been for her to endure the pressures of a political campaign while her son served in Iraq — but it also depicts her as a mercurial figure who feels weirdly entitled to adulation; she’s high on power and addicted to watching herself on TV. While the public is drawn to Lin because of his unassailable skill on the court, the crowds in Game Change are drawn to Palin by her charm, and they’re willingly manipulated by a cynical and desperate campaign. Game Change reminds us of the racial epithets and calls for violence shouted by supporters at Palin rallies. On the contrary, when a couple of idiots at ESPN used a racial slur in their coverage of Lin, the outcry was loud and the retribution was swift. The mass affection for Lin — a Taiwanese-American national treasure — says something good about us. He’s an overnight sensation who’s truly sensational; the kind who builds bridges everywhere.