Back before Jeremy Lin and all this Linsanity was even born, there was Fernando Valenzuela.
"I'm not really a big fan of basketball, but I think what he's doing is great," Fernando Valenzuela said Thursday, by phone from Los Angeles.
Yes, the author of FernandoMania knows all too well what Lin is going through at the moment. FernandoMania swept across the game of baseball, and the nation for that matter, back in 1981 when the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander was dominating out of nowhere starting the season 8-0 with five shutouts, eventually becoming the first NL rookie to lead in strikeouts.
Fernando, now 51, brought sellout crowds wherever and whenever he pitched. Women wanted him, men wanted to be him, but there's only so much Fernando to go around as there is only one Fernando Valenzuela. Thusly, there can be only one Jeremy Lin.
"I just think he has to focus on the game," the six-time All-Star said. "That's the only thing he can do: keep working and keep doing his job. Maybe you find time here and there to talk to the media. But he has to focus on what he does best."
Culturally both Lin and Valenzuela represent their heritage on a well-publicized stage; The number of Mexican stations carrying Dodgers broadcasts grew from three to 17 midway through Fernando's first season, and the rise of the Asian-American Lin is peaking interest all over the globe.
"When I first came up, in my first year with the Dodgers, I heard from a lot of Latinos. Those fans helped me a lot," Valenzuela said. "It just helped me to be close with them, and I think that's when a lot of new fans came along and started following the game."
Lin is following a similar path, inspiring Asians from all walks of life with his outstanding play, now he has to keep it up:
"You guys (reporters) are all talking about him, and I think it's great,'' he said. "I hope he can keep doing it."
For more on the Linsanity, head over to Posting and Toasting.