In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state ie; a hurricane’s formation contingent on where a butterfly flapped its wings several weeks earlier.

On June 2, 1925 starting Yankee First basemen Wally Pipp sat out of a game because he was suffering from a headache. In the Spring of 1993 then NJ Nets starting Point Guard Kenny Anderson went hard to the rack and ran into the no layup rule interior defense of the New York Knicks and suffered a broken wrist. In Week 2 of the 2001 NFL Season New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis hit Drew Bledsoe with such force that it caused internal bleeding.

On February 4th, 2012, Mike D’antoni desperately peered down his bench past a struggling Toney Douglas hoping to see someone, something that could save his job. Despite his own fears, he turned to a virtual unknown in Jeremy Lin. When Lin took off his warmups that night he shed a cocoon to reveal a magnificent set of wings that are flapping with such fury that Hurricane Lin is causing an unprecedented global effect that is as enchanting as it is confusing.

When Wally Pipp sat down that fateful day in 1925, Lou Gehrig never let him get back up. The original Ironman played the next 2130 games as the Yankee first basemen and Pipp became the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the last Yankee to play first base before Gehrig?” The trajectory of the New York Yankees changed that day, and more importantly the world was introduced to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) Gehrig put a face on a disease that desperately needed the public’s attention. Wally Pipp’s headache, a metaphorical flap of the wing, changed the Yankees, and ultimately, the world.

Kenny Anderson’s broken wrist dashed the New Jersey Nets hopes of making a run deep into the playoffs. Kenny’s then teammate Drazen Petrovic had just finished a fantastic campaign but was suffering from what we later found out was jealousy amongst other European players, and a lack of recognition from the Nets for his stellar play. He had planned on returning to Croatia after the playoffs were finished. When Kenny got hurt the Nets were an easy first round defeat and he changed his travel plans and headed home a bit earlier. This decision gave him a little more free time to drive through Europe with his girlfriend, pondering what to do about his career. He forewent a connecting flight from Poland and instead decided to drive home to his native Zagreb. On June 7, 1993, with the NBA finals about to begin Drazen died in a car accident traveling home on the Autobahn. He wasn’t supposed to be there, and the what ifs resonated throughout the NBA. His death revealed to NBA executives that Drazen was contemplating leaving the league and changed the landscape of how the NBA would treat its foreign players forever. Today, the NBA is considered a global league, and absent Futbol (we call it Soccer) Basketball is the most popular global sport.

When Mo Lewis smashed Drew Bledsoe’s rib cage 6th round draft choice Tom Brady scrambled to find his helmet and started making warm up throws. The ending of this story is a bit more obvious, and I am remiss to admit that while I write this I am wearing a pair of Uggs. Tom is a three time Super Bowl champion, considered amongst the greatest QB’s of all time and is the bane of every Jets fan’s existence.

While we are only 6 games into the Jeremy Lin era, I am confident that we are in the middle of watching the butterfly flap its wings, with the greater impact wholly undetermined. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop almost hoping that, fine, I’ll say it, “Linsanity” gets knocked down a peg or two. He can’t keep this pace up, and as a fan of the Knicks, and him, I almost want the butterfly to stop flapping so hard and settle for a moment so we can catch our breaths and take a look at its beauty, not to mention its impact.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan and I cooed at the television in a high pitched vibrato last night when he played the role of cupid, shooting that three ball arrow straight through the hearts of the world. Much like the seemingly insignificant moments that preceded Lou Gehrig’s rise, Drazen Petrovic’s death, and Tom Brady’s introduction some day we will point to D’Antoni’s glare down his barren bench as the moment that started it all.

I’m entirely enchanted, and I guess my confusion lies in the question: What if the butterfly becomes the Hurricane?

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  • good read!

  • Fantastic article and one with lots of research involved. Many things happen as results aka cause and effect. What is interesting is the word of destiny into this conversation. Did all of what happened play into a bigger picture that was meant to unfold. I for one struggle with the proverbial “It was in the cards” talk but its hard to deny when somethings just seem to be just that. Other times you guy certainly its no ones destiny to die in a roadside bomb in Syria but who knows really. What we do know is we like the role of the overlooked. We praise talent so heavily especially in sports that we tend to dismiss all the other factors that make a person or team great. It isn’t simply physical tools that make a winner win its the will to win that makes it happen. Aka Derrick Coleman he was never wanting to make it happen and thus didn’t. Then you take someone like Jose Barrea who is as tall as every average white guy and he simply tried harder than anyone else and won a spot and a pivotal role on a championship team. Maybe Lin is just someone who put in the effort and knew it would pay off. In this way at this rate – well probably not but none the less he has earned the right to be praised. Whether his chance came at the expense of another mans injuries or a coach’s desperation he still earned his chance.

  • Snickers Mozen

    Nicely written Mark, although all hurricanes eventually lose their force… and return to nothing more than a mere drizzle easily protected against with an umbrella, and that umbrella will be wearing the #9 next time we see you gentlemen. 😉

    • Mark Newman

      Thnks Snickers Mozen. One of the more impressive Triple Double’s I have seen in a while came from your #9 recently. I think your bigger issue is going to be the condom that is Shumpert who will keep your #34 wrapped up all night.