Autographs are so 20th Century. When basketball sensation Jeremy Lin wants to make a fan’s day, he FaceTimes.
Lin, who went from obscure benchwarmer to global icon in the space of a few improbable days last year, disappointed many New York Knicks fans last month when he left the team for a better offer from the Houston Rockets. But few were as cutely and publicly disappointed as a five-year-old boy named Naim, whose father posted his tearful reaction on YouTube. “But whyyyy didn’t they sign him?” the disconsolate fan blubbers, wiping his tears with an oversized orange foam finger.
Three weeks later, Naim’s father posted a follow-up video on YouTube. Lin, no stranger to the power of social media, had gotten word of his young admirer’s outburst and decided to try to cheer him up—by talking with him on FaceTime, the iPad’s native video-chat app. Naim was apparently too awed by his idol to pipe up much, so his father asked Lin some questions on his behalf. Lin replied patiently and graciously over the course of a nine-minute conversation.
That might sound like a long time, but it was surely more convenient for the celebrity hoopster than an in-person visit—and will probably do more for his reputation. In the past, postgame autograph sessions and bedside hospital visits have been athletes’ preferred ways to “give back” to young fans while burnishing their public image. Is this the future?