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Oh MSG Network, you’re milking this thing for all it’s worth, aren’t you?
Now that Jeremy Lin has become the biggest sports story for casual and non-sports fans since Tiger Woods got his putter in a jam, the totally uncharacteristic love for the Knicks this city is suddenly gripped by couldn’t be better news for MSG.
The network just happens to be in a contract dispute with Time Warner Cable, which hasn’t aired any of its programs locally in more than a month, leaving a couple million of us Knick-less for most games of the season.
While that dispute drags on, MSG cleverly organized a “viewing party” last night at Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Chinatown’s oldest restaurant. The hastily arranged gig – press releases were sent out just 24 hours prior – reeked of a blatant bargaining tactic, with MSG Media General Manager Dan Ronayne all but pleading with Chinese fans to boycott Time Warner.
“We’ve been in discussion for two years, and I don’t know when we’re going to reach a deal,” Ronayne said to a large crowd of media. “I would suggest fans to switch providers if they can, or complain to Time Warner if they can’t.”
On cue, Ho Kew Lee and De Fu Li, President and Vice President of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York, respectively, each expressed frustration over the TV blackout.
Lee, in his 70s, said he has been going out to restaurants and bars to watch every game.
“What Lin’s doing is so amazing for Chinese people,” he said. “We have to support – I’d just rather do it at home.”
Lines wrapped around the block on Doyers street a full hour before the game’s 7:30pm tip off, with a diverse crowd that included more young females and elderly than usual.
“I admit, I don’t know anything about basketball,” said Amy Lam, a 25-year-old banker. “But [Lin] is so cute and so amazing I have to watch.”
Mrs Chow, a housewife in her late 50s, said she started watching because the buzz from Chinese media was too hard to ignore.
“He is everywhere, on the front page of every Chinese newspaper and website,” she said.
By tipoff, the restaurant was completely packed – about 150 people in all – cheering and high-fiving after every Knick basket.
“Look what Lin has done, he’s bought the community together,” said Ren Hsieh, who runs the website ourchinatown.org.
We asked Ronayne to address the obvious, that Lin is a huge help in his battle with Time Warner.
“Well, of course Lin helps, it doesn’t hurt when you have the hottest name in town on your side,” he said.
And they’re not done. There will be a similar viewing party in Flushing this Friday, although details are still being worked out.