A good read from today's edition of The New York Times:
"The rather awkward bit of dťtente began around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Nom Wah dim sum restaurant on Doyers Street in the heart of Chinatown. It was an hour before [Only registered and activated users can see links. ], the rising star for the [Only registered and activated users can see links. ], took the court at Madison Square Garden and before much of Chinatown was going to be once again prevented from seeing its adopted son work wonders on the basketball court.
Like about 2.5 million Time Warner Cable customers throughout the state, residents in places like Confucius Plaza, a 44-story apartment building in Chinatown, have been unable to watch Lin — an international phenomenon and the nation’s most prominent Asian-American athlete — because the cable company has been in rancorous dispute with MSG Network, which televises Knicks games.
So network executives invited the neighborhood to a hastily arranged all-you-can-eat dim sum party to explain their side of the dispute. There were translators and plenty of food, a life-size cardboard cutout of Lin, and because the restaurant had a different cable provider, there was an actual live, legal telecast of the game on television.
There was not, however, a whole lot of peace and understanding. Instead, it was just another night of paradox and frustration: New York fans with perhaps the strongest affection for Lin unable to see him perform in their own homes.
Lin scored only 10 points Wednesday night as the Knicks beat the Sacramento Kings, 100-85, but he contributed 13 assists, a career high.
Vincent Lau, a Time Warner customer, heard about the event at the restaurant from his wife, and quickly ran over to be heard.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Mr. Lau, 28, “for a New Yorker to not be able to watch their home teams.”
Jeffrey Wong is a graphic designer and lifelong Knicks fan who lives in Confucius Plaza and thus has not been able to see Knicks games since Jan 1. “I don’t know who to fault,” he said. “I don’t even know who to call.”
Thanks to Lin’s meteoric rise, interest in the team — which two weeks ago was staggering through yet one more failing season — has never been higher. Lin’s name is chanted in bars and restaurants in Chinatown, and establishments that have other providers, like DirecTV, are now teeming with extra patrons on game nights.
The scramble to find places to watch Lin play is particularly acute in Chinatown, which lacks the concentration of sports bars found in other parts of the city. Mr. Wong, who was a passionate recreational basketball player until he was slowed by injuries, hardly missed the Knicks during the first few weeks of the blackout because the team performed so poorly.
Thanks to the team’s disastrous record in recent years, Mr. Wong was expecting the season to fade into obscurity.
That changed on Feb. 4, when Lin played his first significant minutes against the Nets. Mr. Wong received a text message from a friend that “Lin was lighting it up.” Since then, he has had to find bars that carry televised Knicks games. He watched one game on a Web site, the legality of which is uncertain.
“Until Jeremy Lin started playing, I don’t think the blackout mattered much to me,” said Mr. Wong, who grew up in Chinatown. But “I’ve watched every game since then except for last night.”
Like other fans interviewed for this article, Mr. Wong is uncertain whom to blame for the blackout. But for now, Mr. Wong and other neighbors will remain basketball refugees in their own city because Verizon and DirecTV, which have agreements to show the MSG Network to their customers, are unable to install their services in Confucius Plaza.
Andy So, who was born in Chinatown and also lives in the apartment tower, has been cast out into bars to see Lin and the Knicks. When he heard that Lin was making his first start last week against Utah, he bought tickets to see him play.
“We thought it was a pretty cool moment in the history of the N.B.A. for an Asian-American to start on the Knicks,” he said.
Now, thanks to Lin’s continued rise — he outscored Kobe Bryant last Friday — reasonably priced Knicks tickets are far harder to find. So while the MSG Network has seen its television ratings soar 87 percent since Lin entered the starting lineup last week, the fans who would undoubtedly have raised those ratings even further have been excluded from the party.
To limit the damage, the MSG Network held the viewing party at the dim sum restaurant two blocks from Confucius Plaza. It was not the most natural event to pull together. And so it hired Julie Huang, a publicist whose firm is best known for producing Chinatown Restaurant Week.
“No matter who’s right or wrong, I give MSG props for showing up,” Ms. Huang said.
By 6:15, the line of residents waiting to get into the improvised summit stretched out to the Bowery. They were a mix of retirees, restaurant workers, businessmen and some of Chinatown’s more recent arrivals; the area, like many ethnic corners of the city, has become gentrified.
Some people clearly scrambled from the Confucius Plaza apartment building, drawn by word of mouth or the commotion on the street.
The 100 or so fans who were admitted on a first-come first-served basis received “Just Lin Baby” T- shirts and raffle tickets for Knicks tickets and a single sneaker signed by Lin. Dan Ronayne, an executive vice president for MSG Networks, also attended with staff who were on hand to show Time Warner Cable customers how to switch cable providers.
Wilson Tang, the owner of Nom Wah, brought in an extra flat panel television for the event. A basketball fan, Mr. Tang has been personally affected by the blackout, too. While he has been able to watch Knicks games at his restaurant, which has DirecTV, and at home, where he has RCN, his father is a Time Warner customer.
“We’ve been Knicks fans since I was a little kid,” Mr. Tang said. “So now he comes to my apartment.”
The dispute essentially comes down to how much Time Warner Cable, the leading pay television provider in Manhattan, is willing to pay to carry MSG Network.
Time Warner Cable has also been making its case to subscribers. Last month, it flew 10 pairs of Knicks fans to Charlotte to see the team play the Bobcats. The company put them up for two nights, fed them, gave them $500 gift certificates and had them sit in the company’s suite in the arena.
Jimmy Zheng, in Chinatown on Wednesday evening, just wanted to see Lin on television. No one — in Chinatown or elsewhere — knows how long Mr. Lin’s magical run will last, or if anything like it, for Asian-Americans, will ever be seen again.
“Probably both are to blame,” Mr. Zheng said of the television dispute. “I’m sure each side has their arguments. But I can’t watch the games, so that’s all that matters."'
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