Why do some things become media sensations and others don`t? For example, in the 1998 Cotton Bowl against UCLA, Texas A&M linebacker Dat Nguyen, born in a refugee camp in Arkansas, put on one of the greatest defensive performance I`ve ever seen in college football. UCLA won, but an L.A. Times headline read: “Nguyen Simply a Blur to UCLA Blockers: Smallish Texas A&M linebacker sets record with 20 tackles, 15 solo.” Watching the game you couldn`t help thinking, “A few more like him, and South Vietnam wouldn`t have lost the war.”
The next season, Nguyen was a consensus All-American, won the Bednarik Award, and was a runner up for the Butkus Award. He still holds Texas A&M`s career record with 517 tackles.
He was drafted in the 3rd round by the Dallas Cowboys, became starting middle linebacker in his second season, and by 2003 was second team All Pro. A neck injury ended his career after 7 years, but he was quickly hired as an assistant coach by the Cowboys, and is now an assistant coach at A&M.
But, there was never much, if any, media circus around Nguyen. How come?
College Station, TX is a long way from Madison Square Guard? Okay, but the Dallas Cowboys are not usually an overlooked team.
Texas A&M isn`t Harvard?
Football players wear helmets with faceguards?
Offense over defense?
More Asian-Americans in the U.S. than 10-15 years ago?
Vietnamese less important than Chinese?
Basketball statistics more understandable to casual fans than Nguyen`s huge number of tackles?
Today`s Internet even more fad-friendly?