Friday, August 22, 2008

Haters Hate Because Love is Hard

They're trying to get you to hate him.

As he glides towards the finish line, arms outstretched, face painted with a mixture of glee and cockiness, they want you to despise him.

Watch him strut around the stadium for one more victory lap. You might see pride, they see unacceptable arrogance. You see the climax of four years of hard work, they see disrespect.

IOC president Jacques Rogge criticized Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt on Thursday for showing a lack of respect to other competitors after his record-breaking gold medal performances in the 100 and 200 meters.

“That’s not the way we perceive being a champion,” Rogge said.“I have no problem with him doing a show,” Rogge said in an interview with three international news agency reporters. “I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 meters.”

I haven't written about sports in a while, but I got that urge again recently. Like many of you, I've watched Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt capture the 100 meter and 200 meter gold medals with a combination of amazement and envy the past few days.

Amazement because it seems impossible that a man could run that fast. Envy because it's impossible for anyone who has ever run a schoolyard race to not feel a twinge of envy watching Bolt move across the Earth. As one of my friends put it, running is the one thing that all of us with full use of our limbs have a visceral understanding and connection too.

We may not know what it's like to train for hours to become finally honed running machines, but we know the joy of running. The sheer excitement of "picking them up and laying them down" so fast that if feels like you can take flight. It feels like only the wind can challenge you. It just feels...

My father and I have exchanged several late night conversations about "that boy Bolt." I've debated whether losing my sleep at night was worth watching him run, even though I already knew the results of his races. Bolt was excitement, an event like Flo-Jo once was during those late summer nights of my youth.

And certain folks can't appreciate his majesty.

First came the attacks because he managed to destroy the field while jogging the last few meters of his races. Then there was the complaint that his celebrations were too much, too exuberant and too brash. Finally, there were the whispers that no human could do what he had done without help from an outside source. A chemical source.

There is an easy racial comparison in there, one I think all of you racially conscious folks can see. But, I'm not going to go there because I have something else to say.

When did it become unacceptable for black people to celebrate our achievements?

I said black people for a reason. You rarely, if ever, hear complaints about celebrations levied against white players. When they celebrate it's due to a love for the game, a primal joy at participating. When we celebrate, it's because we lack proper decorum.

You know, I've never heard a black athlete criticized for displaying too much emotion when they fail. Failure, like the agonies of Lolo Jones and Wallace Spearmon, is wallowed in, all of the agony documented and recorded. Our pain is entertainment, truthfully the pain of all Olympic athletes is reveled in by the producers that decide who gets the spotlight. Asian, Latino, black or white, the pain of failure seems to be must-see t.v.

But, joy is not so colorblind. No, the joy of black athletes, their excitement at seeing the fulfillment of years of hard work, must only be displayed in an "acceptable" manner. There can be no strutting, no preening, no basking in the full glow of dominance. There can only be humble acceptance with a touch of unassuming joy. Pain is accepted in any form, but joy must be controlled.

Honestly, I didn't want to make this a race thing, but in my heart it feels like one. I have watched the U.S.A. mens basketball team, and I have seen them chastised when they show "too much" ferocity. When they return shoves and glowers with their own shoves and glowers. When they go "too" far.

I have watched Michael Phelps swim his way to wealth and seen him celebrate his best victories with incredible fervor. I have heard no complaints about him slowing down and saving something for later. And that has happened, it has been documented. Instead he has been lauded for his "strategy," praised for his dominance and championed for his emotion. He has been held up as the golden standard.

And Bolt has not. His dominance has been acknowledged, but only with a side order of hate. Some claim it's because he's not one of us, it's because he's not an American. We only champion our own, they say.

I don't know. It seems to be deeper than that to me.


Anonymous said...

Another good one. I agree there does seem to be some type of double standard at play. Yet no one likes to call it that, when we (Black folks) are down its all good, yet let us have a victory regardless of what the arena (sports, politics, etc) and then we face the accusations that we are not being nice.

For some reason, reading this post made me think of that Katt Williams skit on haters.

Big Man said...

I enjoy Katt Williams.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

they both require = effort

NoRegrets said...

and jeez, the guy's so young, of course he's going to have energy to celebrate!

WNG said...

I am an Olympic FREAK - as you know - and I completely agree with you on this one. I, personally, love all of the celebrating. These atheletes have worked their asses off for four years (most of them) waaay out of teh spotlight and this is their time to shine one the world stage so I say go for it. I loved Bolt flashing like lightning. I love Rodgers and Dalhauser falling over each other and then running around like little kids. It is a personification of joy and there is nothing wrong with that.
Not once did he taunt the other runners or try to make them feel less than, he was not unsportsmanlike.
Anyone who says differently can kiss my ... medal.

E said...

Tremendous double-standard for sure. Usain Bolt is an incredible athlete and so much fun to watch.

I wonder how nationality plays into it. I can't help but wonder if the media would make any kind of fuss if he were an American.

What were the reactions to previous African American track victory celebrations and styles (MJ's golden shoes, that other guy that had a fire extinguisher)?

the uppity negro said...

First of all--the dude 6'5" and got legs for days! If he DIDN'T win there'd be a problem.

Spearmon is only like 6'3" and Walter Dix and Tyson Gay are under 6 feet.

Did I mention he has legs for days?

It all goes back to what you said Big Man with your post about Obama--it's all about swag.

Otis Moss preached last Sunday on 2 Samuel 6 when David danced out of his clothes and said "And I'll become even more undignified than this" and entitled his sermon "The Meaning Behind My Swagger" and actually tied in Lil' Wayne with it.

Bolt just needs to tell them don't hate on my swagger.

They aint got it like black folks--never have and never will.

Betcha cain't do it like me...

Tell the IOC to fall back--this done got me mad on a Friday morning--well afternoon now.

Big Man said...

Maurice Green and the other Americans on the 4x100 team in Athens caught hell because they celebrated too much as well. They didn't celebrate while running, but after the race.

Imhotep said...

White folks got to let this paternalistic attitude go, it serves no useful purpose.

Lightning Bolt kicked ass and took names and NEVER disrespectred his competition on the track or during his celebration. I ask, where is the problem? Three million Jamaicans don't see a problem. The Chinese ain't complaining, heck he's the life of their party.

Leave it up to the white man to have a problem with a Black man showing exuberance for an accomplishment.

Sweet Jones said...

Well writen, Big Man. Captures my thoughts exactly.

I came to the conclusion long ago that America, from Jack Johnson to Chad Johnson, simply HATES seeing Black folk celebrating ANYTHING.

Whether it's the annual Kneegrows-being-disruptive/too loud cheering-at-high school/college-graduation articles, or the overblown OJ 'celebrations', America simply has a visceral disdain for Black Joy. In ALL forms.


des said...

Big Man,

Think about it from this standpoint: Imagine if Bolt had run the 100 straight, and ran between 9.4-9.5, obliterating his previous record. Can you imagine the speculation he would have been under? He would taken so many urine tests they would have attached a catheter to him before he ran the 200.

the uppity negro said...

@Big Man

In response to the fact that Bolt celebrated before he finished the 100...

As the preachers say: "Don't wait till the battle is over, SHOUT NOW!"

awb said...

Thing is, Rogge, NBC-they should be thanking Bolt. After all the black eyes track and field have had they underservedly get blessed with a personality like Bolts from on high. He gets everyone talking about a sport that people had written off and then they proceed to dog him?? WTF is that?

Black Butterfly said...

I totally agree. Great post!

Sharon because it had to be said! said...

You have nailed this one for sure; and it is so very telling that so far no one but no one has offered a divergent point of view.

A historical look at Olympics past will show that the issue is that offense is taken whenever black folx are victorious and have the bodaciousness to think that a celebration of any kind is in order. This IS all about race and being an American athlete does not do much if anything to make victory celebrations any more acceptable for Black Olympians. From the accusations of arrogance (Carl Lewis) to chemical enhancements to "disrespectful victory celebrations", Black Olympians can't win when they win!!! Thus I say to my brothers and sisters

Do Your Dance and let'em Eat Cake!!

So on on point!

Raving Black Lunatic