Maiello: Defeat the Press
Miami Fans Mistakenly Chant "Let's Go Eat" During Playoff Game
Athletes, especially Olympians, are to be seen and not heard, or even read. Remember when Crash Davis explains the perfect sports interview to Nuke Laloosh?
Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring.
Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.
Recently, triple jumper Paraskevi (Voula) Papachristou, tweeted, "With so many Africans in Greece... the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!" She was promptly expelled from the Greek Olympic team. Her politics and her not being a strong threat to medal may have made the decision easier.
Papachristou also retweeted videos and postings from Golden Dawn, an extreme right party that got an unexpected boost in Greek elections this year, winning 7% of the vote. The party, whose symbol resembles a swastika, is virulently opposed to immigration and has been denounced for thuggish tactics.
Australian swimmers Nick D'Arcy and Kenrick Monk are banned from using social media during the Games, and are to be sent packing directly after their events for tweeting pictures of themselves holding pistols and shotguns in a Santa Clara gun shop. Seems that their pix were interpreted as thumbing their noses at Australia's strict gun laws.
And, of course, forty-four years ago Tommie Smith and John Carlos lost their 200m track medals for their famous black power salute.
Avery Brundage, president of the International Olympic Committee in 1968, declared that the Games should be apolitical and ordered the pair to be thrown out of the Olympic Village. The move was one of grotesque hypocrisy given that Brundage, as head of the US Olympic Commission in 1936, had ensured American athletes’ complicity in the Nazi salute in Berlin. But he was far from alone in denouncing Smith and Carlos. Time magazine made reference to their “ugly” statement on its front over. Brent Musburger, a prominent CBS broadcaster, branded them “black-skinned storm troopers”. Within 48 hours of the protest, the pair had their Mexican visas withdrawn and were ejected from the country.
Former Olympians can catch some flak, too. Salon's Amy Bass is taking long sprinter Michael Johnson to task for crediting his sports prowess to his slave genes. In “Slave genes” myth must die, she writes:
... when Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson predicted this month that African-American and West Indian track athletes would dominate the London Olympics because of the genes of their slave ancestors, I paid little attention, thinking there was no way this could become a viable conversation yet again. “All my life I believed I became an athlete through my own determination, but it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations,” Johnson told the Daily Mail. “Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me –- I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.”
Bass recalls the racist gaffes of Jimmy the Greek, Al Campanis and Rush Limbaugh. She also notes the Runner's World article arguing, "there is a geological divide between West African and East African muscle-twitch fibers that explains why some black athletes, Kenyans, had endurance while African-Americans excelled at shorter distances."
Her article does not mention Malcolm Gladwell's piece supposing that Africans may excel at running because they have a wider variety of genes than descendants of groups that left Africa. I read that about fifteen years ago in The New Yorker, I think. Gladwell, a former sprinter himself, felt that Africans, as a group, would have the best and the worst genes, and that non-Africans would fall in between. But with all the revelations about interbreeding with Neandertal, Erectus and now perhaps the Denisovans, it seems our Sapiens gene pool gained quite a bit from places other than Africa.
Essentially, Bass attacks the very definition of saying someone is "black" when folk with backgrounds as diverse as golfer Tiger Woods and swimmer Anthony Ervin can be unscientifically presumed to have the same genes because they aren't "white." She notes that Howard University anthropologist W Montague Cobb considered Olympic hero Jesse Owens more Caucasoid than Negroid. Imagine tweeting that about Usain Bolt.
Update: When I was a kid, I read a book by sports talk show host Bill Mazer. He wrote that there had been successions of immigrant champions, most lately African-Americans, and someone once asked him: what makes a good boxer? Mazer's answer: Poverty.