Thursday, August 21, 2008

Can't spell 'U.S. in a lather' without U-s-a-i-n

Seeing a quote from Usain Bolt's father in the Jamaican media lays bare how the American media's ability to make much ado -- or Ato -- out of nothing.
"Usain was simply being himself, he likes to celebrate when he does well and there was no time he was trying to put down the other runners in the race." -- Jamaica Observer
Straight talk like that is the best way to hurl truth into the bourgeois -- more like boor-geois -- language of NBC's Bob Costas, et al., who tried to portray Bolt's celebration during the 100 metres at the Beijing Olympics as sacrilege. Sports On My Mind, incidentally, had a great spoof pointing out how Costas and NBC were rather selective about just whose celebration was deemed offensive, overwrought and a terrible example to children.

Usain was simply being himself. Of course, that's the problem, right, because a black man from the Caribbean, from a culture that doesn't "venerate humility one single bit," (to quote a SOMM commenter) flouts Bob Costas' concept of What Should Be.

Perhaps this should be left alone, maybe it seems too far removed from Canada, where you can just watch CBC and TSN, but it isn't entirely. There is a ripple of effect, or ripple of evil (hat tip to Lewis Black), with how Americans decide to present something to the world, since we in Canada are so saturated with U.S. viewpoints. The U.S. sets an example, for good or ill.

That's why it's so nauseating, every four years (it's more a Summer Olympics thing) to see Costas, et al., with their agendas. At a time when it seems like a lot of people have adopted Peter LaFleur moral relativism,* these smug little twits are trying to one-up everyone else, trying to wedge everything into their worldview.

That sends the signal that it's OK to be ignorant, to be insular, to not understand how it is in other countries. Costas can backpedal and butt-cover all he wants, but at the end of the day what matters is that his first reaction was to tear a strip off Usain Bolt for, well, being himself. He didn't act in the Bob Costas-approved manner of an athlete who's a visible minority, so it was bring out Ato Boldon is brought out to give legitimacy to NBC's crock-and-bull story.

Never mind that, on this end, more than a few associates have said Lightning Bolt has made their Olympic watching worthwhile. Records in the 100 and 200 metres; we might never see that again. At 6-foot-5, he might be a prototype for sprinters we'll see in in 2016 or 2020, or maybe he'll be a one-off and the 100 and 200 will remain being the domain of coiled, compact men. In the short run, he's been a one-man antidote to Michael Phelps fatigue and athletes, who quite understandably given the years of sacrificing and training it's taken to get to Beijing, are all-business and no-nonsense to the point of seeming like faceless droids.

He's also a reminder of how the Olympics, for all the excesses, for all the ills, for all the sports which shouldn't be there and for the others no one cares about for three years and 348 days in between quadreenials, for all the purple prose (present company included, so don't bother pointing it out), do act as a reminder that no country has all the answers. No one's way is the right way.

You might have been taken aback by Bolt's showing in the 100 because when you played minor hockey as a kid growing up in small-town Ontario, the worst label to have was that of a "hot dog," someone who rubbed it in after scoring a goal. However, as a late, great American named Bill Hicks said, just because you learned that, it doesn't make it true.

So long live Lightning Bolt and to hell with Bob Costas. He wears nice suits, he's got a voice that's sweeter than restaurant-quality lemonade and he's smarter than the average bear. All of that adds up to a nice, faux-erudite facade for a complete and utter boor, enabling Ugly Americans not to feel so bad.

(It's a wicked burn on the American media that Bolt ran down Michael Johnson, since as we know, the 200-metre record has been the Holy Grail for fast men ever since, well, Bob Costas decided it was in 1996.

Mac Gs World has a whole lot more on Bolt, including some speculation on whether the Nun Linga could knock the Souljah Boy out of circulation if there's a God in heaven, it will. Neil Acharya came through with the Jamaica Observer article.)

2008 Olympics: Triathlete Snowsill Demans the Games with Her Showboating Finish (Sports On My Mind)
Boldon defiant (Jamaica Observer)
Dad defends Usain Bolt's 100m celebrations (Paul A. Reid, Jamaica Observer)

(* This comes from a line spoken by the villain in Dodgeball, played by Ben Stiller -- "I'm not OK, you're not OK, but that's OK.)


DR said...

I love the "restaurant-quality lemonade" reference!

Kilborn 4-eva!

sager said...

It's Friday, and all I wanna do is dance, dance, dance.

No reference is too obscure or too dated for me, plus I haven't watched any first-run TV since 2001, except for Family Guy and Friday Night Lights.

DR said...

Well, I love it!

On a mostly unrelated note, Coach Boeheim has been filing accounts of his adventures in China for the Post-Standard, and they are a comedy goldmine. The local sports blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician has done a nice job of deconstructing them.

Dennis Prouse said...

The rule of thumb has always been, "the shorter the race, the bigger the ego". Is Bolt a "hot dog" with a big ego? Absolutely. Does this make him unique amongst elite athletes in general, and sprinters in particular? Of course not. He is competing in an INIDIVIDUAL sport, folks - you aren't going to find the same personalities in track as you will in team sports. It's the nature of the beast amongst strongly right brained people as well - you will find the same traits, perhaps expressed differently, amongst supremely talented artists and musicians as well.

I can handle Bolt's "look at me" schtick because it is authentic, and it isn't malicious. If he was out there dissing other competitors and countries, I would have a problem with that. He isn't, so live and let live.