' ' Cinema Romantico: A Digression: Not Of This Earth

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Digression: Not Of This Earth

(Okay, last Olympic rant. I promise. Tomorrow it's back to this blog's purported theme.)

We're all aware of my favorite moments from the Olympics, the moments that choked me up, the moments that made me believe the world really is a good place, but, of course, at their absolute core the Olympics are about athletic achievement. So, now that they have concluded, I wonder about the single greatest feat - personal considerations aside - I witnessed, the one event that solely from an athletic standpoint made my jaw drop and say out loud to no one, "Holy s---."? Well, it's easy. It was Jamaican sprinter Usain ("Lightning") Bolt's quarterfinal heat in the 100 meters. No, not the final in which he ran a mind-blowing 9.69 seconds or the 200 meter final which was the track equivalent of determining the earth revolved around the sun, but the 100 meter quarterfinal.

(By the way, I find the hub-bub surrounding Bolt's supposed brash cockiness as he crossed the finish line of that 100 meter final by opening his arms and thumping his chest quintessential American media. I don't know how it played in other countries but here in the U.S. you would have thought Bolt was a modern-day Mussolini, shouting proclamations to his minions. He wasn't simply just a 22 year old kid who had run the first sub 9.70 second time in the history of civilization. No, he was showing up his opponents and being the bad-sport to end all bad-sports, even though it's quite obvious in the replays he never looked back at his fellow competitors and taunted them.

Meanwhile NBC continually trumpeted the basketball's Redeem Team made up entirely of normally brash, arrogant NBA players as setting aside their typical ways to unite as one and, in doing so, not just reclaim the gold medal but also become model citizens for the stars & stripes. I'm surprised we weren't shown staged scenes of them rescuing kittens from trees. Of course, they failed to address the moment during the Olympic Gold Medal basketball game - yes, I got up at 1:30 in the morning to watch it - when Kobe Bryant hit a critical three point shot late in the game and then turned to the crowd and made the "shhhhh" gesture. As in, "Shut the f--- up, I'm Kobe Bryant". Yet, right after this vintage display of taunting, all we heard, over and over, was comments along the lines of, "Boy, Kobe Bryant has really stepped up his game when the U.S. needed him most."

So Kobe Bryant, an egomaniacal adulterer who may or may not have raped a woman, makes the "shhh" gesture after hitting the nine thousandth three point shot of his career but is still a class-act while Usain Bolt, who donated $50,000 to the relief fund for the Sichuan earthquake despite making zillions less than Kobe Bryant, is the devil come-to-life for thumping his chest at no one in particular for doing what no human being has ever done? Got it. Thanks for setting me straight, NBC!)

The first Summer Olympics I became obsessed with were the Seoul games of 1988 and during that Olympiad I watched Carl Lewis, generally considered the finest sprinter of all-time, win the 100 meter dash by running a world record. It's important to note that Lewis did not cross the finish line first. Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson actually crossed first with Lewis trailing. However, a couple days later it was discovered that Johnson had so many steroids pumping through his body his eyes were literally yellow. But because Lewis was behind this freak of drug-taking he had to run all-out, full-on, his fastest, his hardest, flexing every muscle, using up everything in the tank, expending his energy to the fullest, leaving it all on the asphalt, unable to ease up at any point, exerting himself during every last one of those one-hundred meters. His time: 9.92 seconds.

In Bolt's 100 meter Beijing quarterfinal heat he shot out of the blocks and took the lead at 60 meters where he looked right, looked left, realized he was in control and would qualify for the next round easily, shut it down, and jogged the remaining 40 meters. I repeat, he jogged the remaining 40 meters. He was so un-taxed at the race's conclusion the camera clearly showed he had not even broken a sweat. His time: 9.92 seconds.

Like I said, holy s---.


Jacob said...

While I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of Misty and Keri I would like to point out one Olympic feat that happened over 30 years ago and still amazes me.

In the 1972 Olympics, amidst all that happened there, a wrestler from the United States quietly went in and won the gold medal. This after the USSR wrestling team proclaimed publicly that their goal was to find a man to beat this US wrestler.

It isn't so much that he won the gold wearing this target but that he did it without a single solitary point being scored against him. Not one point. He was literally perfect.

This in a sport when it is often a good strategy to let your opponent escape, giving your opponent one point so that you can attempt to take down your opponent gaining yourself 2 points. This strategy is very often employed at the end of close matches to secure a victory.

Nope, not needed, he was so good that he had every man he met bested from the opening whistle.

That man, Dan Gable. Oh and after the Olympics he coached a little at the University of Iowa. In 21 years as head coach, 21 straight big ten titles and 15 national titles. The team went undefeated 7 times. I don't care what anyone says that is impressive.

Just giving props to my peeps. I can say that right??


Anonymous said...


I don't know if you read this guy already, but he is one of the best sportswriters currently in the game. Even better, he has one of the best sports blogs around. I thought I'd recommend it to you because he just went to a Bruce concert, and his fanboy write-up of it reminded me of you.

Nick Prigge said...

Josh, that ode to Bruce was amazing. That's the kind of writing I can get behind. Thank you.

Jacob, I felt a little bad for Dan Gable when people kept having the Greatest Olympian Ever argument in the wake of that dude who swims without at least mentioning him. I, of course, have always been firmly in the Carl Lewis Camp but that's a personal bias.