We haven't watched much of the Olympics because frankly much of the joy is in
watching it happen, and not much of it is in sob stories NBC puts together to
humanize the athletes. Memo to NBC: that's what your web sites are for -long,
additional stories. TV is video. Olympics are great video content. Just show us
Ok. Now last night we watched Marion Jones and Maurice Green blow their
respective fields away. Both of these people have a tendency to come off
as brash, cocky or arrogant -take your pick. That's what happens when you let
someone interpret things for you (are you listening, NBC?). And the Nike
commercial for Jones didn't help either. The dark glasses and the forced
sense of cool overshadowed her charisma.
However, what we saw last night was a) athletically brilliant, and b)
emotionally moving. And no one had to tell us the story to make it
powerful. Green, who has come off as abrasive, was overcome by emotion on
his victory, and it was nice to see that side of him. When he wept with his
coach, who missed his medal in 1972, it was particularly moving.
Jones was even better though. Immediately after winning, she went over
to her mother, with whom she has had at times a difficult relationship, and
wept. She then took the flag of Belize, apparently where her mother is
from, and the U.S. flag, and trotted around. When she was on the podium,
her eyes glistened, and near the end of the national anthem, she broke out in
that huge charismatic smile. The image making and the story telling really
gets annoying. In the case of Jones, after you take away the Nike filter and the
hype, what you have is a profoundly gifted young woman who still appears to be
an earnest American kid. She's not a kid, but she has that quality. If she
pulls off most of her hoped-for haul, she is going to be right behind Tiger
Woods as a star, and will likely do more to pump up women's track and field in
this country than anyone before her.
In a small side note, Jones also spoke warmly of her "home
town" Apex. It's not her home town, of course; she's from L.A. But it's
nice that she sees it that way. Once, a long time ago, we were in Virginia
and an African American friend asked us where we were from and we said
Durham. He asked if we knew of Apex. "Klan town," he said.
"I drive way around Apex." It's nice that that reputation has
disappeared, and so particularly happy that Marion Jones feels so at home in her
adopted home town.