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Don’t Try to Tame the Lightning Bolt

by PATRICK B. BARR

Mr. Jacques Rogge
President,
International Olympic Committee
Lausanne
Switzerland

Dear Mr. Rogge,

You have been derelict in your duty. You have failed to seek out the Jamaican wunderkind, Usain Bolt, kowtow to him, heap praise on him and thank him for pulling the Olympic Games by the scruff of the neck from a mundane exercise into another realm of excellence never before seen.

Instead, you choose to criticize him for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“I have no problem with him doing a show,” Rogge told reporters Thursday. However, he added, “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 metres.”

Let me explain something to you about the black perspective.

From the awful experience and the pain of slavery, and the recipients of a crushing wave of racism, we invented the Blues, a music that expressed the hurt, the pain.

Then we invented Jazz. A music that relies on a complex rhythmic base to express the intensity bottled up inside, to soar into a new space, to lift the human mind and the human spirit, with Louis Armstrong expressing a joy that covered up the depth of his hurt and his pain, living in a country that didn´t love and respect him as he did it.

We invented Rhythm & Blues to further express our feelings of love and pain.

Out of steel drums, the descendants of former enslaved people fashioned an instrument to accompany Calypso, a Caribbean music of deep humour, storytelling and a repository of contemporary history.

We didn´t invent Country & Western music, but Chuck Berry and Ray Charles used to great effect.

We didn´t invent basketball either, but the Harlem Globetrotters, along with an assist from Abe Sapperstein, for many decades, injected a humour into that sport that, thankfully, was never, to my knowledge, criticized by the people who have run basketball since the inception of the group. And it is unlikely that you would know that we invented many of the moves and the aesthetic of basketball, including the slam dunk, which you may consider the most unsportsmanlike move in all sport. A veritible, in-your-face statement of contempt.

And, not far behind, we invented a variety of dances in end zones far and wide in American football, a practice which I am sure you would condemn, as the governing body of that sport has condemned. It went even further, introducing laws which circumscribed the practice, spiking the ball, among others.

And from Mother Africa, and throughout the diaspora, we have invented any number of dance steps to express that joy that naturally bubbles up in our every step, including the way so many of us choose to walk. Remember also, that we invented the low-five, the high-five, the chest bump and the fist bump.

We have been burnt by the sun and we exude exhuberance. The French call it “joie de vivre.”

So, here comes Usain Bolt, the brother from another planet. Instead of being nervous and uptight as athletes are supposed to be, he is the picture of relaxation. Before each of his magnificent performances on the track, he finds time to express a calm, and a laid-back exuberance that is absolutely unexpected.

You are accustomed to the somber aspect of the nervous athlete, whose life seems in the balance. As if he or she were in the Roman Coliseum, about to face a Tiger. Here comes a young man, who says, and shows that running is not a matter of life and death. It is only a sport. It is nothing more than another experience to be shared, a platform on which to delight and amaze.

If the other athletes want hugs and kisses from Bolt, I would suggest that they catch up. That they arrive at the destination, the tape, when Bolt is still in the neighbourhood. After all, his very speed dictates that he use up half the stadium just to slow down. And, I would hazard a guess, that, with each giant stride, what occupies his mind is love of country, plus the enormity of what he has accomplished.

And what crime is it that he chooses to look at the results of his performance and join the world by speaking the truth. “I am a superb athlete!” That is fact. Not fiction.

Allow the young man to behave as young people behave the world over. Differently from their parents.

I am sure that the organization that you head could do some cleaning up of its act, and would benefit mightily if you concentrated on cleaning up your own house.

Mr. Rogge, I have seen lion tamers and you are no lion tamer.

Don´t try to tame Usain Bolt.

He is a bolt of lightning. And therefore, untameable!

Regards,

PATRICK B. BARR

PATRICK B. BARR, formerly with The Daily Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica. He can be reached at barrybar@gmail.com

 

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