May I Have Your Attention, Please?

The headline in Sunday’s USA Today read, “Gay sets American record, finishes 2nd in 100.”  Wait… Tyson Gay came in second at the World Championships and we’re still giving him the headline?  I know it’s been 15 years since I was in journalism school, but I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to write the headline about the guy who actually won the race.

Sure, Usain Bolt got plenty of headlines of his own.  Experts pondered the upper limits of the Jamaican’s speed, and whether he could be a star in the NFL.  But, ESPN was quick to point out, quote—Bolt Lives in a Cloud of Suspicion.

As far as I’m concerned, every athlete, down to the kid who wins his high school swim meet, lives in a cloud of suspicion.  So what makes Bolt worthy of mention?  Well, ESPN says, five Jamaican sprinters have already tested positive for a substance not illegal in 2009, but on the banned list for 2010.  Then there’s the fact that at six foot five, Bolt is supposedly way too tall to be a sprinter.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not ready to stake my reputation on the outcome of Bolt’s next doping test.  But, folks looking for reasons why the Jamaican is beating Americans right and left seem to be forgetting that the American who should be challenging Bolt, Justin Gatlin, is serving a suspension for his second doping offense.

Maybe Bolt’s nationality isn’t the reason why some American commentators don’t like him.  Maybe it’s his showboating near the end of the 100 meter race in Beijing last summer, which inspired the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oslo to predict that if Bolt hadn’t slowed down, he might have run a 9-six or less.  Maybe it’s the fact that he makes every coach who ever told a runner he was too tall for sprints, look like a complete idiot.  Or the cocky things the young Jamaican, who turns 23 this week, sometimes says in interviews.

I can’t help it though, I like Usain Bolt.  I find his toothy smile charming and his post-race celebrations joyful.  In May, I watched him pretend to lose a race to a kid who couldn’t have been older than five, and he made it look convincing.  Call me un-American, but when Bolt next comes to the line in Berlin, I’ll be cheering for the tall guy in the green and yellow.

This program aired on August 20, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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