|Lolo Jones finished fourth in the 100m hurdles Source|
But wait. Can we step back for a second? Jones' "failure" meant that she finished fourth at the Olympics. For now, she is fourth in the world. Sure, this is a sport where there is really only one winner, and where the top three get hardware and glory while fourth gets to pee in a cup, but let me repeat that for you. Fourth in the world. Allow me to quote Allie Kieffer here:
Professional athletes put themselves out in the public eye for all to see. Criticism comes with the territory. However, fans (and haters) sometimes go way over the line. I read LetsRun because it's a pretty good source of news and one of the easiest ways to see what's going on in the running world. And believe it or not, there are several good posters who provide good insight into all things running. But LetsRun is also notorious for having message board trolls who go well past what's appropriate. Many other media outlets (like the New York Times, apparently) are no better.
Here's another example. Now, in no way am I qualified to speak about gymnastics. I know only slightly more about gymnastics than I do about equestrian, and that's only because I didn't know that dressage was a word until about a week ago. Seriously, I got into an argument with one of my runner friends last week about whether men competed in vault (I lost...never question a man who was forced to perform vault in one of his college gym courses). However, from what I do understand, McKayla Maroney is the best in the world at vault. Basically, it was her event to lose, and just in case last year's World Championships didn't prove that, she proved it with a near-perfect vault that left the judges slack-jawed at the Olympic team championships. But nothing is ever guaranteed in sport, and she fell on her second vault. Of course, she still finished second after landing on her butt because her difficulty scores were so much higher than everyone else's. However, when she fell and looked disappointed, the media ripped her apart for "choking" (because, you know, people never fall when they're flipping two and a half times through the air...and I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere that Maroney was vaulting on a broken big toe), and for being an ungrateful spoiled brat with a "bitch face." Um, maybe I completely missed it because I was too busy trying to figure out why NBC wasn't showing the steeplechase final at a reasonable time, but all I saw was her looking understandably disappointed, yet still giving the gold medalist a long hug. Like I said, maybe I missed her kicking a trash can and throwing a chair at the Romanian girl while making a face like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, but hugging her opponent and saying she was disappointed in her performance during an interview does not really scream "sore loser" to me.
|McKayla Maroney in the Team Championship. Source|
Now, with the Lolo Jones thing, I know many people are upset about Jones marketing herself. They say she's an attention whore who's not even the best in the nation, stealing the spotlight from those who deserve it (because clearly, being the American record holder in the 60m hurdles isn't very deserving of props). What's wrong with marketing yourself? Look, I'm all for people being humble. Really. Cocky bitches piss me off more than anyone. I love the mild-mannered underdog who blushes in the spotlight and is thrilled and humbled to be on the big stage. And I can understand if the silver and bronze medalists are a little upset if Jones is still the one getting all the attention. But let's face it, track and field is a niche sport where most athletes aren't making that much money, and many are living below the poverty line. It's not the NBA or NFL, not by a long shot. If you want to make a living, you've gotta market yourself, and professional athletes need to pay rent and put food on the table too! Then you have to consider that colorful personalities are good for the sport. For the most part, no one except for a small population of running geeks give a crap about athletics outside of once every four years. Most people who run for fun probably can only name a handful of professional runners, and are almost certainly unable to throw out times the way people toss around football stats for their fantasy league. People like Lolo Jones and Nick Symmonds help to bring track and field out of the shadows and into the spotlight. They're the ones whose names are known outside of track circles, who inspire people who aren't necessarily the track superfan, and that's what this sport needs. Finally, I've seen people calling Jones a sore loser because she looked upset post-race (at least she wasn't called "Bitch Face," I guess). Underdog though she was, we all know that Jones hasn't spent years and years of her life working her butt off with the dream to get fourth. I would never excuse a complete lack of sportsmanship, but come on, she's allowed to be sad. (Someone please tell me if I missed her throwing a tantrum and punching Dawn Harper after this picture was taken, because all I saw was her looking sad).
|HOW DARE YOU LOOK UPSET! Source|
So I want to challenge you all to support our athletes. You don't have to like all of them, just be respectful, that's all. Remember that beneath that seemingly superhuman facade, they're human too. They have feelings, they feel disappointment, they get hurt, and they cry, just like anyone else. Stop with the tearing people down, whether it's a 16-year-old girl or a 30-year-old woman...or anyone. While these people do put themselves out there, and they know that a certain amount of criticism and negativity comes with the territory, they are also deserving of our respect. So to all the athletes representing the United States and all other nations, to all the athletes who missed making the Games but who already have the next big event on their minds, and to all the athletes who will never make it to the world stage but will continue to toil in anonymity for their own satisfaction, I salute you all. You all have my respect.