Colors of the Game: Black Man, White Sport, Gold Medal

I haven’t paid attention to the Winter Olympics. Probably because every time I turn it on there is a new “sport” that makes absolutely no sense to me. For example, there is a race with two team of skaters, each team having three members. They skate together but the time of the third skater is the only one that counts. Why? What’s the point? Curling, another so-called “sport” that I can’t wrap my head around. Then there is the snowboarding event and the other “Xtreme” sports added to the WO. I just don’t have an interest.

What peeked my interest is the hoopla over the American speed skater, Shani Davis. Being from Chicago, I heard a lot about him and I’ve always kind of rooted for him even if I never go out of my way to see him skate. He came into the WO with the goal of taking home the Gold. His crime was that he didn’t participate in the team events. That rubbed other American speed skaters the wrong way and they’ve made it rather difficult for him as well as the NBC talking heads.

Well, Shani won a gold and became the first black American to win an individual medal in the WO. I guess NBC expected him to take the Jackie Robinson mantra and he didn’t. Now everyone is trashing the brother over his interview. I read the transcript and I just don’t get it. I’ll post the transcript and you can read for yourself, but if he was angry I have my guess as to why.

A black man venturing into a world dominated by whites can be a daunting experience. It’s especially difficult when people expect you to carry the pride of an entire race on you back and still “play” the game by the rules they (meaning white folks) created. Add in the media’s propensity to either paint you as a media darling or antagonist, and you have a recipe for a large chip on the shoulders. I’m sure Shani has a very large chip and he probably wasn’t interested in carrying the esteem of an entire race along for the ride. Many sports athletes make that decision. Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ash decided they carry that burden. Michael Jordan, Reggie Jackson and many others decided against it. To each his own.

Shani Davis won a gold medal and the only thing he was thinking, “I came here to win a gold medal and I did.” I’m happy for him. The folks at NBC are a-wipes and the rest of the American speed skating team are jerks for black-balling Shani and not even acknowledging his win. I don't blame the brother for not being bother with them.

I may try to catch his next race but I’m not going out of my way to do so. I still think the WO are garbage except for downhill skiing and bobsledding. I do like ice skating but it’s not a sport. Sorry to offend you ice skaters out there but if ice skating is a sport then ballroom dancing should be in the summer games.

The following is the interview with Shani Davis after he won the gold medal. Let me know what you think of it.

Dan Hicks: Let's go down to Melissa.

Melissa Starks: Well, he was favored in this event, he trained for it for a year, and it paid off. Shani, it's nice to finally see a smile on your face. What does this win mean to you?

Davis: Um, it means that all my hard work paid off finally.

Starks: You are the first African-American male to win a gold medal at the Winter Games. How proud are you of that?

Davis: I'm pretty happy about it.

Starks: That's it?

Davis: Yeah.

Starks: OK, um, your mom, Cherie, you've credited her with much of your success. Uh, is this medal as much for her as it is for you?

Davis: Yeah. She earned it too.

Starks: Are you angry, Shani?

Davis: No, I'm happy. I have a loss for words right now.

Starks: All right. You sure do look happy (clearly sardonic). Dan, back to you.

Hicks: That is certainly not the kind of interview you're used to hearing from an Olympic gold medalist. It is obvious something is on Davis' mind, and at this stage of the Games, we're not about to guess what that might be.

Bob Costas: And I won't either, Dan. Even after this 1-2 finish for the Americans, he tension within the U.S. team remains real, that's clear. After the event, Chad Hedrick was asked if he was happy for Davis. Hedrick's terse reply: "I'm happy for Joey," referring to silver medalist Joey Cheek. This all sets up a compelling matchup for Tuesday's 1,500-meter race, which is really where Hedrick and Davis' specialties overlap. Davis, the 2004 world champion; Hedrick, the current world record-holder in the event; each already with a gold medal here. OK, while we digest that, we return to short track ...

Discussion Starters:
1. Should a black person feel obligated to carry the "First black" mantra?
2. Do you think black athletes get more negative coverage than their white counterparts?
3. If yes, why do you think that is?
4. Should Shani Davis participated in the team events putting at risk his individual goals?


21 Responses to Colors of the Game: Black Man, White Sport, Gold Medal

  1. Showing Shani some Love Says:
    Shani knows where he is getting his love from. And he knows how proud our community is of him.

    I think his Texas golden-boy team mate of his was disgraceful. Why would you sit in the stands at the Olympics stone-faced just to show the entire world you don't like your team mate? What an ass!!

    The media has jumped down this guy's throat for not helping this Texas golden-boy win 5 medals, or helping two other chumps on the team win a gold in an event they wasn't guaranteed to win.

    My only question to the Texas golden-boy's fans: If Shani had participated and then lost the gold medal in his #1 event, who would give a damn?

    The people that love him still do. He's another role-mole that has opened another door for our people, yet again.

    Congratulations Shani!!!
  2. Revka Says:
    I need your Christian cuss out kit!! (saying with a chuckle)..

    I have a young,dorkish college student who no longer comments on my blog, using my posts in a 'sarcastic' manner. I have blown him off for a long time, but would love to do something fun to him..

    Any suggestions???
  3. Anonymous Says:
    (SPOILER ALERT!) I'm glad Shani kicked golden-boy's butt today in the 1500!!! What a poor sport that Hedrick is!! Read the account; he wouldn't even shake the winner's (Italian, by the way) hand on the medals platform (Shani got silver, Hedrick bronze).
  4. Revka Says:
    james his address is:

    actually i do like the fact that he links me all the time, but he has bred another evolutionst who hates me now as well, and posts about me.

    Maybe you could help me with some funny things to say?? I am one that is not as creatively funny as you..

  5. James Manning Says:
    No Name: I'll have to check out the report.

    Rebe: Thanks, I'll check him out.
  6. James Manning Says:
    Ok, i read the report. it looks like shani is going to come out on top of all of this crap. hendrick sounds like a jerk and is getting what he deserves. ha
  7. Bullfrog Says:
    It sounds to me like Shani wanted the gold for himself and doesn't necessarily want to be known as the first African American to do what he has done. I don't think he is obligated to carry that load because he is black, I think he is justified in striving for his success on an individual basis.

    Obviously he will be carried on the shoulders of blacks whether he is willing or not.

    As far as him being black-balled, that seems a little harsh. A gold is a gold.
  8. Rashid Muhammad Says:
    Reggie Jackson with no chip on his shoulder?

    Ha! Don't let the white wife fool ya!
  9. Miss Lady Ma'am Says:
    It all started when Shani TOLD the team 4 days before the team event that he wasn't going to participate. He said, "I have a chance for gold in another event, let someone else who doesn't have that chance go for it." That looks like the actions of a team player to me.

    Makes me wonder if the golden boy would treat Joey the same way if he were in Shani's shoes....

    Let the man enjoy his medals the way he wants, not the way the media thinks he should.
  10. Anonymous Says:
    One thing that does not get mentioned in all this: the US Skating Association (or whatever their official name is) got in between Davis and one of his sponsors -- basically, they said he couldn't wear that logo on his gear, which was tantamount to saying don't accept any money from them.

    Given that, it's not surprising that Davis would be less than eager to join the team race.
  11. L.T. Says:
    1. Should a black person feel obligated to carry the "First black" mantra?

    Obligated is a tough word. I say no, nobody should feel obligated to carry it on, but I know I would be PROUD to. I also would rather people remain neutral a la Michael Jordan than act almost indignant about it, a la Tiger Woods.

    2. Do you think black athletes get more negative coverage than their white counterparts?

    Usually, yes. Shani is quite the example of it. Ironically, the only sport in the Winter games I care about is Hockey, yet I know about this story because it's been made into that big of a deal. So I'd say absolutely.

    3. If yes, why do you think that is?

    I think often that we bring a different perspective and a different way of life to the table that most whites not only do not understand, but do not HAVE to understand in their daily life. When black people hit the big stage, what white people may characterize in a negative light can often be normal to us.

    Baseball is my favorite sport and other than my Dad I don't know any other black people that enjoy it. Therefore, almost anyone that I talk about baseball with, whether in person or over the internet, is white. Well, if you know anything about baseball, you know about Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia, and former Indians/current Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp.

    Both players wear their hat tilted. Not completely sideways like they may if in the streets, but it's slightly off-center. Go to and look up either player....almost certainly their hats will be tilted in the file photo. You should see on the message boards and hear in the conversations how angry these white people get over them doing that. They get madder over that than steroids. Seriously.

    I think that's an example of what happens when black people rise to prominence in white culture.

    4. Should Shani Davis participated in the team events putting at risk his individual goals?

    If he wanted to, yes. If not, then no. It was solely an individual decision and he made it. To me, that's the bottom line.
  12. kerri Says:
    i'm so glad you wrote about this.

    i think it is a disgrace the way they have treated shani during these games... the dude just got done racing and winning the gold... he's out of breath, the reality of what he had accomplished may not have completely set in yet. shani has done nothing but be gracious during this whole affair.

    if anyone needs to be scrutinzied, it's that cocky asshole (sorry, for the language) from texas... hedrick is a sore loser and is only upset because shani was the key in winning the gold for the team race...

    not shani's fault that he realizes that it is an individual sport and not a team sport. if it was a "team" sport shani would have had more support. Go Shani!!

    @anon 6:57
    Olympians aren't allowed to wear sponsor patches... It's not about sponsorships. No other athlete has worn them in these games or any other.
  13. Bullfrog Says:
    @l.t. - I can't say I agree that the tilted hat thing in the MLB is racial. Baseball is a very traditional passtime and I think anyone who tries to push the envelope with their personal style will get criticism. Let's use a predominantly black sport, like the NBA. They are trying to keep people from wearing baggy gear and excessive jewelry off the court. It's about respect and carrying yourself like a professional. As most of these guys are millionaires for doing what they do, I think it's reasonable.
  14. YGTBSM Says:
    l.t. - I don't think Tiger is indignant about it. My younger brother went to Stanford with Tiger. What bothers Tiger is the same thing that bothers many people who happen to be multi-racial (Tiger's mother is Thai): The Black community wants to hold him up, yet criticizes him when he wants to acknowledge his mother and Asian heritage ALONG with his Blackness. He got treated even worse (getting called a "sell-out" and "traitor") when he decided to marry a woman who is Swedish (white). Quite frankly, if Tiger acts indignant, I wouldn't criticze him for being so.
  15. Dell Gines Says:
    Much of it is just an extension of the larger cultural phenomenon of blacks not respecting what folks had to go through to get their black ass to this point in history.

    So many of us have detached our current ability and performance from our historical inability to put it on display and what our forefathers had to go through to get us into baseball, into the olympics, into gold medals, into being the first black anything.

    I am on Shani's side over all, but he owes the black struggle. It isn't just about him.
  16. James Manning Says:
    I understand your point Dell. I just think that there are some folks that are not up to the task. I probably would be, but knowing what I know about Shani Davis, I think he's cool but he just wanted to enjoy the fruits of his labor without the entire weight of black history riding on his accomplishments and failures.
  17. Dell Gines Says:
    The point is the entire black history doesn't hinge on his success or failure, but to avoid what so many died and fought for to get him to this point disrespect what they did to get him to this point.

    He could be a nigger in the field picking cotton or relegated to the Negro Ice Skating League if it wasn't for those before him.
  18. DJ Diva Says:
    OK I' mad late with this...but Shani wasn't the frst black to win gold in the WO...There was that American Black lady Bobsledder who won in the last games and she competed again in this one...when I get her name I'll get it to u....
  19. YGTBSM Says:
    dj diva: Vonetta Flowers did NOT win an INDIVIDUAL gold medal. She won it in the 2-person bobsled.
  20. DJ Diva Says:
    ok ...but she won a gold medal right? she was the first...
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