Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Smith & Carlos!
Back in 1968, 45 years ago last week, at the Mexico City Olympic Games, an event occurred on the medal stand that infuriated Americans of all stripes and political views. Noooooo, not really, it only infuriated the current members of the Tea Party, who somehow were all 70 years old even back then.
1968 was a bad year if you really didn't care for assassinations and riots and shit like that. The 1968 Olympics took place in Mexico City that year, and a lot of black athletes, led by Dr.Harry Edwards, were telling the United States Olympic Committee that, yeah, we aren't going to participate because once we win a medal, we get shoved back into the ghettos and shitholes and get called N bombs and all that Star Spangled Banner stuff doesn't really apply to us, or our brethren. Kareem Abdul Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, refused to go for instance.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos were sprinters entered in the 200 meter sprint. Smith won the gold and Carlos won the bronze. When they went to the victory stand, well you know what happened. The fists went up and white America was outraged.
This act of courage, yes, courage, is my favorite Olympic moment of all time. And that's saying something because my second favorite Olympic related moment is Shane Standt whacking Nancy Kerrigan on the thigh back in 1994. You don't even want to know my third favorite moment because it involves East German female swimmers with five o'clock shadows and bulges in their speedos.
Smith and Carlos, and to a certain degree, second place finisher Australian Peter Norman (clue, he's the white guy) all suffered repercussions back home. Sportswriters from Dick Young to Brent Musburger all hammered them for not being tap dancing patriotic minstrels. Lots of white people were already having palpitations over Jose Feliciano singing the national anthem really weird at the 1968 World Series and now this? Peter Norman went home to Australia and was derided and ignored the rest of his life and when he died in 2006, Carlos and Smith were pallbearers. Avery Brundage, the head of the Olympic Games in 1968, threw Smith and Carlos out of the "nonpolitical" Olympics for their protest and this was a guy who sucked Hitler's ass back in 1936.
John Carlos and Tommie Smith are still around. They've had tough lives since that day in October of 1968. But they are immortal. Nobody remembers anybody from those Olympic Games but everybody remembers two courageous men standing there and telling the world what was going on in their home nation.