Sunday, February 19, 2006

Hero Or Asshole?

There is so much about Shani Davis that you want to like.

He's become the first black athlete to win a Winter Olympic gold medal in an individual event. This is quite an accomplishment. Legendary, even.

He did it in a sport where being a black guy couldn't have been easy, not with the white establishment he competed against and not with his fellow inner-city kids who laughed at him.

Hell, Davis is from the South Side and even donned a White Sox cap during his victory lap. This touch was most excellent. The dude has great taste and a sense of the moment. Never forget where you're from.

Yet for all the reasons there are to admire the guy, he comes off like a dude who goes out of his way to make himself unlikeable. Earlier in the week, while already in Torino, he decided to inform his teamates on the U.S. relay team that he wouldn't be competing with them. Gee, that was nice of him to give advanced notice, eh? Davis has been portrayed as a loner who does things his way, and I have no problem with such a cat. In fact, more often than not that is a trait I admire. But there is a difference between doing things your way and being a dick simply for the sake of being a dick. It amazes me that some are now portraying Chad Hedrick, who was critical of Davis' last minute decision to ditch his teammates, as the bad guy here, as the guy who's whining. Hell, who wouldn't be mad if at the pinnacle of your career, in the biggest moment of your life, a teammate said thanks, but no thanks? Hedrick had every right to be angered, and so did the other two skaters on that team. Davis had no obligation to compete in the relay if he didn;t want to, but it wouldn't have taken much effort on his part to inform somebody of his desire to focus solely on his individual events a long time ago. It's almost as if he planned the timing perfectly in such a manner as to intentionally be a difficult, spiteful dickbag, or to get back at people for reasons only known to him.

And from the little I know of Davis' mother, Cherie , maybe the apple doesn't far from the tree.

From the above link there was this...

Several of her emails have labelled the speed skating community "KKK", "white supremacist" and "neo-Nazi genetic mutation". Cherie Davis has also railed against journalists who have written about her son and touched on those issues.

Well, isn't that sweet? While I'm sure Davis has encountered racist garbage over the years in the white world of skating - there is, after all, always going to be jerks - Ms. Davis is a little over the top, no? Nazis? Come on now.

Hell, as much as I dislike Jay Mariotti, his column today provided this...

Up in the seats, as Davis received his shiny new accessory, Bonnie Blair was finishing her broadcast duties after the 1,000-meter final. I asked the queen of speedskating what she thought of Davis' triumph. She paused, cryptically.

"I'm very impressed with Joey Cheek winning the silver and becoming a double-medalist for the U.S.,'' she said.

I asked again about Davis. After all, hadn't he been the only male youngster in Hyde Park wearing a Bonnie Blair sweatshirt in the '90s? Wasn't she an inspiration for him?

"I'm not allowed to talk about him,'' Blair said. "His mother sent me an e-mail and told me not to talk about him. So I can't talk about him.''


"I have no idea,'' Blair said. "If you can figure it out, let me know. I've never said a bad word about him. Joey Cheek was great.''

And from this link I found this...

A Dutch television documentary filmed during the December short-track Olympic trials provided a behind-the-scenes look at one other constantly discussed element of Davis' career -- the heavy influence of his mother and manager, Cherie.

In the concluding footage of the documentary Dubbel Davis (Double Davis), Cherie Davis goes to the locker room after her son fails to make the team and is seen telling him, "Someone's going to see what a loser you are."

Davis responds: "If you're going to be negative, get out of here. You think that makes me feel good, telling me I'm a loser?"

Later, Davis' mother laughs and says: "I'm so sorry you let all those little kids beat you. Maybe you should retire."

And Davis laments, "I cannot wait until this season is over."

Look, I don't know enough about Davis, his mother, nor speed skating in general to pass any judgements here. And I hate being judgemental and negative in the first place. But even during his post-race victory interview, Davis came off as a sullen, bitter guy who had to get in one last bad word aimed in Hedrick's direction. Perhaps it was that time of month. I don't know. He certainly didn't take the high road.

Davis' story could very well be the biggest, the most inspirational, of the entire Olympics, but it probably won't be. It will likely be overshadowed by the blunder of Lindsey Jacobellis or a possible Emily Hughes triumph (which would be a great story) or even the U.S. hockey team stumbling its way through another Olympics.

Davis will be just another story, a mix of immense and legendary accomplishment and just another athlete acting selfish and jaded.

And that's a shame. Davis could go down as the rare athlete that marks a true watershed moment in sports. He broke barriers. He could be legendary. And maybe he will be.

But if his legacy is dimmed because he's viewed as a selfish guy who had no qualms about screwing over his teammates and never seemingly being happy, well, don't say he didn't bring it on himself. (With the help of his antichrist mother.) Sure, it's not Davis' responsibilty to carry himself with the grace of Jackie Robinson or Arthur Ashe or any other African-American athlete who broke barriers.

But he could have. But didn't. And that's his loss. Not ours.

By the way, Davis and Hedrick will compete against each other on Tuesday in the 1,500. That could very well be one of the most entertaining moments of these Olympics. I would highly recommend viewing.


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