Leave Lolo Alone

The Associated Press

Newsflash: Lolo is over it. Over your naysaying (you, the viewing public, who probably couldn’t hurdle over the bathroom rug on the way to the toilet). Over the player hating of Olympic medalists Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells. Even over the criticism flung at her by some in the media – namely the New York Times’ resident asshole, Jeré Longman. In fact it was Longman’s scathing and now-infamous piece – in which he eviscerated Lolo, essentially accusing her of being a self-serving, underachieving, product-shilling fraud and attention whore – that had her so worked up on NBC’s Today last week. But trust: Lolo is back to her wisecracking ways (on Twitter and ESPN’s PTI), and couldn’t give two shits what Jeré or anyone who would attempt to tear her down thinks. She never has, and to me, that’s been the secret to her greatness.

Most of us have probably heard Lolo’s amazing story (and if you haven’t you really should), so I won’t belabor it here. But consider this: if while growing up you a) had a perpetually absent father who, when not incarcerated, taught you how to steal efficiently and run to stay warm during brutal winters; b) slept and showered in the bowels of a Salvation Army church, along with your mother and four siblings, during frequent bouts of homelessness; c) were a lightly-regarded high school runner in obscure Des Moines, Iowa; and d) overcame all that to become an NCAA champion at LSU, world indoor record-holder and two-time Olympian, how much would you care what others thought of you? Exactly. The fact that Lolo let on at all that she was bothered by the withering criticism as the 2012 Games approached should show you just how pronounced and patently unfair it all was. And that was before she even began the arduous process of qualifying in London.

Life has been no crystal stair for Lolo these past four years. Entering the ’08 Olympics, she was best in the world in the 100m hurdles, and the overwhelming favorite to capture gold in Beijing. After blistering the field in her preliminary heats, Lolo entered the finals a woman in full, and on the verge of immortality. But on that particular night, for whatever reason, she was tight as a drum as she awaited the gun, and was ultimately undone by the next-to-last hurdle. Subsequent back pain led to her being diagnosed with a tethered spine, which had contributed to diminished feeling in her feet and significantly compromised spatial awareness of the hurdles when she ran (likely contributing to that untimely clip in the race of her life). After surgery in 2011 to correct the problem, Lolo endured a grueling rehab to return triumphant, taking the US Open 50m hurdles this January. But in her signature event, she was no longer the world’s fastest, as Harper, Wells and 2008 silver medalist Sally Pearson of Australia routinely posted superior times at 100 meters.

The shifting tides were on full display at the Olympic Trials in June, with Lolo finishing 3rd in a crowded field to barely make the US squad. Still, she’d punched her ticket to Great Britain, but after the spinal surgery and assorted injuries this year, she faced long odds to obtain the elusive gold (or any medal). The finals of the 100m hurdles bore that out, as Lolo stormed out of the blocks in vintage form…except this time she wasn’t felled by an errant stride – simply too much Sally, Dawn and Kellie. It has been pointed out that Lolo finished “only 1/10th of a second out of 3rd place,” but that 1/10th may as well have been 10 minutes: she is still medal-less in the Olympics, and with the passage of time and the emergence of younger, faster hurdlers, likely to remain so.

To their credit, many in the media rushed to Lolo’s defense after her unfortunate finish. They applauded her for her uncommon grace and unfailing honesty in the face of disappointment in London (same as she’d shown in Beijing), and rightly pointed out that, medal or no, Lolo is perhaps the perfect role model for young girls in an era sometimes lacking for them. An athlete of poise and virtue, of intelligence and humility, of sportsmanship and profound strength. A clean competitor who embodies the essence of living by the golden rule, and who has steadfastly refused to be defined by the limitations of an unfortunate upbringing. A true Horatio Alger story.

Lolo proclaimed to the PTI Guys her intention to train and compete through the 2016 Rio Games, and as far-fetched as that may seem, who are we to doubt her? She has been counted out too many times to mention, and if her achievements were based solely on the faith others showed in her abilities, she never would have cleared the first hurdle. It is by following her internal compass that Lolo has scaled the heights she has, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if that lands her all the way in Brazil four years from now. If it does, I for one will be glued to the television.


Dear Ocho

LA Times

Dear Chad,

That look says it all brother. As Bill Duke said in Menace II Society, “You know you done f*cked up, don’t cha???” Where did it all go so wrong? You thought you were marrying the Prom Queen, but after The Headbutt Heard ‘Round The World, you’re looking more like the prom fiend. After the debacle that was the 2011 season, I just KNEW you had your shit together now! Back home in the MIA, amongst the people you love (and who love you), on a team where you could really shine – and in the division where you could stick it to the Pats twice a year! I guess Joe Philbin didn’t see it that way. He’d already tired of your act since OTAs, and when you got all Roemello Skuggs on your new bride, well, that was just too much Liberty City for his Green Bay ways to tolerate. Which was unfortunate for you, because I think a more tenured coach (Tony Sparano for example) would have given you a longer rope on this one – especially since you’d been a relative Boy Scout your entire career. But Sparano’s no longer with the Dolphins, and now neither are you.

This had to have begun back in Cincinnati. We forget today, but it was only three short years ago that the Bengals were featured on Hard Knocks. We’d known Chad the Prolific Receiver well by then, and had already been introduced to “Ocho Cinco” in all his diva glory, but Hard Knocks in ’09 is when you arrived in full: for better and, we know now, worse. Your eccentricities and colorful metaphors were excused as Chad Being Chad, but when you tried briefly (and foolishly) to “hold out” in spring 2008, owner Mike Brown and the organization began to sour on you. And once Marvin Lewis – arguably your biggest supporter through the years – began to sour on you, you knew the jig was up. After Slim Henry’s untimely and unfortunate death, and with the direction the organization was going, a fresh start was probably best for both parties. The Bengals did you a solid when they flipped you to the Patriots for some Dunkin’ Donuts coupons, because it gave you your only best shot at getting a ring, but you [and your Prius] never would fit in up there.

I truly think you spent too much time bowing and genuflecting to the cheat great Coach Belichick (not to mention kissing Tom Brady’s ass) and not nearly enough time being yourself, which is to say BALLIN’ OUT!!! I know you and Terrell are close, but damned if you’d ever done such a great T.O. impression (dropping passes) before last season. When Tedy Bruschi unfairly ripped you for “not being in the playbook enough,” you basically ate it – and none of your teammates piped up in your defense. We should have known then that Ocho Cinco was not long for The Patriot Way, but in terms of plain ol’ football, it’s puzzling why your output wasn’t greater. With playmakers like Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker stretching the field, it’s amazing to think that with your speed *alone* you couldn’t catch more than 15 passes all year (even if you used the damn playbook to prop up your XBox).

But we’re forgetting one KEY ingredient to this disgusting gumbo that’s been cooking: Evelyn. Out of 140 characters sprang your love for this broad who was, up to that point, “famous” for having been engaged to…*drumroll*…Antoine Walker. Of course she has since gained additional fame for throwing bottles at people’s heads, but we digress. This all came along as your Twitter star was skyrocketing, and maybe you saw an alliance with some photogenic arm candy like her as a smart business move, but I’m here to tell you: that stock ain’t worth shit now. I’m all for building your brand, and when the NFL lockout rolled around in summer 2011, you were better-positioned than ANYONE to ensure a steady stream of income away from the field. Your momma was proud. Dancing With The Stars was another in a line of smart decisions for your brand, but your pimpin’ started getting real raggedy when you went Kobe on us after the news broke that you’d run up in Cheryl Burke and you did the non-apology/apology thing with Eve around last Valentine’s Day. If she wasn’t cool with the fact that a grown, single man (and popular, desirable pro athlete) had a fling with a beautiful woman with whom he’d spent considerable time, I’d have told her ass to KICK ROCKS!!!

But you went the other way. You further tied Eve to you, and after a lost season, with your athletic confidence no doubt waning, you left yourself no choice but to wife that ass. Chad, if what you said about her withholding the [drawers] from you during your struggles last season is true, you both need your asses whupped. And now that Eve has filed for divorce from you (likely without speaking to you since the events of Saturday), it’s clear that she’s been a net negative to you – much the same as Elin was to Tiger. Why athletes think they need a trophy wife is beyond me: especially since Derek Jeter has dated maaaaaaad women, remained a bachelor, and kept his reputation (not to mention endorsements) FULLY in tact! Once VH1 pulled the plug on the ill fated Ev & Ocho, ol’ girl had no reason left to “stand by her man,” so she didn’t. Which should let you know what she was about from jump street

In closing bruh, I (like a lot of people) would like to see you continue your NFL career, as you’ve brought us a ton of enjoyment through the years – doing it with style and humor, on and off the field. But the fact is that you’re a 34-year-old receiver with declining production and a suddenly tarnished reputation (and again, no team).  That’s not to say you can never catch on with anyone else (Moss and T.O. have managed to do it), just that now you’re pushing the boulder uphill, for the first time in your charmed career. This all started once you and Eve started “beefing” on Twitter – and by your logic, anyone that could make you “put the sticks down” had to be The One. Me, I’d have kept on playing FIFA.


The Voice of Reason

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