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RE: Why isn't Jeremy Wariner more popular?

macker: Because 99% of the USA doesn't know anything about T+F....

Right: Because he is the perfect model for drugs in sports.
White Guy
Sophomore in College
Fastest Time in the World

ttc: A big part of the conversation about Wariner is that he is white. Because he's white, he would make a great 800m runner....

Could I be good?: Why would he make a great 800 runner because he is white?

ChinaFan: Is common knowledge that Blacks run fast 400m. Whites run fast 800m. And Asians run fast marathons. All stereotypically speaking.

trackstar: Common knowledge says that you are an idiot....

IL(L) Runner: On the topic of Blacks vs. Whites in the speed category, isn't there some differnce in the muscle structure or even the tendons or ligiments between the two? Doesn't anyone have any information on this?

not PC: Jeremy Wariner is not more popular because the liberal media does not want to see a white man succeed in a black man's sport. . . .

African: hey Africans run fast marathons not Asians, fool...!

Rodney King: Why can't you simply appreciate Jeremy's talent and ignore his race? It's truly sad that so many people on this site get hung up on skin color.

On a red polyurethane oval in the heart of Texas, a young man is running counterclockwise loops today. He has been on national TV for, oh, maybe seven or eight minutes in his life, just long enough to do something no white man from the U.S. had done in the Olympics in 40 years. Just long enough to annihilate all sorts of assumptions about the color, physique and age required for an American male to win a sprint gold medal. But not all the assumptions.

He came out of nowhere, a blank slate, and he blurred lines that people had grown accustomed to. He was an invitation to everyone to fill in that blank and draw their own lines.

I wish I could tell you a remarkable story about the 20-year-old who just did this remarkable thing, but there isn't one, so I can't. The story here is us.

RE: Why isn't Jeremy Wariner more popular?

xxxx: Race has less to do with it than "tribal" affiliation; a black Kenyan is not the same as a black Sudanese. Likewise a white Slav is not the same as a white Englishman. Read the journals.

Youngton: ... the guy hangs out with a black coach and black company. That may explain his success.

mitz: I'm black and I think he is hot....

pappas: his coach is white

lobo: ... Our two other black finalists could have been on the juice rather than Jeremy.

Speed Kills: ... My impression is that it's political correctness: Sprinters are "supposed" to be poor black kids....

oops!: I think it's the in-bred look that's hurting him....

Moving to Bucharest: Why don't his sunglasses fall off when he runs?

Oh, there may be a few things to say about him, how he came to look and talk and do the startling things he did in Athens. But trust me, he's so modest and mild that you'd never dream he'd stir up such a ruckus on the websites and message boards back home.

Not that he was always so mellow. In fact, he was downright devilish as a child, absolute murder in a movie theater. He would lose the plot in no time, launch out of his seat and up the aisle five times a flick. He'd lose focus in class, start fidgeting and whispering, then turn red when the teacher asked him a question. On road-melting summer days in Arlington, Texas, when his parents were at work and all his older sister and brother wanted to do was go slack-jawed in front of their favorite TV shows, Jeremy's pestering would make them so crazy that they'd invite him to follow them through an upstairs bedroom window onto the roof, then slip back inside and lock the window, marooning him up there for the rest of the day.

But the Ritalin worked. Told he had attention deficit disorder after nearly failing first grade, he resisted the medication at first because it sapped his energy. But his sister, Jennifer, who often looked after him, wouldn't stand for it. "I don't care if he doesn't want it!" she'd yelp. "Shove it down his throat like you do a dog!"

The kid took the pills and chilled. School became bearable once he could remain calm, blend in with the other kids and scrape by. He was actually a gentle, shy boy who loathed attention and conflict; he'd fall silent or walk away when either one reared its head in a classroom or on the ballfields where he spent his free time.

From his parents he received no athletic legacy. His father, a landscape designer and as down-to-earth a man as you'd ever meet, grew up with a clubfoot that wasn't surgically repaired until he was 19, and Jeremy's mother, a paralegal, didn't play sports in school. But they bequeathed him something else, maybe rarer: an openness to people of all colors and creeds. At the day-care center that his mom opened in their home when he was a toddler, Jeremy played with Hot Wheels with a boy who was half-Taiwanese and listened to stories alongside two boys from India. He pieced together puzzles with a pair of African-American boys and raced around the house with the two half-Japanese boys who lived behind him.

"I was brought up," he says, "to believe that a person is a person."

RE: Why isn't Jeremy Wariner more popular?

sub 2 800: yes that is true in some cases black people have an advantage due to the fact that their bodies get oxygen to their muscles faster. It has been proven but its not in all black people. It can also be found in some white people....


Sacha: Actually, I believe it has to do with the amount of calcium one can produce. Scientifically, when doing athletic exertions like running and jumping, the body needs, I think, calcium to power the cells and muscles. The cells of black people are able to produce more calcium than the cells of white people....

bobberrrrrr: your common knowledge is the reason USA basketball got busted in the ass ... keep ur comon knowledge to yourself.

People first realized the boy was fast when he and his African-American pal Kyle Williams kept breaking out of the herd of six-year-olds chasing a ball across rec-league soccer fields in the Dallas—Fort Worth metroplex, leaving the rabble in the distance. But no one knew that he was fast fast until his growth spurt came at age 14 and the defensive-backs coach at Arlington Lamar High kept seeing this skinny freshman wide receiver fly past the varsity cornerbacks during spring practice as if they were fence posts. That coach, Mike Nelson, happened to be the head track coach. "You ought to run track," said Nelson.

"I play baseball," Jeremy replied.

Two months of rotting on the freshman baseball team bench corrected this notion. The next year, after his basketball season ended, Jeremy appeared on the track a few weeks after practice had begun. He trained just a few days, then was entered in a jayvee meet. He demolished the 400-meter field by 40 meters, broke the school's sophomore record with a 50.8 and walked off the track as if he'd just taken a jog around the block. "If that kid's on your jayvee," gulped the opposing coach, "you must have one heck of a varsity." He was promoted to the varsity for the next meet and tied the school record with a 48.8.

It worked better than Ritalin, this new sport. All the stress and distractions he felt in the classroom melted away as he blazed around the curves and down the straightaways; he could relax and focus for hours, absorb every detail on a track. All the frustration he'd see in the eyes of his mother—an admitted perfectionist who would refold towels and sheets if someone else had folded them—as she rode him to finish his homework each day would vanish as she leaped to her feet, bellowing as he blazed for the finish line, "Go, baby, go!"

Reggie Harrell, Arlington High's record-setting senior hurdler, at first couldn't believe that a skinny white sophomore could glide with him and the other black runners in practice, stride for stride. But the bony newcomer had a sweet, endearing nature, not a trace of machismo in him, so Reggie gave him a sweet, endearing nickname, an African-American one that meant little guy. Jeremy became Pookie to the brotherhood of sprinters and soon cherished his new name.

RE: Why isn't Jeremy Wariner more popular?

keeper: Because Black ppl have more "fast twitch fibers" than white ppl

Because: Because he wears sunglasses, and thus, looks emotionless.

l/////'m all e: For one he looks like a geek. Two, he tried to act as if he is black. And third, he thinks he is the greaest thing since sliced bread. And get rid of the sunglasses unless you're running during the day!


Sure, he heard what buzzed through the crowd when he and seven African-Americans coiled into the starting blocks for the 200-meter and 400-meter sprints: Man, what's that white boy doin' out there? Sure, he stuck out in his new surroundings. But not for long.

He had already traded his long, curly hair for a clean buzz. Now he quietly observed and began to blend in, the way he had years earlier in the classroom. His voice inflections changed. A little bounce came into his walk. Like many white suburban kids watching hip-hop videos, he began wearing baggier clothes. Hours of training under the Texas sun burnished his skin to the coloring of his Cherokee great-great-great-grandmother. The alternative rock he'd favored in middle school disappeared from his radio. Off he'd roll in his car, driving his new track buddies home after practice, Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne booming from the speakers. "He just molds to the environment he's in," says teammate Korey Wright.

Half of the kids at his high school were of African, Asian or Hispanic descent. More and more, that was the half he hung with. Pookie came to a few conclusions about African-Americans. "They aren't judgmental," he says. "They don't worry as much about popularity."

African-Americans came to a few conclusions about Pookie. "You see a lot of white guys trying to act black and a lot of black guys trying to act white," says Darold Williamson, a world-class sprinter who would end up being Jeremy's best friend at college. "Guys trying to be cool by being somebody else. Not Jeremy. He's not forcing anything. He's real free about life. He goes with the flow, he doesn't obsess over stuff like some white guys do. He's always just himself. That's why it's so easy for African-Americans to accept him."

The more he looked and acted as if he belonged on that oval, the more he felt it. What others felt didn't faze him, didn't even seem to register. Sometimes his mother wondered if she'd overprotected him. He seemed naive to harsh realities, unaware of any lane markers between blacks and whites. "I've heard about racists on TV," he would say. "But I've never seen a racist. I've never seen racism."

So this was the extraordinary cocktail that the white boy brought to the starting blocks: familiarity ... relaxation ... focus ... innocence ... and hair-on-fire speed. A few seconds after he launched, Man, what's that white boy doin' out there? became Man, you SEE that white boy RUN? By the end of his senior year Jeremy had posted the year's fastest 200-meter and second-fastest 400-meter high school times in the U.S.

In the whoosh of one race, a woman in the stands turned to Jeremy's mom in disbelief. The woman couldn't help herself, couldn't keep the words inside her mouth. "Is he mixed?" she blurted.

RE: Why is it A BIG DEAL that Jeremy Wariner is white?

Vipam: ... It seems to me that many of you are displaying borderline racist view points in my opinion!!!

kmh: ... I assume he is not of West African descent.... Do we know this for certain?

redmeansdead: ... I was more surprised at the fact Jeremy is so young rather than the fact that he is white.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Ignoring race is dillusional.

9: ... If you are celebrating that a WHITE guy won a 'sprint', then i could look at it the other way, you being happy BLACK guys lost.

dk46: ... So if I'd phrased my shock by saying a thin guy won the 400m, would you call me prejudiced towards the muscularly ripped-challenged ...?

BigTex: ... I guess it's only racist if someone is proud of the accomplishments of white people....

No one, of any color, had the market on misconceptions cornered. The Florida A&M track coach caught wind of Jeremy's times and telephoned Coach Nelson to make a recruiting pitch.

"Isn't ... uh ... isn't Florida A&M a predominantly black university?" Nelson asked delicately.

"Yes, it is," said the recruiter.

"Well, uh ... did you know that Jeremy Wariner is predominantly white?"

Pause. "No ... but ... but that's O.K.," the coach delicately replied.

Even Michael Ford—the African-American assistant track coach at Baylor who had seen Jeremy run and had begun wooing him to the university in Waco, just an hour and a half away from Arlington—assumed that his quarry was biracial.

The quarterback on Jeremy's team had trouble throwing the ball as far as Jeremy could run a 4 1/2-second route, but Jeremy was probably too thin to be a Division I wide receiver anyway. He still had Friday-night lights in his eyes, though, so he didn't jump at the track offers pouring in. He made an oral commitment to Baylor when it offered him a football scholarship, then despaired when the coach at the time, Kevin Steele, realized he had made too many scholarship offers and yanked Jeremy's.

By then a white-haired man had shown up at his door. He was genuine—dignified and funny too. He was also the maestro of the 200 and 400 meters, the finest long-sprint coach in the world, the man who'd mentored Michael Johnson: Baylor head track coach Clyde Hart. Jeremy swallowed his football disappointment, chose Baylor anyway and whittled his two dreams down to one. "I want to run in the Olympics," he told Coach Hart.

Hart looked at the rail-thin white kid, 6'1" and 145 pounds. A half-century earlier Hart had been the 100-yard-dash champion of Arkansas. Forbidden by segregation to compete in an official meet with the state's black champ—a guy everybody called Cornelius Mitchell, who years later would become the first African-American signed by the Washington Redskins, a future Hall of Fame flanker known as Bobby Mitchell—the two boys from Hot Springs met on a track that had gone to seed and went head-to-head in a series of informal races. The kids watching laid bets. Hart beat Mitchell every time.

"Sure," Coach Hart told Jeremy. "We'll make the Olympics a goal." He was a patient man who believed in building a 400-meter sprinter's strength and endurance slowly, the way he had with Johnson, whose shiniest days came well after his Baylor years. "We'll aim for 2008."

RE: Why is it A BIG DEAL that Jeremy Wariner is white?

isagt: It's important because for decades whites have been at the end of an orchestrated campaign to browbeat them into thinking that they cannot compete with blacks and others.

just kidding: Because his parents are black!

trackshard: ... It is a big deal that he is white and that fast. I'm a white 400m runner from NYC and for years I've stood out for no other reason besides my race. However, there has always seemed to me to be a barrier that my race puts up that stops me from entering the next level (which I know is a feeling other white sprinters I talk to have). What is important about Jeremy Wariner is that he just shattered that barrier.

Critic100: Wariner suffers from the same condition as Michael Jackson

puntificating: Running is entirely too racist. 100m, 200m, 400m, 5000m, 10000m, marathon.... What's with all the different races? Can't we all just run together?

One day last spring, the legend appeared at Baylor. Pookie's teammates flocked to Michael Johnson, all aflutter, eager to bathe in his five-gold-medal glow. Jeremy stood quietly to the side. At last Johnson went to him and introduced himself. From that moment Johnson—the master of containment—knew that the sophomore might be something special.

Injuries had kept the kid in the weeds his freshman year. But Johnson noticed something else. "Jeremy's his own person, but he has one thing that I had," says Johnson. "He hates to lose, but he's not afraid to lose. It's a fine line, but this kid just gets it—that attitude of, You can't beat me, even if I don't win today. It comes from complete confidence in himself and his preparation. He believes totally in Coach Hart's training program and strategy. Too many athletes identify themselves too much with winning and losing and what that means about them as a person. You can see them before a race thinking of the consequences if they lose—what will people think, what will the media say, what will my father or mother think of me, how much money will I lose? Some of them deal with that fear by jumping around and entertaining the crowd, some of them turn it inward. Either way, they're using energy. What you're about to do takes so much energy that you can't waste any. Whereas Jeremy is just being Jeremy, thinking that all he can do is run this race the best he can, focusing on the things he can control and not worrying a bit about what he can't, or what the consequences might be. That focus sets him apart."

At the end of his sophomore year, Jeremy moved into a house just off Baylor's campus with three teammates: a black 800-meter runner whose parents came from Kenya, a black long jumper from New Jersey and a white 400-meter runner from Indiana. But Jeremy's closest friend was his closest rival—teammate and 400-meter sprinter Williamson—a relationship nearly unprecedented in the annals of track and testosterone. What other world-class 400-meter man had another one of nearly equal talent pushing him, and supporting him, every day in practice?

No injury interrupted Jeremy's second year at Baylor. He began tearing tenths of a second off his best times with each passing week, tearing Coach Hart's timetable to tatters—a jet hissing beneath the radar of American sports fans and international track. He won the NCAA indoors 400, then the outdoors a few months later, then the Olympic trials a few months after that, passing every drug test along the way.

By then he ran wearing a mini-goatee, a silver chain his parents had given him and a pair of zirconium earrings he'd picked up for 20 bucks. He tried to let his hair grow out so he could braid it, but he couldn't bear the long, curly locks he saw in the mirror and went back to the buzz cut. "You know you're not white, Pookie," his black teammates teased him, and Jeremy laughed and teased them back.

Just for the hell of it, he wore sunglasses one night last spring at an outdoor meet. Darold grinned and did it too. The shades kept Jeremy from looking around just before a race, and everyone else from looking in. No longer did he notice if anyone was staring at the one white boy in a field of eight sprinters. The sunglasses made everything blend, smudged all the lines.

But was that such a big deal? A 20-year-old doing what 20-year-olds do, experimenting with superficialities and ending up dressing and talking and looking pretty much like most of the guys he hung out with? Maybe you once did that. Maybe you still do.

RE: 44.37


bigred: ... I'm sure he'll give a damn about your fashion advice when he's takin his victory lap in Athens.

Two years earlier, he was running in front of 300 people at the Hoot Smith Relays at Central Junior High in Hurst, Texas. Now Jeremy, the 150-pound waif competing on foreign soil for only the third time in his life, was running against the world's seven other fastest 400-meter sprinters in front of 87,000 people in Athens and hundreds of millions of television viewers worldwide.

Coach Hart churned inside and paced. Jeremy looked as if he were still at the Hoot Smith, and why not, after the way he'd dusted the competition in the quarter- and semifinal heats the previous two days?

"Let's hit the 200 split at 21.3 to 21.5," Hart instructed him. Jeremy, with his uncanny internal clock, nailed it in 21.3 and still found himself trailing U.S. teammate Otis Harris ... and still remained astonishingly fluid, his relaxed limbs flowing down the stretch as thicker rivals strained and tied up. Finishing in 44 seconds flat, he led a U.S.A. medal sweep, became the first white American to win an Olympic sprint since Mike Larrabee in the 400 in 1964, the first white American to win gold in any track event since Dave Wottle in the 800 in 1972 ... and the first man ever to pull off an NCAA indoors/NCAA outdoors/Olympic trials/Olympics sweep in a single year.

First thing out of his mouth, when he saw Coach Hart on the edge of the track, was, "Coach, I got the school record!"

"Yeah," said Hart, the ever-demanding father, "but you didn't go 43."

"It'll give me something to work for," vowed Jeremy.

Michael Johnson, who didn't bust 45 seconds until his senior year at Baylor, hurried to trackside from his BBC press-row perch. "Jeremy, do you realize what you've just done?" Johnson cried.

"Right now I've got to focus on the four-by-four relay," replied Jeremy.

Johnson blinked. "I'm thinking, First of all, that's a few days from now, and second, if you're on the United States' four-by-four relay, you don't focus on it, you just run and don't drop the baton," says Johnson. "You kind of want to shake him and say, 'Celebrate! Jump around a little. Be a kid, be silly, say something stupid—be 20!'"

Pookie didn't hit the town. He didn't celebrate. He had downed seven shots of tequila once at a college party, and that had been the end of party life for him. He barely even flashed his gold medal to his family, and he casually tossed the wreath he wore on the medal stand to his sister to keep. Hell, he never even bothered to check out the Acropolis, the Parthenon or anything else in Athens during the Games. He did what he usually did: surfed the Internet, watched TV, text-messaged and IM'd friends and slept, a homebody far from home.

Four days later he ran the third leg of the USA's winning 400-meter relay. He could've run the anchor leg, the historical prerogative of the gold medalist in the 400, but he turned it down. He wanted his pal Darold, who always ran anchor on Baylor's 400-meter relay team, to hit the tape and take the limelight.

It was time to go home, but Jeremy didn't have to pack his suitcase. He was so eager to see Michelle Milton, his African-American girlfriend, that he'd packed it three days early.

RE: Sprinter's speed isn't Black or White issue

Runninghorse: I've been saying it for years: only in the US, the coaches put the white guys out to the distance pastures and the black guys on the speedway. Its all based on mythology.

Answer Giver: Let's stir the pot (klansmen and panthers free your mind and your ass will follow)....

The Fern: Does anyone else sometimes see this message board as a whole pasture of dead horses being beaten to death by a bunch of guys who think they know everything, trying to convince everyone else that they do.

The stench of dead horseflesh is no easy thing to dispel. A man reading this story might easily despair, concluding that it's hopeless, that it'll never happen ... unless he takes a step backward from the pasture, and then another and another, all the way back to where the white-haired man is standing. Imagine how different it all looks and smells from 70-year-old Clyde Hart's perspective.

Imagine that your first day on the job was in 1957 in Little Rock, where you're assigned to search lockers for bombs while busloads of white people prevent nine black children from walking through the doors of your high school, requiring the 101st Airborne to occupy the school for the rest of the year to prevent violence ... and to burn your high hurdles at night to stay warm. Imagine that six years later you're promoted to coach at Baylor, in perhaps the most prestigious athletic conference in the land—the Southwest Conference—where not a single black man competes in track and field ... until you bring in one of the first two, Ronnie Allen, just before the '70s roll in. You turn around, and it's the '90s already, and you're the coach of a black millionaire sprinter named Michael Johnson as he stands in the middle of an Olympic stadium in northern Georgia and flings his golden shoes into the adoring crowd. Turn around again and you're the coach of a gold-medal-winning Southern white youth who chooses the look and style of a black youth as he sprints right through what's left of the barriers because he never even sees any barriers. Imagine all that occurring in less than 50 years, in the course of one man's working days, and then smell the air again.

"People just don't realize what sports has done in this country," says Hart. "It's mixed kids together and made them realize that some things they've been taught about people aren't true. It's been the great equalizer in America.

"There's absolutely been a barrier for white sprinters in America. There's a stigma there. White kids think that it's a black kids' sport, that blacks are superior. There are plenty of white kids with fast-twitch fibers, but they've got to get off their rumps. Too many of them would rather go fast on their computers in a fantasy world. It's not about genes, although they may play some part in it. It's about Do you want it badly enough?"

Jeremy turned pro when the Olympics ended. He'll continue attending Baylor, a couple of classes a semester, and continue training under Hart even if the coach retires from his Baylor job after next spring's meets. Jeremy plans to run for gold in two or three more Olympics, to double up in the 200 and 400 as soon as he can talk his coach into it ... and to replace the zirconium earrings with diamonds as soon as the first fat check rolls in.

Of course, he now needs someone to plan his schedule and his travel logistics. So former Baylor sprinter Deon Minor became his manager. And he needs someone to protect his image, represent him in corporate conference rooms, negotiate his track appearances and endorsement deals. So he chose Michael Johnson. It was such an obvious decision, who would even stop to marvel over a white athlete with a black agent?

Sure, the kid might push some people's buttons, but they were all at a far remove ... buttons on the computers of lonely souls in cyberspace. No such conflict existed in his day-to-day life. And that's the real story down here, deep in the heart of Texas: There is no story. Just a nice, quiet, radically fast young man with no interest in making social statements and no clue as to why anyone—all the reporters who peppered him with questions about race after he won the gold medal, all the people roaming websites, even a writer from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED—would make color an issue. Why anyone would thrust 1957 on him.

"My generation doesn't see color the way others did," he says. "I never felt that barrier. Just be yourself, have fun and don't let nothin' bother you. It's not about how you look. It's about how you feel, and I feel more comfortable looking the way I look.

"I don't care what people say. I don't care if my opponents use drugs. If they're using 'em, let 'em use 'em. It'll come back on them some day. Being skinny, I feel like I have an advantage because I have less weight to carry around the track. Race issues, drug issues, I just learned to let 'em go past me. When I get on the track, my mind clears, and all I hear in my head is what Coach Hart told me: Stay focused. Get out strong. Work the turn. Keep your form."

RE: Who says white men can't sprint?

Me Too: I believe Wariner is half-white/half-black

Bad Science: Poor guy! Can you imagine the problems that can cause?

If he's divided top/bottom and the top is black, he's stuck being slow. If he's divided left/right, it's a bitch if the white side is on the right, because then he keeps running off the curve from the stronger forces generated by the inside leg. Damn!