Thursday, November 26, 2015

More than Sports and Scores

I am currently working on an exciting comic project for a friend of mine. My brothers Jack and Jeremy are joining me in the project (and spearheading it), which will look at Guam's political status in a very new way, through the unlikely narrative of sports. To comic will follow the story of Roque Babauta, a Chamorro basketball player who gets wrapped up in national and international politics. As part of it, I wrote up a concept draft which outlined everything the way I was seeing it. Jeremy has gone on to shake things up and make flow better and add in more realism and details. Part of it is a sequence where a sports commentator is ruminating on the connection between politics and sports. Here is the first draft of it:

Too often even we who love sports, dismiss it as a diversion, as an opiate for the masses, a distraction from the world. But sports is the world itself. It is not a diversion, but a reflection, a mirror image. The wars between nations, sometimes settled on battlefields, sometimes in stadiums. In Roque Babauta, we see echoes of Vivian Richards, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Muhammad Ali and others who stood for issues that sometimes waited just outside the consciousness of the time and fought against the prejudices of the time. In their fights, and with Roque’s gamble, his challenge to the most powerful nation in the world, he is reminding us that there is so much more at stake in sports than just the score. 

I wrote recently on Vivian Richards, the cricket player from the West Indies who, along with his team, helped to turn the world of cricket upside down in terms of racial superiority. They went on to dominate a sport which their colonizers had long used to establish themselves as being superior, even after decolonization had formally taken place. Muhammad Ali is very famous and probably needs little introduction to anyone who reads my blog. But John Carlos and Tommie Smith are more famous for a particular image of themselves than anything else. Below is an article from 1968, the year those two African American athletes (with support from their fellow white medalist) stood and raised fists high at the Olympics in solidarity with Black Power and Black Unity.


1968: Black athletes make silent protest
October 17, 1968
BBC News
Two black American athletes have made history at the Mexico Olympics by staging a silent protest against racial discrimination.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medallists in the 200m, stood with their heads bowed and a black-gloved hand raised as the American National Anthem played during the victory ceremony.

The pair both wore black socks and no shoes and Smith wore a black scarf around his neck. They were demonstrating against continuing racial discrimination of black people in the United States.
As they left the podium at the end of the ceremony they were booed by many in the crowd.

'Black America will understand'
At a press conference after the event Tommie Smith, who holds seven world records, said: "If I win I am an American, not a black American. But if I did something bad then they would say 'a Negro'. We are black and we are proud of being black.

"Black America will understand what we did tonight."

Smith said he had raised his right fist to represent black power in America, while Carlos raised his left fist to represent black unity. Together they formed an arch of unity and power.

He said the black scarf represented black pride and the black socks with no shoes stood for black poverty in racist America.

Within a couple of hours the actions of the two Americans were being condemned by the International Olympic Committee.

A spokesperson for the organisation said it was "a deliberate and violent breach of the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit."

It is widely expected the two will be expelled from the Olympic village and sent back to the US.
In September last year Tommie Smith, a student at San Jose State university in California, told reporters that black members of the American Olympic team were considering a total boycott of the 1968 games.

'Dirty negro'
He said: "It is very discouraging to be in a team with white athletes. On the track you are Tommie Smith, the fastest man in the world, but once you are in the dressing rooms you are nothing more than a dirty Negro."

The boycott had been the idea of professor of sociology at San Jose State university, and friend of Tommie Smith, Harry Edwards.

Professor Edwards set up the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) and appealed to all black American athletes to boycott the games to demonstrate to the world that the civil rights movement in the US had not gone far enough.

He told black Americans they should refuse "to be utilised as 'performing animals' in the games."
Although the boycott never materialised the OPHR gained much support from black athletes around the world.

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