When Gabby Douglas became the first African-American to win the Woman’s All Around in gymnastics, NBC had their human-interest story loaded up and ready. All they had to do was press the big, giant play button on the ‘George Michael Sports Machine’ back at 30 Rock.
Is her story endearing? Of course it is. We all love the fact that she moved to the heartland at an extremely young age and lived with a family she had never met to pursue her dream. She sacrificed a lot for that ultimate goal and it paid off. Big time. As big as her incredible smile. I’m also sure the Proctor and Gamble Marketing Dept. moved closer and closer to Def Con 1 with every landing she stuck. It’s the victor’s spoils. She completely deserves every bit of it. It’s what it’s all about.
There was another first this morning, Afghanistan’s Tahmina Kohistani ran a 14.4 in a woman’s 100m pre-lim. Where is her human interest piece NBC? She actually has one that makes Gabby’s come off like a “first world problem” meme.
This fact really stood out during one of the slow motion replays as NBC’s announcer mentioned how she valiantly ‘struggled’ towards the finish line. Struggle? Really? Talk about burying the lead. That’s like rain on your wedding day, right? (I know I know, I’m using that all wrong, but you get my point.) What about the actual, real life struggle just to get in the starting blocks in the first place? Where’s the 3-minute package with the inspirational music, slow motion smiles and proud family members?
“I faced a lot of challenges in my training for the London Olympics,” the 23-year-old, who raced in a headscarf, decorated with her national colors, told reporters. One day I was coming to the stadium and the taxi driver asked me where I was going. I said and 'I am training, I am going to London Olympics' and he said 'get out of the cab, I don't want to take you there’.”
That quote is from a Reuters' article just scratching the surface of Afghan’s female Olympian's journey to London. She lives in a war torn world where some women have to learn to read and write in complete secrecy. Where they may be jailed for driving and executed for being the victim of rape. Isn’t life and death based on your gender of human interest? I guess that kind of piece doesn’t really help sell any Tide or push Wheaties.
Right after the race, a personal best for Tahmina, as the other competitors caught their breath and congratulated one another, there was no fan fare. No cut away to her cute, chubby mom cheering her on. No victory lap with her country’s flag draped over her shoulders. She was just like every other woman in the heat and that in it self was the great moment. She wasn’t running from anything back home or towards some sort of closure at the finish line, she ran because she was free* to do so. ‘Just happy to be there’ has never meant so much or been said with so much heartfelt gratitude.
“I have a message for the women of Afghanistan," she said. "Come and join Tahmina because I need your support.”
Well said, kiddo. Now we all should have a message for the corporations making a killing off these games and their amateur(ish) athletes: Spread the wealth. She needs your support much more than any of America’s Darlings du Jour. Hook her up with some swag and give all the Tahminas of the world the opportunity without the fear or shame or other hurdles we never even consider. I’m sure she’d be happy to have a tiny swoosh on her hajib in Rio. Just do it. It’s what it’s all about.
[ *Footnote: The next time you see someone in their BDUs and matching duffle bag at an airport or train station, go up to them shake their hand, smile and thank them. For her. I’m sure she would love to, but probably fears some kind of violent retribution for doing so.]