Op-ed: in Olympics, focus on 'winner of the race, not the race of the winner'
John Moody, an executive editor at Fox News, wrote an op-ed appearing on the Fox website that has generated a lot of controversy.
What is Moody's transgression? The headline of the piece gives you a hint: "In Olympics, let's focus on the winner of the race – not the race of the winner."
In some circles, that simply isn't done. It doesn't matter who wins the race or whether a world record is smashed, or how an athlete performs. What matters is the color of their skin and whether the athlete likes to date members of the same sex.
In athletics – perhaps the last human pursuit where merit rules – that belief is silly, stupid, and self-defeating.
Unless it's changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been "Faster, Higher, Stronger." It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to "Darker, Gayer, Different." If your goal is to win medals, that won't work.
A USOC official was quoted this week expressing pride (what else?) about taking the most diverse U.S. squad ever to the Winter Olympics. That was followed by a, frankly, embarrassing laundry list of how many African-Americans, Asians[,] and openly gay athletes are on this year's U.S. team. No sport that we are aware of awards points – or medals – for skin color or sexual orientation.
For the current USOC, a dream team should look more like the general population. So, while uncomfortable, the question probably needs to be asked: were our Olympians selected because they're the best at what they do, or because they're the best publicity for our current obsession with having one each from Column[s] A, B[,] and C?
Some breakthroughs in American sports were historic, none more so than Jackie Robinson's in baseball. But Robinson [made] the Majors [not] because he was black. His legendary career occurred in an age of outright racial discrimination, because he was better at the game than almost everyone around him.
As my Fox News colleague Ed Henry wrote in his excellent book, 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story [title formatted for a book –ed.] Robinson was not a kvetcher. "Don't complain, work harder" was his approach to the game, and the game of life.
I don't believe there were any subjective criteria – like race or sexual orientation – that aided a single American Olympic athlete's selection to the team. Each sport has its own competition to determine Olympians, and that includes alternates. The athletes themselves wouldn't stand for anything less than the best of the best going to South Korea.
What the increase in the number of black, Latino, and gay athletes indicates is years of investment by the USOC in minority communities. This effort is being made with all private donations. And there is an excellent reason for these investments. The more people of all colors exposed to the sport who participate, the more high-quality athletes will emerge to become U.S. Olympians. In short, the goal is not "diversity," per se, so much as it is elevating the competition.
So Moody's thesis is ignorant and uninformed (he's obviously not much of a sports fan if he's clueless about how the athletes are chosen). But is it racist?
Of course not. The one point made by Moody that rings true is the USOC's highlighting "diversity" as the end-all and be-all of an athletic team. That's nonsense, and Moody correctly called them out on it. The USOC's programs to bring winter sports into minority communities is a worthy enterprise on its own, regardless of whether American Olympians come from that investment. "Diversity" should be a byproduct of those efforts, not necessarily the major goal.
But you have to know that if it were at all possible, the diversity freaks would make sure that a certain percentage of Olympic athletes were black, Latino, Asian, gay, transsexual, and probably over 65. They haven't ruined the elegant meritocracy of athletic competition – yet. But give them time. They're working on it.
Update (DJB): A spokesperson from Fox News sent us the following statement: "John Moody’s column does not reflect the views or values of FOX News and has been removed." As a friend once said, "so much for that..."