BUT FOR THE gRACE OF GOD

David Oliver had seen it on the internet and at the start of practice, blurted out:

Did you read about Suzy Hamilton ?

What ?

Did you read about Suzy Hamilton ?

Why in the hell would I be reading about her ?

She became a Las Vegas call girl .

She became a WHAT ?

She was in this escort service in Las Vegas and would charge clients  six hundred dollars.

Now I know you are full of s–t ! No way she would be doing s–t like that,……. and no way for six hundred dollars !

He scrolled to the story on his smart phone and gave the phone to me to read the story. At fist I was reluctant because Suzy  to me was somewhat like Antonio Pettigrew”s case to me. I was in denial about his situation because I liked him so very much and respected him as a caring and compassionate person. Some of the same sentiments I shared about Suzy.

In the middle 80s I remember calling Suzy’s high school counselor while I was Director of Track and Field/Cross Country at Stanford University. Suzy was quickly becoming a high school phenom and I started the recruitment process by trying to get a line on her academics. I reached her high school college counselor and she advised me that the privacy code would not allow her to share her grades with me. I told her I did not need the specifics, what I wanted to know was whether or not Suzy Favor was college material. The counselor asked me what school I represented, and when I replied Stanford, she retorted, ” Don’t bother “.

It did not take Suzy much time to become the “Golden Girl” of American track and field. She was blond, pretty, and had a certain charisma about her running style. She was always gracious and considerate around people, with a dynamite smile  and a small hint of vulnerability that made her even more interesting and attractive to people.

In 1998 I was the coach of the U.S. team for a major international meet in Johannesburg, South Africa. The U.S. women had never won the meet in the several previous competitions, so we all set out on the women’s side to make history. Suzy fell right into the team concept and the goal of winning the meet for America. During several of her light training sessions before the meet she asked me to time her. It was very interesting to see her response to the times I called out. The times got progressively faster for each interval. I cautioned her that these were not the times her coach had laid out for her to run. They were much faster than the workout called for. On the last one she really smoked it. When I told her the time she gave me a big broad smile that carried two messages at the same time. The first message  was tinged with a bit of quiet and subtle defiance. The second message in the smile indicated that she wanted to recognized and accepted as special.

In order to win the meet we needed for someone to pull off a semi-difficult  double. Several people passed, but Suzy was quick to accept the challenge and despite the short amount of time between the double, she came through with flying colors and got the points we needed to win the meet. Afterwards at the hotel we all were celebrating because both the men’s and women’s teams won. I was off in a corner at one point when Suzy came up to me and asked, ” Coach, how did I do ? “. When I realized that she was not fishing for praise, I was a bit taken aback because she was not aware on her own how well she had done. She seemingly needed external validation of what was obvious to just about every one else.

That was the imagine and impression I carried about Suzy Favor Hamilton when David gave me his smart phone. That is the impression and image I carry with me now. I have tried to make the case numerous time,, here and elsewhere, that people who perform at the extremes in any area of endeavor have commensurate extreme needs. No one makes the Olympic finals, the Super Bowl, World Series, Carnegie Hall, the U.S. Congress, or the Louvre that does not suffer from some form of clinical neurosis and/or psychosis. The only difference is the form taken, and how it is manifested. There are no boy scouts or girl scouts on the podium and pedestal of extreme excellence. Some people are able to hide and disguise their extreme need(s), or express them in a manner we find attractive or acceptable,…. but none-the-less, the basic need is still there.

Despite outward appearances of superiority and such, need(s) still exist that must be dealt with. When the person’s defense mechanisms and mannerisms can not hold back the need, we find it emerging in forms and formats that we find acceptable and attractive,…………. or perhaps contemptible. When it allows a person to give a virtuoso performance we marvel and applaud. When the very same need(s) result in something “bad” we rush to condemn and criticize. What we really need to do is to view the action or inaction through the glasshouse prism.

What Suzy did carries its own personal and internal punishment. Some of which is based upon the fact that she cares deeply about what  other people think about her and she is fully aware of the snickers and snide reactions that will take place. Like with Antonio Pettigrew, I want to see and dwell on the “good” side and not pile on, because in both cases there were/are internal struggles going on that unless we directly share in them, we can not begin to fathom them. In the NEW YORK TIMES article I read about her situation, Suzy very candidly and openly takes responsibility for her actions. She states, ” I realize I have made highly irrational choices and I take full responsibility for them.” . “I am not a victim here and knew what I was doing.”.   Compare that to the exculpatory excuses we hear all too often when the Lone Ranger falls off his white horse.

The rest of us may sit back , some in hypocritical judgement,  and be critical and even gloat, but it perhaps would be better to get a rear view mirror in life and make sure God’s wrath is not catching up. Because, except for the grace of God, we all possess what it takes to make mistakes equal to hers.

Thanks.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

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