Olympic Gaming

Since we were previously discussing events at the 1972 Olympics, there is another case of Olympic Gaming I would like to share. In 1972 the Germans were very keen on making a very strong statement on many different levels through hosting the Olympic Games in Munich. They were essentially walking a tightrope between trying to make the Games as secure as possible, while at the same time trying to distance themselves from the image of a police state. One person taking advantage of their sensitivity on this point and their extreme need not to appear racist was John Carlos. There was a front page article in the Village newspaper stating that John Carlos had the capacity to shut down the Olympic Games . John essentially became the “mayor” of the Village for a while and with a black cape flowing in his wake, walked unchallenged and without credentials in, out, and throughout the Village. One day this led him to the training/practice track in the Village. We were sitting in the stands
swapping lies about track and field, while quietly observing  several sprinters working on sprint drills and starts. Edwin Roberts of Trinidad, who finished fourth behind John’s third in  the 200 meters in 1968 at Mexico City, was among the group. Edwin, or “Latin Louie” as he was dubbed, perhaps still stinging from being beaten out of a medal in 1968 and now obviously impressed with his fitness and preparedness for 1972, and brimming with confidence  saw John and saw fit to call John out. I am sure that Edwin figured his ego was safe because Carlos was in street garb and his signature black cape gave him a Dracula effect. John’s initial response was , ” Hey Louie, leave me the hell alone. I’m sitting here minding my own damned business and you coming up with a lot of mouth.”  Edwin persisted and John continued, ” Listen here, I haven’t run in two years, but I can still come down there and whip your no-running ass and take your heart with me at the same damned time.”. By now a small crowd had gathered and both men were more or less committed. Edwin, sensing the crowd’s attention and feeling he could make big points at Carlos’ expense, challenged John to come down and back up his words.
“Louie, stay here with your big mouth. I’m going to go up to the PUMA shop and get me a pair of shoes and come back and kick your butt in my street clothes.”. John ran up the stairs with his cape flapping behind him, back to the Village. When he returned with his red PUMA sprint spikes it was obvious that “Latin Louie” felt he had “gamed” John into a “payback” and an ego/confidence boosting situation. “Brooks hold my cape while I go down and take this little fool’s heart. “. Seeing how serious and angry he was, I quickly swallowed any idea of objecting to him falling into Edwin’s trap.
“Carlos, since I know you are not in shape, let’s just do starts so there’s not too much room for you to be embarrassed.”, was “Latin Louie’s”   greeting to him as Carlos joined him and the other sprinters on the track. Being much smaller and much  more explosive than John, Edwin knew there was a definite advantage to him when it came to starts. ” Little nigger it don’t make no difference what we do. You got an ass kicking coming today,…. right here in front of all your boys. By the way, any of you other punks want some this, then set up your blocks.”, Carlos called out. Several of the fastest men in the world took up the challenge and six lanes were quickly filled with John and Edwin in the two middle lanes. Athletes who had been working in other events around the track, gathered at the sprint start to watch Carlos get slaughtered. “Let’s race to the first hurdle. That is 15 yards.”, offered Edwin. ” Fine with me,………boy!” was Carlos’ disdainful reply.
Carlos beat the whole field three times over 15 yards. Despite this, there were more and more takers, so all lanes were filled when Edwin said, ” Starts don’t mean nothing. Let’s go to a man’s distance. Let’s go to 50 meters.”. “Look little nigger, we can stop this while you still have some heart left. Or we can go 50 meters and really get your feelings hurt.” , was Carlos’ reply. After thirty five meters Carlos was looking back at Edwin and the rest, laughing and talking trash. This should have been sufficient proof for “Latin Louie” that he had tried to “game” the wrong man. So I was surprised when he offered, ” I am just getting warmed up. Let’s go to real a Olympic distance. Let’s go to 100 meters.”. ” Carlos, ever aware and sensitive to the reality around him, and candid to the extreme, stated, ” Louie, look man, you can not beat me ! What you need to do is focus on these niggers who are actually running in the Olympics and leave me the hell alone.”. Edwin insisted on the one last race over 100 meters. ” Y’all heard me tell this man not to do this. I told him this for his own good. If he keeps messing with me I’m gonna take his heart and his soul.”.
All eight lanes were filled and the anticipatory excitement hung heavy in the air. By 50 meters Carlos again had gapped the field and was turning his head around laughing and talking trash all the way to the line. “Latin Louie” finished well back and ran past the finish line and out of the track facility. When John returned to reclaim his black cape I queried, ” John, why did you do him like that ? The man has a chance at a medal.”. “He ain’t got no chance at no medal now. Gimme my cape,… and leave me the hell alone.”. That represented one of the very few times that I did exactly as directed.
P.S. Edwin “Latin Louis” Roberts, who had finished fourth at 200 meters in ’64 and ’68 didn’t medal in ’72.
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