Thursday, August 21, 2008 Updated: August 22, 1:25 PM ET
The beautiful arrogance of Usain Bolt
By Scoop Jackson Page 2
You hate him, don't you? But you're in love at the same time.
Of all the stars at these Olympics, Usain Bolt has impressed you the most. Sure, Michael Phelps will come away as the owner of these Games, but it is the vainglorious one from Jamaica who should be ascending a godlike podium with the label "all-time Olympic champion."
Save this photograph and tape it to your wall.
But that will never happen because, even after not believing what he did, you still don't like him. There's no humility, no decorum, no sense of proper behavior on display when he runs and after he wins. His ego is to the third power. Makes Deion Sanders seem humble, doesn't he?
Also makes Deion seem slow.
He won by two-tenths of a second in the 100 meters -- when he slowed up to showboat -- and by nearly half a second in the 200, in races that are usually decided by hundredths of a second. The rumored and unofficially clocked but highly believable estimate is that he reached a speed of 33 miles per hour. The fact is his 6-foot-5 frame allows him to take three or four fewer strides than most runners in the 100 and up to nine fewer strides in the 200. The fact is he just turned 22. None of that helps you like him, does it?
The way he stood on that podium twice, the 200 gold medal resting on his chest, the 100 medal already tucked away. The look on his face. How he knew. How he saw this moment before any of us did. How, without saying a single word, he let us know that he knew it was going to be like this and thus justified him looking so vain and believing this Olympics is all about him.
The way he takes victory laps around the track draped with that green, black and yellow flag in those gold Pumas while others stand around like vultures who missed out on the last bite of the lion's carcass, bent over, hands on knees, panting, breathing hard, trying to survive the short distance they just ran at speeds inconceivable to normal man. Usain Bolt stands above them and barely exhales. Heart rate probably still at 70 bpm, he's cool as the coils in a Sub-Zero, relaxed as if he just finished listening to Esperanza Spalding on his iPod, confident as the Chinese government.
He wipes sweat from his brow when there is no sweat to wipe. He points. He postures. He poses. He pounds his chest before the 100 finishes. He jumps back and kisses himself. The only thing left for him to do is turn around and finish a race backward, saying, "I want to see what the other runners look like looking at me." And that would really tick you off.
He's so unnecessary, isn't he? And after watching Lolo Jones and Sanya Richards go down in tears, it makes you hate Usain even more. Make you wish something devastatingly dramatic like that would happen to him. Bring his too-fast ass back to reality. You overlook that what he's done is just take what Carl Lewis did in '84 and take it out of perspective because Carl never made it look this easy. You overlook that the Bolt phenomenon is nothing but Michael Johnson's arrogance and dominance with a personality.
The way he won the 100 and 200 left nothing to be desired but everything to be admired. As hard as Bolt is to appreciate, the comment -- "I was in awe" -- from Tyson Gay, the person who was supposed to be his major competition in these Games, has to be honored.
The 9.69. The 19.30. The fact that he set both world records with ease, the first man ever to break the world marks in both sprints at an Olympics -- something neither Lewis nor Jesse Owens achieved. The fact that he made Johnson (who apparently said publicly that he did not think Bolt would break his 12-year-old 19.32 record time in the 200) eat his words, then swallow them with pride. The fact that he's possibly taken one of America's most cherished sports away from us for the foreseeable future. The fact that he's done this with no mercy or respect for those who have run before him or alongside him bothers the hell out of you doesn't it?
But what bothers you most is that there's nothing that can be done about it. Not now. It's too late. He's arrived. Here to stay.
There's an AP photo by Thomas Kienzle that actually captures Bolt moving in what looks like natural speed. It's lightning in a bottle. Check the photo at the top of this page. Print it. Put it on your wall until 2012. It may help reduce the hate. It may make you look back and say to yourself, "I really should have loved Usain Bolt when I had the chance." Because if you -- and the rest of the world -- keep hating on him, you're only going to make him stronger.
Which means faster. Which is something none of you are going to be able to deal with, are you?
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.