I have to admit that I have no interest whatsoever in the sport of gymnastics. Sure, these competitors are incredibly talented, but it is just not my cup of tea and I rarely pay any attention to it.
Recently, I had a friend call me and ask me if I had been watching a young lady named Gabrielle Douglas tearing it up for the USA in London. “You better tune in,” she added, “This girl is on fire.”
I flipped it over to NBC (reluctantly I might add, as I was watching “Family Guy”) and caught the last portion of her routine that led to her birth in the finals of the competition. It did not take long to realize how incredibly gifted this young lady was, and she did some things in mid air that, with all due respect to Michael Jordan, seemed to defy the laws gravity as we know them today.
While I was impressed I was inclined to turn it off after her brilliant performance and call it a night. The next day rather than reading about her talents, I came across several stories that were slamming her for all things, her hairstyle! Now for the record, those who are follicularly challenged like myself generally do not pay much, if any, attention to a story regarding hairstyles. That aside, I could not even begin to comprehend the thought process of anyone in the media who would even dare attack this wonderful athlete for simply wearing a ponytail instead of something more fashionable. I mean isn’t comfort the objective here and not fashion? For that matter, what is really so offensive about her hair being neatly pulled back and out of her way so it doesn’t get in to her eyes when flying through the air? Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter also became venues for vicious personal attacks on this remarkable young lady, offering comments that her hair was embarrassing and did not reflect the importance of her being in the Olympic spotlight.
Are you kidding me? Just how should she have prepared his hair for a grueling routine? When did this become a fashion review instead of an athletic competition? Please, give it a rest people.
To undermine her significant accomplishments as the first African-American to win the gold medal in the overall competition is more than deplorable and undoubtedly left Douglas scratching her head at a time when she should have been allowed to revel the moment and enjoy the fruits of her success with her teammates and family. Appearing on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Douglas looked elegant and composed as she sported the exact same hairstyle she wore in London just days earlier. She demonstrated the style and dignity that all young people in this country should look to emulate and she did it in an effortless fashion. Flanked by First Lady Michelle Obama who was also a guest on the show, Douglas was a portrait of both substance and beauty, one that undoubtedly resonated with the millions of viewers who tuned in for her appearance.
In an era of instantaneous news coverage and 24/7 social media to boot, we have as a society embraced a culture that allows us to be critical of people today in a fashion that is quicker than ever.
I personally found the number of people criticizing this talented gymnast to be far more appalling than the comments about her hairstyle. Personal expression, cosmetic or otherwise, is a right, not an option and those who have chastised Douglas for her hair are shameful in nature and owe her an apology. Then again, those who are obviously overwhelmed with jealousy generally will hate for no reason. Congratulations to Gabrielle Douglas for competing at a level that most of us cannot even fathom. More importantly, thanks for showing how us how to handle the obvious resentment of others with dignity and grace. That alone was a gold medal performance.
Danny Bridges, who wishes he had enough hair to wear a ponytail in tribute to Douglas, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@ao.com.