So I wasn't paying attention to gymnast Gabby Douglas before yesterday. My wife, Mira, was beaming through the telephone each night from Atlanta about her performances. Still, I declined to watch NBC's tape-delay coverage. I did take note, though, when someone posted the other day on Facebook a digital image of Time magazine's cover featuring Douglas. I quickly shared it with others, then glanced at my autographed copy of Time's cover of figure skater Debi Thomas, who earned a bronze medal in the 1988 Winter Olympics. She's also Mira's first cousin!
Of course, when word spread across social media that Douglas had won the gold medal for the all-around competition, I knew what that meant: my night would be lost to watching tape-delay coverage. And I would be happy to do so. Any achievement by an African-American teenager on the world stage – especially a sporting event, even if gymnastics – is something I want to support. (OK, even if later rather than sooner.) I enjoyed learning about her family's bond and sacrifices and witnessing her humility and the collective joy amid Black America. As for the nonsensical matter of the athlete's hair, I'll defer to Monique Fields and her well-stated commentary on NPR.
I imagine many reporters across the country were assigned today to interview black girls about how and why Douglas inspired them, just as gymnast Dominique Dawes inspired Douglas and Thomas inspired her share. Indeed, I fondly remember telling my editors at The Press of Atlantic City, the day after the figure skater had won her medal, that should do just that story. It ran on the newspaper's front page the next morning. I'll post that story on this site later, just as soon as I find the scrapbook of press clippings packed away in storage.