Say it Ain't So … Lolo




12:41 pm

Friday, October 31, 2008
Meters 8,235 (yeah, that’s right)
Time: 40:00 (yeah, again)
Strokes per minute: I didn’t pay attention, on purpose
Total Meters Rowed: 92,881

It’s the journey, not the destination. It’s the doing, not the goal. I have always ascribed quotes like those to tennis player Authur Ashe. A long time ago I was interviewing another tennis pro, a good-but-not-great player who was still hanging on after years in the game, still making it a couple of rounds in the majors, and still getting hammered into the court once he got to the fourth round. A journeyman with, really, no destination beyond where he was right now. The thought itself, he said, is what kept him going. This player quoted Ashe as having said it. This player lived by it. It has stuck with me since.

It is sound advice. Stay in the moment. Be present now. The C.R.A.S.H.-B.s don’t matter. Not yet. Just sit down and row. Yes, sound advice.

But today on the Concept2, DURING MY FIRST 40-MINUTE PULL, it struck me: Without the destination, there can be no journey; without the goal, there is no doing. One needs the other. One IS the other. So just sit down and row.

I thought all this today, DURING MY FIRST 40-MINUTE PULL, not because I thought of Authur Ashe, or even the journeyman pro. I thought of it because from out of nowhere I found my self asking this question: I wonder how Lolo Jones is doing?

If you watched the Beijing Olympics, you know Lolo. She was the lead-pipe cinch to win the women’s 100-meter hurdles. She was the (keeping this respectable) drop-dead attractive USA track athlete with the vibrant eyes, the fabulous smile, the etched cheekbones, and, lets just say, a body etched from marble and created to do EXACTLY what it had been designed to do. (I did MY FIRST 40-MINUTE PULL TODAY, have I mentioned that? Lots of think time!) Lolo dripped talent; it oozed from her (to paraphrase an observation by Norman Mailer about Marylin Monroe) like water through the cracks in a vase. Yikes.

Lolo came complete with the kind of backstory you can’t make up (homeless as a kid, forged by hardscrabble experience, etc., etc., etc.). She was ethnically indeterminent, too. I mean this in a good way. Maybe African American. Maybe caucasian. Who knows, maybe American Indian, Arab, Jewish, Mexican. Maybe everything, and in being that, she was All American. Our American.  And. Could. She. Smile. Have I mentioned her smile? It made you understand the he joy she derived in clearing the hurdles. That’s a gift in itself. She was 25 years old and it was all just waiting for her. Fame. Fortune. Fabuliciousness. All she had to do was win the 100-meter hurdles at the Beijing Olympcs, with a trillion people watching, waiting, hoping, wanting.

She won the first eight, far and away. The ninth hurdle she hit, hard. She stumbled, somehow righted herself, somehow got over the tenth and final. But by then it was too late. The All American, Our American, had lost it all faster than you can say Oh, no, Lolo! She stumbled to a seventh-place finish. Watch the replay. Watch how after she hits the ninth hurdle and fights to stay upright, watch how you can see her stretch out her hands, as if she’s trying to grab hold of everything that right in that split second is now gone, out of reach, all that once was to be … now never to be. It’s heart breaking. I mean, it really is. IT WAS ALL HERS. And then it wasn’t.
As NBC’s Bob Costas said afterward, Lolo will be 29 in 2012 and the London Olympics. Will Lolo keep running? Will Lolo be back?
Yes, it is the journey, not the destination. The C.R.A.S.H.-B.s, my 100-meter hurdles, I’ll get there when I get there.