August 11, 2008

Cullen Jones: Tiger Woods of the Swimming Pool?

UPDATE: We published this post in March 2007. Last night, Cullen Jones won a gold medal in the 4x100 freestyle relay! If Michael Phelps wins 8 gold medals ... one of them will be courtesy of his teamwork with Cullen Jones!


Des Walsh, a blogging evangelist living in the Australia area, gave the Electronic Village a heads-up on a sports story that was making a splash Down Under while barely making a ripple here in America. It turns out that that the fastest American in the pool is a man of African descent. Cullen Jones set the American record in the 50-yard freestyle last year ... only a tad off of the world record. He parlayed his speed in the pool into a seven-year endorsement deal with Nike worth potentially more than two million US dollars. That makes him the highest paid sprint freestyler in the world.

Jones is a member of the world record-setting 400-meter freestyle relay team and a potential gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics next year.

I imagine that most Villagers have pride for what this brother has done. Speaking of pride, the timing is real good for the movie of the same name starring Terrance Howard and Bernie Mac. Movie about Black students going to state championship in swimming coming to a theatre near you. [Editor's Note: I'm waiting for the movie that brings us the first team of sistas that make it to the state championship ... Just the dawg in me!]

Back to the point ... it is a good thing that Cullen Jones has a chance to bring a positive spin on diversity for the sport of competitive swimming. Soon people will be calling him the Tiger Woods of his sport. Unfortunately, it is likely his impact will be as neglible for Nubians. Tiger has been on the scene for a decade. Anyone see any other brothers on the PGA Tour? A few more of us watch golf on television when Tiger is playing ... but, the reality is that there simply aren't many African Americans with the financial means to tap into inate golf talent that will allow them to become professionals in the sport.

It could be the same for Cullen Jones. I live in Cincinnati, OH. It is a big budget fight just to keep the community pools open for the summer. Ain't much room for racing up & down a pool that is filled with hundreds of other kids from the neighborhood. As such, it is unlikely that the inate swimming talent inside our African American youth will have a chance to shine. As a result, Cullen Jones will likely remain the only pepper in the salt of the US Olympic Swimming Team photos for many years to come.

Anyhow, I don't begrudge Tiger or Cullen gettin' paid for their talents. However, I am no longer holding out hope that they are pioneers for other people of African descent into their respective country club sports.

On the other hand, the Acting White blog gives another twist to this story. Bro. Collier hopes that the publicity Cullen Jones will get leading up to the Beijing Olympics may result in fewer drowning deaths and accidents for children of color.

What are your comments on Cullen Jones and his world-record success in the pool?

14 comments:

Fredric said...

exposure of my man's accomplishments will never be a bad thing. i don't care if they call him the 'richard pryor of the waves', he deserves everything he has worked hard to earn.

while you are right on the financial hurdles that stunt our progress in certain arenas, seeing black figures in a positive light in any arena will help everyone.

Villager said...

Frederic,

I agree with you in many respects. I simply wish that you didn't have to be a super star Black figure in order to be recognized in a positive light.

I look forward to the day that regular folks are also recognized for our uplifting nature.

Anyhow, I appreciate your comment.

peace, Villager

Keith said...

No, the swimming pool is not the Promised Land. But I can't help but be proud whenever I see ANY brother or sister boldly going where few of us have gone before. Sure, it probably doesn't mean the pools will soon be chocolate waves, but so what? The man achieved an amazing thing. Give him his props.

And I really do dig this blog, Villager, Great information and always great discussion. So glad to have found you.

Janet Shan said...

I was very happy to see Cullen perform so well. It is good to see us branching out into other sports. Swimming is awesome and I wish more black kids would get involved in that sport.

Villager said...

All - It is great to see such a wonderful story conclude with a gold medal for Cullen Jones! Well done young brotha!

Villager said...

Janet - Both of my kids love to go to the pool. I imagine that they average being in the pool 4-5 times per week. However, it is all in fun. I'm not certain if either will swim competitively...

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey there!

I never occurred to me that the reason why I met so many black adults who did not know how to swim or who were afraid of water was because of the socioeconomic dynamic of the absence of pools in all-black communities....I did not think of it because I grew up in an all-white town and we just went outside and swam in the back yard... we also belonged to a country club that had a pool...and it shocks me to think that children grew up with no access to water sports...

Yes...shocking...the more I think about it....I never see pools in back yards in all-black neighborhoods...

I recently mentioned on my blog that I liked croquet and badminton as a child...I received comments by email that THOSE were not activities most blacks know about...

You have given me something to think about....and perhaps blog about...the whole issue of how sports relates to socioeconomic class paradigms...

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

MsMarvalus said...

I watched this last night and found myself cheering...LOUDLY!!!

What a sight to see...it's always good to see a brother involved in something good...

RiPPa said...

I live in Memphis Tn, and we were all watching this kid do his thing, considering he's from Memphis and all.

Its great to see the diversity in sports that we're not supposed to even have a chance or a clue about.

Ironically, here in Memphis, there were a few kids who drowned at diffeent area pools, which forced the city to close them down for the summer.

I think it would be cool if more black kids were exposed to the examples the likes of Cullen Jones, and Tiger Woods.

Villager said...

Lisa - I'm glad that we were able to get your little gray cells gyrating with this blog post! It is up to us as a community to ensure that our kids are exposed to wide variety of activities ... including swimming!

Marvalus & RiPPa - I am drawn to the Olympics. Seeing this brother do good in what is being touted as the 'greatest swim relay race of all time' was truly remarkable. Heck, I enjoyed seeing the USA gymnastics team unexpectedly take the Bronze medal last night! Olympics are a remarkable quadriennal event...

AAW said...

I wrote about Jones accomplishment also on my blog. I'm glad he's also giving back with his "Make A Splash" Organization. "http://www.makeasplash.org"

plez... said...

i was happy that he got a gold medal, because in his profile, he spoke about giving back with his non-profit organization. all Black communities need more positive role models.

his impact on terra firma will be much greater than anything he does "in the pool".

Villager said...

AAW and Plez - you both mention his non-profit organization. I hadn't heard of it until your comments. I'll check it out. I haven't seen Cullen Jones in any other event ... was the relay his only Olympic event?

AAW said...

Villager,

For now, Jones only event has been the relay (or the only one I've seen). There are a few swimming events left, maybe he'll be in one of them.