Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day of honor and reflection on a man who did so much for the country and the world. This gave me the opportunity to watch a movie I have been wanting to see for quite some time; Race. The story of Jesse Owens and his rise to fame in the track and field world from a collegiate runner at Ohio State to a gold medal winner and the struggles he endured getting to and competing at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic Games. What he was able to accomplish; 4 gold medals in the ’36 games, was unheard of at the time, not to mention the fact that the United States participation in the games that year was under heavy scrutiny. In sports, we are taught; not one person is bigger than the game, even if Owens had not run in the ’36 games, the world would have still gone through dramatic changes and entered into war.
However, seeing a black American runner win multiple gold medals would be something that could not be ignored, even though many tried their hardest to do so. I know we live in a completely different time, but do we? I know the calendar says 2017, but from what we see in the news and continue to witness is something that I believe Dr. King would be saddened by. Sports, however, allows all of us to play on a neutral playing field. Regardless of gender, race, religion, etc. each person/team has to adhere to the same rules that are set before them for that sport. Not only does it allow us so many opportunities to better ourselves, but we also get to travel, meet new people and experience new cultures and places. As Owens battled the German broad jump champion Carl ‘Luz’ Long, it didn’t matter that Owens was black and from the United States and that Long was a white man from Nazi Germany. The tape measure was the same for all that competed and at the end of the day, Owens came out on top.
What sports can teach us, just like the late Dr. King tried to teach, is that we are all equal. The tape measure of life doesn’t stretch one way for one person and another way for another, we are all measured by that same tape measure. To quote Dr. King “The Ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Owens could have stayed home and not competed in the ’36 games, but by doing so he took a stance and made history. I challenge all of us to take a stand to be the change, because we are all in this together.