I was watching SportsCenter yesterday and caught Deion Sanders talking about the evolution of defensive backs in the NFL. Of course it being “Neon Deion”, he talked about the “swagger” that he brought to the position, and how others have tried to emulate it. That made me think about track and field, wondering about the amount of “swagger” we have in our sport.
I know what swagger is, and I think most people know what swagger is, but I decided to look it up to see what the official definition is before I started looking for it, and I found the following:
Swag-ger: verb, 1) to walk or strut with defiant or insolent air. 2) to brag or boast noisily. Noun, 1) swaggering manner, conduct, or walk; ostentatious display of arrogance and conceit.
I checked several sources and the various definitions I found were all basically the same, which made me laugh. Because in general when I think of swagger, negativity does NOT come to mind. When I think of swagger I think of confidence. I think of athletes that have complete faith in their ability. Athletes that KNOW they are going to win; come out on top; dominate their opponents.
If you say swagger, I say: Bob Hayes, Jim Hines, Steve Williams, Renaldo Nehemiah, Edwin Moses, Carl Lewis, Sergei Bubka, Javier Sotomayor, Linford Chiristie, Donovan Bailey, Hicham ElGuerrouj, Mo Greene, and a young Haile Gebrsellassie. Athletes that stepped to the track with a walk, a look, an air that said “I got this” even before the gun went off.
Now I know, both from the dictionary definitions, and from talking to people over the years, that many abhor the idea that athletes are often “cocky”, “conceited”, or “self-absorbed”. That for every person that loved Deion Sander’s moniker of “Prime Time”, there were those that couldn’t stand him. That for every fan of the Los Angeles Lakers’ “Showtime”, there were those that preferred the “blue collar” Boston Celtics.
It would seem that times they are a changing however. I remember when the U.S. relay squad took off their singlets, and posed for the crowd after winning the 4×1 in Sydney – and were chastised for being too arrogant. Eight years later in Beijing Usain Bolt did a jig and posed for the crowd and started a new craze! Of course, just because one dances or preens for the camera, doesn’t mean the athlete has “swag”. It’s not simply the movements, but the athlete behind the movements!
So looking at the year just ended and looking forward to the Olympic year that now is only several months away, I decided to take a look for today’s athletes with swagger, because ultimately many of them will be picking up medals in London. Who are today’s Lewis, Bubka, Christie and Greene. Who are the athletes that show up saying “I got this” even on a bad day?
It’s no coincidence that all that found themselves on my list have also found their way to gold. But it may surprise some that I have several women on my list! With that in mind, here is my list of track and field athletes with the most “Swag”!
#10. Brittney Reese – Knows she has hops.
#9. Angelo Taylor – “Been there, done that!”
#8. Jeremy Wariner – Shades, so he can see what the others don’t.
#7. Phillips Idowu – When your hair is this color you have to be good!
#6. Veronica Campbell Brown – Jamaica’s best of all time and she knows it.
#5. Dwight Phillips – “There’s a medal involved? I got this!”
#4. Carmelita Jeter – Knows she has a gear the others don’t and it shows.
#3. Yelena Isinbayeva – “Medals, records, yes I have them all”!
#2. Blanka Vlasic – She was dancing before Bolt, and with good reason!
#1. Usain Bolt – Let me fix my hair before I go out here and dance when I’m done!