Unlike the rest
Honesty, quirkiness defined talented sprinter Greene
Posted: Monday February 11, 2008 3:01PM; Updated: Monday February 11, 2008 6:55PM
When Maurice Greene retired from track and field recently, I, for one, was disappointed. Granted, the sprinting exploits of the man who was once the world's fastest human had already been surpassed by the likes of Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin (clean or unclean) and Asafa Powell, but nobody will ever be as much fun in interviews. Ever unpolished, Greene often let his honesty and quirky nature show through, even if the honesty sometimes got him in trouble.
Go back to 2003 in Paris. Greene sat at a press conference table before roughly a hundred reporters, including one woman with a hat the size of Al Oerter. It isn't unusual on the often-daffy European circuit to find eccentric wannabee scribes, especially TV reporters, who try to make a name for themselves by being outlandish in their manner of questioning or their dress. But this hat, complete with bows, flowers and waxed berries, blocked out the sun for a good five rows behind it.
"Tell me about your dog," the woman asked Greene. "Do you feel it is OK to eat breakfast for dinner?" "Would you ever race in my slippers?" Greene tried to keep a straight face and never complained about the inane line of requests. Since it was a pre-meet morning conference and nobody was on deadline, our group didn't stop her either. We did manage to get in a few track questions before the moderator cut in to ask: "Any more questions?" Greene spoke up. "Yeah, I have one," he said, staring at the lady in the front row: "Does that ever make your head fall off?"
That was Mo. So was this: When a man at the same press conference pointed out that there was a famous 17th century composer named Maurice Greene, the 20th-century sprinter told him to speak to the other athletes at the table while he composed a song. So it was rap song. At least Greene made a few phantom strums of the viola while reciting hip-hop.
His résumé is loaded with achievements. He won golds in the 100 meters and 4x100-meter relay at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and bronze and silver in those events four years later in Athens. He won the hundred at three consecutive world championships (1997, 1999, 2001) and doubled in 1999, by winning the 200. In 1999, he broke the world record in the hundred, blitzing the tape in 9.79 seconds.
Even as end-zone celebrations are becoming showier, answers from athletes and coaches are now ever more rehearsed, managed, predictable and almost interchangeable. Take the head off one grumpy jock, place it on another and you either have a second Ebenezer Belichick who doesn't want to be there or Scotty Bowman, the master of saying absolutely nothing in as many words as possible. Greene stands out as an exception.