National Columnist

Lolo Jones can't help her good looks, our inability to know what's real


When is the last time you were fourth best in the world at anything? Right, now lay off Lolo Jones. (US Presswire)  
When is the last time you were fourth best in the world at anything? Right, now lay off Lolo Jones. (US Presswire)  

This is not Lolo Jones' fault.

Our fascination. Her fame. The way better American athletes in the same event, Kellie Wells and Dawn Harper, have been overshadowed. This is all a reflection of us, not her, and we would do well to remember that as we throw our darts. In fact, stop throwing them, because you might actually hit somebody. Anyway, there's a better way to get that dart where you want it to go:

Jam it into your thigh.

Or eye.

Because that's what this comes down to. We -- not "we" as in Americans, but "we" as in society; this could have happened almost anywhere -- are infatuated with appearance as much as results. We're shallow, at least those of us who dictate the social conversation.

2012 London Olympics
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We like results, sure, but we prefer looks -- and not just from our female athletes. We prefer all athletes to be good-looking.

Tim Tebow ain't ugly. He has a lot of things going for him -- the right religion, the right sport, the right position on offense -- but he also has his looks going for him. Do you really think that doesn't play a part in society's fawning over Tebow? I'm not saying we're lusting after him, but come on. He's on camera so much because, among other things, he looks good there.

Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, Osi Umenyiora ... we like our athletes to be great, yes, but if they're great looking? Even better. We'll like them even more.

Which brings me back to Lolo Jones, who is beautiful and who has been shredded for it during these Olympics -- before she ran, by a curiously mean-spirited piece in the The New York Times; and then afterward by Wells and Harper, who dismissed Jones on TV by refusing to mention her specifically while making it clear that She Who Shall Not Be Named had stolen their spotlight.

Hey, Kellie Wells and Dawn Harper? Until this week, lots of us -- me included -- had never heard of you. The only reason NBC Sports Network invited them to that interview is because they beat Lolo Jones. Had they run the 400 hurdles, they wouldn't have been sitting next to Michelle Beadle. That's a harsh fact, but it is a fact.

But again, back to Jones. She is beautiful, but she hasn't played that chip as shamelessly as race-car driver Danica Patrick, who is completely unaccomplished compared to Jones or another famous athletic beauty, Anna Kournikova, who also has been mocked for being all looks, no results.

Let's think about that for one minute, shall we? Lolo Jones just finished fourth in the Olympics in the 100-meter hurdles. That didn't earn a medal, but still, she was fourth in the world. As for Anna Kournikova, she reached a singles ranking of No. 8. She never won a WTA tournament, but she was No. 8 in the world.

This story could be read by a million people, and I would feel safe saying the following: Not one of you, whoever you are and whatever you do, is as good at your best thing as Jones is at the hurdles, or Kournikova was at tennis.

Granted, they have received more fame than most athletes with similar accomplishments. Jones has never won a medal in a relatively obscure track event, yet she's nationally known. Kournikova was an international tennis superstar without winning a WTA singles event. They reached levels of fame that wouldn't have been available to them without their looks.


This is what we do, we in the media but also we in the public. We look for a reason beyond the athletic arena to embrace an athlete. Tebow has the unabashed religious fervor, which has made him among the most famous NFL players in the world although he doesn't even start for his team. Brady has the looks and the supermodel wife. Reggie Bush and Kris Humphries had Kim Kardashian. Josh Hamilton has the history with drugs.

Prince Fielder is a chubby vegetarian.

Mark Sanchez is a beautiful carnivore.

We need more than sports to embrace an athlete, which is why Peyton Manning and Blake Griffin took to commercials to show other angles of their personality, angles we hadn't seen from watching Manning throw or Griffin dunk.

This is what society does -- we want our athletes to be interesting, or we'll tune them out. Ryan Braun didn't get interesting until he failed a drug test. Russell Westbrook has received as much attention for his geeky glasses as for his ferocious style of play. Rob Gronkowski is interesting only because he's an unapologetic meathead.

Meanwhile, Lolo Jones didn't fail a drug test. Didn't dress like a dork. Didn't date a porn star. We're fascinated by her because she's fascinating, whether it's the looks or the revelation that she's a virgin or the honest way she interacts with the world on Twitter.

And we're down on her for being beautiful and famous without being an Olympic champion? Nah. We're not down on her for that. We're not down on her at all.

We're down on us. Stick that in your eye. Leave Lolo alone.

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