Doug Gottlieb's Take on the Winter Olympics Is Wrong—and Here's Why

Bryan FlynnAnalyst IFebruary 15, 2010

5 Dec 1998:  Guard Doug Gottlieb #44 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys looks on during the Wooden Classic against the UCLA Bruins at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California. UCLA defeated Oklahoma State 69-66. Mandatory Credit: Todd Warshaw  /Allsport
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

On the same day of the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Doug Gottlieb—filling in on Collin Cowherd’s radio show “The Herd” on ESPN radio and ESPN U— questioned the level of athletic completion in these games.

Gottlieb’s argument is that the Winter Olympics are not true sport because of the lack of black athletes.

To hear Gottlieb’s remarks, you can click this link to get to the page with the pod cast.

This must be a slap in the face to every Winter Olympic athlete who has trained day and night to qualify for and compete in Vancouver. For them to be told that they are not the best athletes in the world because they do not face black athletes makes a mockery of all their hard work.

To be fair, yes: There are several countries that have a tougher road to the Winter Olympics—based on geography—than others. In this global world, there are few excuses for athletes not being able to find training facilities and funding—except for the poorest countries.

Indoor training facilities can be built for winter sports. Countries can also spend money to send their athletes to cold-weather countries to train.

The true nature as to why there are few black athletes in the sports involved in the Winter Olympics: They are not traditional sports black athletes identify with.

Even the United States, which has a large black population, does not have a lot of black athletes who compete in winter sports. Black athletes, even in America, identify with sports such as basketball, football, and baseball.

To say that winter athletes do not compete against the best in the world because there are no black athletes is false. There is no evidence that putting skates or skis on black athletes would mean they would dominate winter sports.

The same skill sets that make black athletes great in other sports might not translate into success in winter sports. That is not saying that with training and hard work that black athletes would not be competitive in winter sports.

Take soccer, for example. There are national teams made up of a majority of black players, yet none of these teams has won a major FIFA title.

The United States has several black athletes on its national team, yet it does not enjoy success in soccer. Saying that black athletes would sweep the podium from the current winter athletes is just false.

That kind of thinking excludes the years of hard work the athletes have put in to be great in their respective sports. Countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Germany have spent generations becoming the best athletes in the world in winter sports.

Also, Gottlieb’s thinking is a slap in the face to the National Hockey League because there are few black athletes in that sport, as well. Are people questioning the greatness of Wayne Gretzky because he did not face black hockey players?

Are Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin not as great of players because black athletes do not play hockey? Would black athletes be able to lace up skates and dominate as much as these two players do?

I think most would find it laughable that without years of training, black athletes would even be able to place on the medal stand. Most of these winter athletes were on skates and skis as soon as they could walk.

Would black athletes in winter sports truly make the winter games more global? No; these games are contested by athletes from all over the world—no matter their geographic location.

Black athletes have the same number of chances to compete in winter sports as white, Asian, and Hispanic athletes do. Just because they choose not to compete in winter sports does not mean the athletes that do are not the best in the world.

Gottlieb’s take on the Winter Olympics means that anyone could participate and dominate because they are black. Gottlieb’s thinking is that a black athlete could just show up and beat the best winter athletes in the world because of his or her race.

The only thing Gottlieb got right was the fact that winter sports are expensive. He is wrong if he thinks this excludes black athletes from competing.

As far as the cost goes to be a winter athlete, it would exclude every race that does not have the money to participate. That includes whites, Asians, and Hispanics.

The same countries that dominate the Summer Olympics also dominate the Winter Olympics. The United States, Italy, Sweden, Russia, and Germany dominate both Olympic seasons.

There is no question that every country in the top 10 of all-time Olympic medals (even if you separate the Russian and German medals from their post-World War II makeup) would still rank in the top 10 of both summer and winter medals. And they—except for the United States—do not have a large black population. Yet these countries continue to do well in Olympic competition.

It is wrong to think that just because an athlete is of any race, he or she is dominating in the world of sports—just as it is wrong to think anyone of a certain race is smarter or dumber or any other racial stereotype.

One of Gottlieb’s arguments is that Babe Ruth never faced black athletes when he played baseball—as if to say the Babe would not have been the home run leader if he had faced black competition.

Again, this thinking seems so laughable that the Babe would not have still been a great home run hitter. If he had faced black athletes, he might not have hit his 714 home runs, but take this into account—the majority of the best pitchers in the history of baseball are white.

Even in the modern era, with black players, the most dominating pitchers have been white. There have been great black pitchers, such as Bob Gibson, Pedro Martinez, and others.

There were seasons when the Babe hit more home runs than most teams hit combined. How many home runs could the Babe have hit if he took care of his body like an athlete does today?

Even when Hank Aaron broke the record, he played 795 more games than Ruth. Also, when Aaron broke Ruth’s record, he had 3,966 more at bats.

If all things were equal, Babe Ruth would have hit a lot more than his 714 home runs. It is wrong to undermine the exploits of Ruth because he did not play against black players.

Ruth was a true, natural talent who would have dominated in any era of baseball against any color of players. Much like Gottlieb’s statement, it is wrong to say Ruth would have not dominated against any competition.

There is no question that black athletes have become stars in the sports world and are some of the best athletes in the world. That does not mean that black athletes would dominate the whole sports world.