Then again, sometimes it takes 110 years to arrive:
Jim Thorpe, stripped of his 1912 gold medals because he’d been paid to play minor league baseball, was reinstated Thursday as the sole winner of that year’s Olympic decathlon and pentathlon by the International Olympic Committee.
This is an injustice that has simply been a fact of life for my entire life. A clear fact, which was clearly unfair.
Yep, Thorpe had been paid to play baseball. He was paid $2 a game. He did not know that would disqualify him from the Olympics, as he explained in a letter to the secretary of the Amateur Athletic Union:
I hope I will be partly excused by the fact that I was simply an Indian schoolboy and did not know all about such things. In fact, I did not know that I was doing wrong, because I was doing what I knew several other college men had done, except that they did not use their own names …
Unlike the guys who played under the protection of pseudonyms, Thorpe wasn’t trying to hide anything, because he didn’t know there was anything to hide. But it was not excused, partly or in any other way. And he lost the glory that should have been his.
And now, long after his death, that has been rectified. I’m glad to see it, even though he isn’t around to experience it.
Does this mean I’m for paying college football players, or that I think it’s awesome to send professional “Dream Teams” to the Olympics? No, it doesn’t. Very different dynamics. I’m not an advocate of erasing amateurism. I’m just thinking about this one human being, who got jerked around over a tiny, technical and innocent mistake. And I’m glad the decision has been reversed.
Jim Thorpe played in good faith, and he won, because as King Gustav said, he was the greatest athlete in the world. And now we acknowledge that…