Darren Rovell Is Not A Real American
November 3, 2009 3 Comments
CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell ought to have his photograph in the dictionary next to the word “douche.”
His thoughts on the NYC Marathon victory of American runner Meb Keflezighi were utterly vile.
When called out for his bigotry, he stuck by his guns.
Now he’s trying to backpedal as a firestorm of criticism grows on the Twitter!
Here’s what Douche Rovell had to say when Keflezighi became the first American winner of the NYC race since the early 80s:
It’s a stunning headline: American Wins Men’s NYC Marathon For First Time Since ’82.
Unfortunately, it’s not as good as it sounds.
Meb Keflezighi, who won yesterday in New York, is technically American by virtue of him becoming a citizen in 1998, but the fact that he’s not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement the headline implies.
Nationality in running counts. It’s why many identify Kenya as the land of the long distance champions.
As for the United States? Not so much.
It has been well-documented that since the mid-80’s, Americans haven’t had much success in the marathon. Many cite lack of motivation as the root of our troubles, as in our best athletes devote their lives to sports where they can make big money instead of collecting the relatively small paychecks that professional running offers. That, of course, is not the case with African runners, who see in the same winner’s check a lifetime full of riches.
Given our disappointing results, embracing Keflezighi is understandable. But Keflezighi’s country of origin is Eritrea, a small country in Africa. He is an American citizen thanks to taking a test and living in our country.
Nothing against Keflezighi, but he’s like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.
The positive sign was that some American-born runners did extremely well in yesterday’s men’s race.
If any of them stand on the top step of the podium in Central Park one day, that’s when I’ll break out my red, white and blue.
If you think that was bad, check out the version Rovell distilled down to 160 characters or less:
Just to make utterly clear how wrong this is, let’s clarify this with a little background from a Sports Illustrated story that is WELL worth reading in full.
I’ve done all my running here: junior high, high school, college, Olympics. How much more American can you get?
— Mebrahtom Keflezighi, October 2005
Keflezighi, who was born in Ethiopia 30 years ago, has led a revival of U.S. elite-level distance running since graduating from UCLA in 1998. He has won two national championships in cross-country, three at 10,000 meters and two at 15,000 meters; broken a 15-year-old U.S. record in the 10,000 (by running 27:13.98, in 2001); and won that Olympic medal. “He’s not just a leader,” says U.S. marathoner Alan Culpepper. “He’s been a pioneer.”
Young runners idolize Keflezighi. In the summer of 2004 members of a high school cross-country team from Southern California were in Mammoth Lakes for a training camp and found Keflezighi’s house. He was not home, but they left a message with one of his friends: Tell Meb he’s our hero. “I’ve told him, ‘Meb, you have no idea how many people you’re inspiring,'” says Salazar.
But he confuses people too. Keflezighi immigrated to the U.S. from war-torn Eritrea at age 12 and took his first serious steps as a runner when he ran a 5:20 mile as a seventh-grader. Still, some Americans won’t credit a domestic distance-running rebirth to a man born in Africa. They whisper and blog. “Meb has my respect as a great runner, a great person and a great American,” says U.S. runner Dathan Ritzenhein, 23. “But I’m sure it’s hard for some people to differentiate between Meb and the East African runners who seem to dominate the sport.”
Says Keflezighi, “All because my name is difficult to pronounce.”
Setting aside the racial component of the story — I, for one, have a hard time believing that Rovell would have called out Keflezighi for being only “technically” American if he had been born in Western Europe — Rovell’s ignorant blog post is offensive because it implies that there is some special status to being BORN an American that a foreign-born, naturalized citizen can never attain.
In my view, this couldn’t be more wrong.
I’m going to let my friend Nils Coq au Vin, Esq. make the case for why this is utter nonsense:
You know what this is like? Telling your adopted son he’s worth less, because he didn’t come out of mommy.
I hate people who belittle the fact that someone chose to be an American. As I’ve argued before, that makes them the most American, as in there is nothing more quintessentially American than emigrating to America.
Everyone who was born here? Sorry, you just won the lottery and missed out on the real American experience.
Rovell immediately drew some blowback, with Deadspin noting: “American Who Won NYC Marathon Isn’t American Enough For Some People.”
Other people read Rovell’s obnoxious nonsense and took the case to his blog, including commenter ILRun1:
Darren, I like your blog for the most part, but you are way off base here and you show how little you actually know about American distance running. Meb moved to the U.S. when he was 12 (22 years ago), had never run a step in his life, and grew into the runner he is today because of the American distance running system. The only people who don’t consider Meb an American distance runner are racist, uneducated fools. I hope you don’t fall into that category. Meb has been featured in commercials before, he’s won a silver medal wearing a USA uniform, and while he wasn’t an American citizen until 1998, as I said earlier, he’s lived here for over two decades, he was married here, and his kids were born here.
You can generalize your statements all you want, but most people actively involved in the distance running community consider Meb an American as much as Ryan Hall. Next time, I suggest you actually do some homework in the distance running community.
To this considered criticism, Rovell responded in a huff:
Slowly, word began to spread about Rovell’s nativist commentary.
Tweets began to trickle out as people passed around the story and shared their outrage online. Calling a naturalized American citizen who came here as a boy a “ringer” is just wrong, and it didn’t take people long to see that Rovell was way, WAY off base.
For one thing, he didn’t even realize that the last American winner of the NYC Marathon, Alberto Salazar, was ALSO not native-born!
One really intelligent commentator shared the story thusly:
Americans across the nation reacted to Rovell’s insulting dismissal of a fellow countryman, one who came here as a child to flee the war-torn horrors of his native land no less — a hero of American distance running, a friend and inspiration to everyone in the American running program.
Darren Rovell was oblivious.
In fact, he’d already moved on.
Word continued to spread and the reaction to Rovell’s asinine native-born outburst gathered into a full blown internet tsunami.
That’s when the good people at CNBC, where Darren Rovell works, noticed the brewing shit storm!
Realizing that this controversy was about to taint them as well, they sent spokeshole Brian Steel (awesome name, BTW) to issue the following statement:
“Of course he is an American. We congratulate Meb Keflezighi on his victory in the NYC marathon and he should be celebrated as one of the greatest marathoners in the world and as an American citizen.”
Check out the search stream: there have been 100 new comments in the time it took me to bang out this article.
The pathetic Rovell finally woke up from his candy bar haze and realized that everyone hates him now. That realization may have been helped along by a phone call from his employer, ya think?
He wrote this sad mea culpa mere moments ago:
Yesterday, I wrote an article about New York City Marathon men’s winner Meb Keflezighi. Let me be clear: Meb Keflezighi is an American and any suggestion otherwise is wrong.
The debate currently on the blogospehere is over whether or not Keflezighi should count as the first American man winner of the race even though he was not American-born.
HAH! The “debate” on the blogosphere? More like you going on with your nativist natterings while everyone else reacts in horror and disgust!
I said that Keflezighi’s win, the first by an American since 1982, wasn’t as big as it was being made out to be because there was a difference between being an American-born product and being an American citizen. Frankly I didn’t account for the fact that virtually all of Keflezighi’s running experience came as a US citizen. I never said he didn’t deserve to be called American.
All I was saying was that we should celebrate an American marathon champion who has completely been brought up through the American system.
This is where, I must admit, my critics made their best point. It turns out, Keflezighi moved to the United States in time to develop at every level in America. So Meb is in fact an American trained athlete and an American citizen and he should be celebrated as the American winner of the NYC Marathon. That makes a difference and makes him different from the “ringer” I accused him of being. Meb didn’t deserve that comparison and I apologize for that.
Darren Rovell, Dauphin of Douche, completely failed to do his research before he besmirched the Americanness of NYC Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi.
Rovell with one of his American-born heroes
Thanks to the power of the Internets, he finally came face to face with the utter bigotry of his words and was forced to beat an embarrassing retreat.
So now that we’ve thoroughly flamed Rovell, let’s take a moment to appreciate the champ – Meb Keflezighi.
To all other naturalized citizens, I say this: Whether you were born here or became a citizen five minutes ago, I’m proud to call you my countryman.
Emigration is what makes America great. Thank you for joining in the American experiment, so let’s make like Meb and go get that American dream!