Growing up in Zimbabwe, there is a popular phrase used to describe giving credit to a person or a team who does something very well. The phrase is frequently used when one is referring to an individual/group that one is not particularly fond of, but one can offer grudging respect to as the individual/group is so clearly deserving of praise.
For example, in conversation a man may say to his wife “I think Halle Berry is one of the most beautiful women on this planet”. The wife might then reply by saying “jealousdown, Halle Berry is hot”. It’s an acknowledgement that affirms something that both parties know to be true.
Another example could be when Barcelona thumped Manchester United 3-1 in the Champions League final in 2008. A United fan might say after the game “Barcelona deserved that trophy and completely outplayed us – jealousdown”. Once again, simple affirmation with no dispute.
During the men’s 200m butterfly final on Tuesday night at the London Olympics, it would appear that the Australian tv commentators (that’s the feed that we get via our satellite channels in South Africa) have never heard of the term “jealousdown”. The overwhelming favourite for the race was American swimmer Michael Phelps who was the reigning Olympic champion and had won the event in two consecutive Olympics and was gunning for an unprecedented third in a row. We, the viewers, knew this because the commentators kept repeating the same statistics ad nauseaum before and during the race.
As far as they were concerned, the other swimmers may as well have just stayed at home. A pity then (for them), that a young South African swimmer did not appear to have received the memo.
Partisan commentators are not a new phenomenon at all. But this was particularly odd as the two commentators are both Australian and were so heavily favouring (and backing) Phelps that it was almost embarrassing. Once the race started and Phelps led, the commentators kept up their non-stop conversation about “making history” and how “fantastic” Phelps was as an athlete.
As the race neared its conclusion, Chad Le Clos and Japan’s Takeshi Matsuda closed in on Phelps and the commentators got noticeably anxious. Le Clos touched the wall ahead of Phelps and the male commentator’s excited yelp of “Phelps wins it!” was quickly followed by a deflated “…or does he?” as he looked at the scoreboard. The post race “analysis” was dominated by the talk of how Phelps had “lost” the race by committing a “schoolboy error” of gliding into the finish.
It is amazing (to me, at least) how there was very little talk centred around the amazing last 50m swum by Le Clos. The determination and effort involved in chasing down (and beating) the overwhelming favourite and defending champion was just incredible. In addition to that, Le Clos admitted in a post race interview how Phelps had been his hero growing up and how he had just beaten his hero in an Olympic final.
So, on behalf of the Australian tv commentators who didn’t do so at the time I say “Chad Le Clos – you won that 200m butterfly final with an amazing performance – jealousdown”.