And Brundage was the guy who brought the 1972 Olympics to Munich and said the games must go on after terrorists slaughtered the Israeli athletes and coaches, but Smith didn't know that in '68 when he raised that black-gloved fist during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Brundage must have sniffed a protest in Mexico City's thin air. Skipped the medal ceremony, but needed about 12 seconds to order the sprinters off the team and out of the Olympic Village.
Hoo ha, almost 45 years after the dramatic protest, and we're still finding out the symbolism of the artifacts Smith and Carlos lugged to the victory stand.
Artifacts, that's what Carlos calls them. He wore the left glove, made the fist because it symbolized the strength of individuals (the fingers) coming together. Wore beads around his neck to honor lynching victims. Says Smith wore a black scarf to honor those who perished on slave ships and were tossed overboard. Says they walked in black socks to protest poverty, carried a Puma sneaker because Puma had been supportive of black athletes.
Revisionist history is wonderful. Often livelier than the original. I was there that day. I remember the first question, asked by a Greek journalist, wanting to know which coach deserved credit for Smith's running style . . . and how the American writers hooted and wrestled him to his seat (he was wearing one of those white Mexican wedding shirts) and demanded to know what the protest was all about.
Smith said it wasn't a black power salute, it was a human rights salute. And that was about it, no explanation of the beads or the scarf or the socks or anger at Brundage's policies or the student revolt that had been squelched by gunfire before the Opening Ceremonies.
This was going to be a review of Dave Zirin's new book, "Game Over" subtitled, "How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down." Let the record show that Zirin also wrote "The John Carlos Story" and the subtitle on that one was, "The Sports Moment That Changed the World."
Zirin is a terrific, insightful, left-of-center writer, but his subtitles need work. That moment in Mexico City changed Smith's and Carlos's worlds and not much else. The NFL has something called the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates when top jobs open. Minorities went 0-for-15 this year on coaching and general manager slots.
Did you hear protests from players? They stayed as silent as Michael Jordan did, decades ago, when asked to comment on a congressional election in North Carolina. "Republicans buy shoes, too," Jordan said, explaining his silence.
Then there was the weird week leading up to the Super Bowl. "God's Time," Ray Lewis called it as a way of deflecting tough questions about his involvement in a murder and his possible use of deer antler extract.
That charade overshadowed what 49ers Ahmad Brooks, Donte Whitner, Ricky Jean Francois and Isaac Sopoaga had done, creating a video called "It Gets Better," in support of gay teenagers. Baltimore's Brendon Ayanbadejo expressed support for gay marriage.
And then, kaboom, 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver told a washed-up comic named Artie Lange on a sports talk radio show, "No, we don't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up out of here if they do."
Culliver apologized the next day, called his remarks hurtful and ugly, pledged to learn and grow from the experience. Mandated sensitivity training to follow. Starting after a shaggy performance in the Super Bowl.
Too many athletes are too timid, too greedy, too self-centered to speak out on issues. Gary Smith, the best sports writer in America, wrote a back-page column in Sports Illustrated after the tragedy in Newtown. He was touched by a couple of coaches speaking out against the gun culture in America, wondered out loud what would happen if every coach and athlete spoke out (about the scourge of guns)?
Probably caught six kinds of hell for the piece, wearing his heart on the sleeve of his denim shirt. Carlos and Smith would understand. You don't wear your Sunday clothes when you go out to fight for truth and justice.