Since this is the story of Jesse Owens in the run-up to the 1936 Fucking Nazi Olympics, and his performance at same, the title has a double meaning. It is all a pretty standard story—you know, conflicts with the wife, moral decisions over whether to go or to boycott as the NAACP (as shown here, anyway) recommends, stuff like that. Since he wasn’t a case of an unknown athlete coming forward and stunning the sports establishment (everybody knew he was the best in the world as soon as he stepped on the track at Ohio State), and since we all know how it came out, they couldn’t use a standard underdog story. So they focused on the race element.
Which is totally cool, except I don’t believe all of it. I will admit that of the things I checked, most of them were true, or could have been true. As is shown in the last scene, he and his wife really were forced to use the kitchen entrance and the freight elevator to attend a banquet in his honor at the Waldorf-Astoria! Not in Alabama, but in fucking New York City! Can you appreciate the raw irony of that? He was treated better in Germany! And I don’t doubt that he was tormented by the white athletes at OSU, and disrespected by the racist coaches on the American Olympic Team.
There is a lot of controversy about whether or not fucking Hitler refused to shake his hand. Some claim that a photo exists showing the fucking Nazi monster shaking his hand. And it seems to be true that fucking Hitler left before Jesse even ran his first race, and that he agreed that he would shake the hands of all winners, or none at all. (He chose the latter.) But what is indisputable is that the great liberal, FDR, never did shake Jesse’s hand. He never invited him to the White House, never even sent a telegram. Maybe he remembered the shitstorm Teddy Roosevelt encountered when he issued the first ever invitation of a Negro, Booker T. Washington, to the White House. Or maybe he was just chickenshit. Jesse Owens never forgot that, nor should he have. Fuck you, FDR!
I have some complaints about the portrayal of Avery Brundage, who was not the progressive we see here (he was a member of the German-American Bund). Fuck him. Also Leni Riefenstahl, who was undeniably a genius at making propaganda films, and who denied she was ever an actual fucking Nazi, but was quite happy to partake of the advantages to be had hobnobbing with the party elite. Fuck her, too.