A couple months back I was asked to narrate a short commercial for leather-goods company. I was told the star of the visual was an Olympic fencer, and that is one of the main reasons I agreed. These are two very heavy words that I don’t recall hearing out loud and in person before. The concept of an Olympic athlete was a bit foreign to me, I have heard of them before, usually through occurrences that get them on the news having nothing to do with their particular sport. Also, much like an astronaut, a cowboy, or a genetically gifted vigilante, I was a fan, yet wasn’t blessed with the opportunity to see one in person.
The second part was fencing, a friend of mine had recently taken up the sport, which vaguely put it on my radar, but aside from that one scene in Die Another Day, I was unfamiliar.
I walk into an empty space with a backdrop and camera rig set up. I size up each person trying to simultaneously figure out which one the fencer was, and not look like I was excited to meet a fencer, I failed at both. Daryl Homer stands at 5 ft 8 in and yet somehow commanded the respect of at least 6’4”. I being from LA am very good noticing the difference between being shy and being reserved. Daryl was not shy, but he didn’t speak unless it was necessary. He didn’t come off as someone who engaged in ancient combat for a living, he was very tranquil and calm. After filming for an hour or so we order lunch and finally begin to chop it up.
Of course music was the icebreaker, music is always the icebreaker. We talk about our respective branches of hip-hop, being from opposite coasts we agreed on more than I thought we would but I guess that’s the time we live in. Good is good and bad is bad, weather you grew up in LA or the Bronx. We agreed on fashion, food, at that moment, he wasn’t a world-class athlete and I wasn’t a sarcastic pen for hire, we were both two young men laughing at the absurdities of life.
To be honest, I think that’s the part that has been confusing me lately. If you’ve ever watched videos of Daryl competing, you genuinely can’t follow his hand with the naked eye. How does someone develop an internal furnace, to compete that vigorously? Where does that fire come from? I think I was looking for something alien, something other than drive and dedication that can take you from humble kid catching the bus home from school in the Bronx, to humble superstar in Rio later this year, competing for the right to call yourself the best.
I think the word “best” is often misused or misinterpreted as “really good”. This young man could possibly be the best fencer on earth, with tangible proof, all while remaining perfectly human.
Some might say he has accomplished a lot, and they would not get an argument from me, but they may get one from him. The tunnel vision it takes to even have the audacity to go for number one is pretty remarkable. From my encounters with Daryl, he comes off as a man who completely disregards the concept of scale, someone who never understood that certain paths are regarded as impossible. In my opinion, you have to be blind to all doubt in order to not be intimidated by the herculean task at hand, to be soluble enough to allow yourself to dissolve in to an idea so much bigger than yourself. Representing your country, your state, your city, even your block. Going to Rio isn’t about proving anything to anyone, it isn’t about shadows of doubt or coming from a place of fear, It is about a man with the ambition to compete against himself. Other fencers will be present yes, but they are merely there to polish and reveal what we all know is already there. It is about taking a sport that was forgotten by mainstream media, and impacting it enough to put it back on the radar. It is simply about Daryl Homer, a right-handed sabre from the Bronx, who doesn’t need to say a word.