The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Friday, June 30, 2006

Guess It Doesn't Mean the Same Thing

We all know there are English words which have different meanings in England than in America. It's not an "elevator", it's a "lift"; it's not "gasolene", it's "petrol"; they're not "suspenders", they're "braces"; and in Britain a "fanny pack" is pretty much anatomically impossible. There are other regional differences as well; apparently "illegal invasion of oil-rich soveriegn nation based on false pretenses" does mean the same thing in the US, UK and Australia but something different in Canada and New Zealand.

So I'm watching the on-demand video of the Gateshead track meet on WCSN and I think I've found another one. In the stands just past the finish line there's a banner for a group of UK track and field fans, the "British Athletics Supporters Club". So far I've seen nothing to indicate they have any idea what that title would mean over here.

The Stuff Hits the Fan

The European continent's biggest annual sporting event, Le Tour de France, will be without many of its star riders. The two favorites, Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, will not be taking part. Spanish authorities have taken blood tests performed on cyclists and matched them to supplies siezed in an ongoing investigation. Spain's El Pais newspaper reports the vast majority of cyclists who earned podium spots (top-three placing) over the last few years are implicated; one glaring absence, of course, is Lance Armstrong. The seven-time champion, however, is not free from suspicion.

There are many who say anti-doping authorities are losing the battle. I don't see it that way; one entire sport is being forced to come clean all at once. No one involved in cycling will ever want to get this much bad press all at once, and they now know they cannot avoid it merely by ignoring the problem. No, I think the police, race organizers and cyclists will all be much more willing to work together now.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I just signed up for the WCSN athletics season pass. All I can say is "wow". The Superfan just got super-er.

A heads-up for those not in the know: last year the World Championships Sports Network was launched in order to bring the IAAF World Championships in Athletics to American viewers, as it was not going to be broadcast on any widely available US television channel. Since then it has morphed into a site offering pretty much the entire elite overseas season in a multitude of sports. For a measly $50 I got the Athletics Season Pass, which provides me with the entirety of their track and field coverage, 29 meets in all.

The video is whatever "host feed" the event provided, usually with BBC announcers. The picture quality is not great, but that's my only complaint. For comparison's sake, it cost me just over $50 to get into the USATF meet for its final two days, whereas WCSN's coverage will total well in excess of two days. And by that I mean there's more than 48 hours of video!

A popular "what-if" game is wondering what an all-track-and-field cable channel would look like. This is the closest thing we'll ever get and that's fine with me. The internet is the future of cable television.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

That's the Spirit

Came across a hilarious video.

Track in Sports Illustrated

Apparently I beat these guys to the punch on Marion Jones. They quote an unnamed USATF official as saying "She's done enough damage".

They also have a "Where are they now?" article on Carl Lewis' acting "career". I thought they left the comedy to Steve Rushin and Rick Reilly. On the upside, they finally get Lewis to admit something I'd never seen before: he thought he deserved to be on the 1996 Olympic 4x100 relay team. At the time he merely said that if it were offered to him he'd take it, while others said he was actively campaigning for it.

They also have an accompanying "Where will they be?" article, which among other athletes profiles Long Beach's super-hurdler Ebony Collins.

ESPY Awards

You can vote for ESPN's aanual sports awards here.

The nominees for "Best Male Track Athlete" are Justin Gatlin, Bershawn Jackson and Asafa Powell. The nominees for "Best Female Track Athlete" are Allyson Felix, Michelle Perry, and Sanya Richards. Other track-related nominees include Four Minutes for "Best Sports Movie "and Virginia Powell for "Best Female College Athlete".

At first glance, these nominations are strange. Four Minutes doesn't deserve to be up for any award; it was barely tolerable. One might think two-sport star Xavier Carter might have been nominated for best male college athlete, considering that he was the first man since Jesse Owens to win four events at the NCAA outdoor championships. And why weren't any track stars up for "Best International Athlete"? It all makes much more sense when you realize that any awards show is nothing but an orgy of self-congratulation and self-promotion. Ergo, the ESPYs are about ESPN and not sports in general.

So I understand the featured sports and events will be things that were either broadcast on EPSN or part of a sport they feature prominently. Four Minutes is nominated because it was an ESPN creation, and Carter was skipped over because college track was not on ESPN this year. The best track athlete category is obviously not specifically an American one with Asafa Powell in the mix, but it looks darn close to that. Personally, I think Lashinda Demus deserves a nomination more than Sanya Richards but it's close.

I voted for Gatlin and Felix. Gatlin won the World Championships 100 and 200 last year and has tied the world record. Felix withdrew from the USATF final last weekend with a sore leg, but was undefeated in the event last year.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fantasy League Gets Started

Two teams. Man vs. wife, men vs. women. We each get ten athletes now and two more during the August break in the World Athletics Tour. The top eight athletes on each team count towards the team totals.

The men's team:
Bershawn JACKSON USA 400mH 197.2
Justin GATLIN USA 100m,200m 194.8
Virgilijus ALEKNA LTU DT 191.5
Dwight PHILLIPS USA LJ 163.4
Kenenisa BEKELE ETH 5k, 10k 161.3
Daniel Kipchirchir KOMEN KEN 1500m 159.6
Dominique ARNOLD USA 110mH 148.1
Ladji DOUCOURÉ FRA 110mH 147.6
Saif Saaeed SHAHEEN QAT 3000mSC 142.1

Team Total 1378.9

The women's team:
Sanya RICHARDS USA 400m 176
Lashinda DEMUS USA 400mH 166.2
Tirunesh DIBABA ETH 5k, 10k 164.7
Meseret DEFAR ETH 5000m 164.1
Ejegayehu DIBABA ETH 5k, 10k 154.8
Michelle PERRY USA 100mH 154.6
Veronica CAMPBELL JAM 100m,200m 149.8
Berhane ADERE ETH 5k, 10k 147.5
Christine ARRON FRA 100m,200m 138.9

Team Total 1277.7

The men are out to an early lead, but there are problems. Of the five Americans on the men's team, three did not win at the USATF meet and will not be able to compete at the World Cup. However, all three American women did win. Also, the athlete expected to be the top scorer overall, Isinbayeva, has not yet competed outdoors this year.

Upcoming TV broadcasts

Here's what I've found from surfing the internet. It looks like if you're going to get just one pay channel it should be Fox College Sports Pacific, with CSTV close behind.

Tuesday, June 27

Fox College Sports Pacific, 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
California HS Championships (repeat)
(repeats June 28 at 10 PM, June 29 at 6 AM, June 30 at 1 PM, July 1 at 3 AM)

Thursday, June 29

CSTV, 2:30 PM – 5:30 PM
NCAA Outdoor Championships (repeat)
(repeats at 2:30 AM)

Friday, June 30

Fox College Sports Pacific, 10:00 PM – 1:00 AM
USC vs UCLA (repeat)
(repeats July 3 at 10:30 AM, July 4 at 10:30 AM, July 5 at 10:30 PM, July 6 at 11:30 AM)

Monday, July 3

Fox College Sports Pacific, 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
Pac-10 Championships (repeat)
(repeats July 6 at 2:30 PM)

Fox College Sports Pacific, 3:30 PM – 5:30 PM
SEC Championships (repeat)

Fox College Sports Pacific, 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Big 12 Championships (repeat)
(repeats at 10:30 PM)

Saturday, July 8

CBC, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Paris Golden League
(repeats July 9 at 11:40 PM)

Saturday, July 15

ESPN Classic, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
“The First Four Minutes”

CBC, Noon3:30 PM
Rome Golden League
(repeats July 16 at 11:30 PM)

Saturday, July 22

CBC, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Edmonton ITU Triathlon
(repeats July 23 at 11:30 PM)

Monday, July 31

ESPN Classic, 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
“SportsCentury: Babe Didrikson Zaharias”

A Domestic Invitational in August

Usually, the USATF championships mark the end of the line as far as elite competition in the USA goes. The big meets are all in Europe and you simply can't get enough stars to come home for a meet. This year looks a little different, as the Eugene Register-Guard reports.
"Former Olympic gold medalists and world champions are among the athletes who have committed to compete in the innovative track and field meet - titled the Road to Eugene '08 - scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 8, at Hayward Field."

The meet is mostly going to be junior competition, as the US team will assemble in Eugene for a training camp shortly before departing for Beijing's World Junior Championships. There will also be several elite races, and the whole shebang is already lined up for a 2-hour live broadcast. The idea for a meet apparently came from Vin Lanana, the former Stanford coach who was hired to be the U. of Oregon's "Director of Track & Field" (a title which implies acting as a combined coach, sub-AD, and meet organizer). The timing is nice, too, coming in the middle of a two-week break in the World Athletics Tour and a week before the World Junior Championships.

Monday, June 26, 2006

USATF Championships review

Indianapolis was the site for the 2006 USATF Outdoor Championships, and since it was only a 4-hour drive from Superfan Headquarters I coldn't pass it up. Unfortunately, poor weather on Sunday made us decide to pack up and go home. We've all spent much too long at cold drizzly track meets and they are not fun.

Joe Allen
My co-Superfans for this trip were Tom Wabake and Bob Hayton. Tom is a fellow faculty member at school and ran for the Broncos of Western Michigan in the 1960s. Bob just retired from teaching but is best known as a coach, being named Ohio coach of the year a while back. In fact, he's the only Ohio coach with two former athletes who competed at this meet. We specifically came on Friday to see one of them, long/triple jumper Joe Allen. Joe was second at the USATF indoor this year.

Joe was a bit shaky in the first few rounds, but got off a 7.81 / 25' 7 1/2" in the third round to cement his spot in the finals. Again in the finals his first two jumps were less than great but he improved again in the final round with a 7.83 / 25' 8/14" jump. Fifth place is his best showing ever at an USATF outdoor, and with a coaching switch to Dan Pfaff he appears to be on the rise.

The Meet
Overall I thought it was great. Then again, I am rarely disappointed by a track meet. You can read summaries of the action elsewhere; I'll just hit the highlights.

You rarely see someone double in distance events at this level, and never on the same day. Bernard Lagat did, though, with a 3:44 1500-meter semifinal followed a few hours later by a 13:14 5000-meter win.

The most touching moment was in an on-track interview with pole vault winner Russ Buller. When he was ready to quit shortly after the 2004 Olympics, his brother convinced him to keep it up, and then was killed in an auto accident two weeks later. A tearful Buller dedicated his win to his brother.

I thought the meet would be much too loosely scheduled. In fact, there was very little down time between events, except for when the TV cameras were rolling on Saturday night. They've got to change the way they do things on TV.

The announcers did a good job keeping fans up-to-date on all the goings-on. I do agree with Garry Hill (one of those announcers) that there are too many field events happening at the same time, which makes it hard for even a Superfan to keep up with them all, much less a more casual fan. For example, because we were paying such close attention to the long jump, we mostly missed out on a titanic battle in the men's shot put. Garry suggests separating the junior championships and the multi-events from the main meet, and I don't see any other way.

Speaking of junior championships, the highlight of the meet for Ohio was Jessica Beard winning the junior women's 400 meters, in yet another new state record of 51.89. As you can see from the photo, Beard (in lane six) was behind until the last 20 meters. This earns her a trip to Beijing in August for the World Junior Championships, with a stopoff in Eugene for a training camp beforehand.

The meet also had a nice contest, where they picked two people out of the cheap seats and put them right on the finish line if they could answer a multiple-choice trivia question. Unfortunately, several of the answers were incorrect!

The title sponsor, AT&T, had a tent where top stars who were not competing that day would do the picture & autograph thing.
Jeremy Wariner signs a poster

Walter Davis is obviously thrilled to meet me

Charlie Gruber is one skinny dude,
and Reese Hoffa is the size of Sweetums

The Stadium
Not big, but nice. It's not too common to see a stadium built with track in mind. A smart touch is taking the seating around the curve. I'd like some shade, and they should have built concession areas into the facility, but other than that it's a great place to see a meet.

The City
Honestly, I thought Indianapolis would be a two-bit town. We only saw downtown, but that was enough for me to realize I was dead wrong. Gorgeous parkland (including a riverfront bike trail that went right behind the stadium), amazing monuments, shopping and nightlife, and a lot more make it the most attractive downtown I've seen in a mid-sized city.

We went to the NCAA Hall of Champions on Sunday. Less exciting than you'd think.

I'd be back for next year's USATF championships whether the surroundings and presentation were pleasant or not. But I'm really looking forward to it now.

Marion Jones

I'm waiting to get all my photos back before I do a big post on the USATF meet. In short, I had a great time.

As I'm sure you've heard, Marion Jones is back up to some resemblance of her form from several years ago. She handily won the USATF 100 meters this weekend, running 11.10 into a headwind. The crowd gave her a relatively warm welcome, although certain Superfans sat on their hands. USATF avoided using her for meet promotion purposes, and with good reason.

Let's look back. From 1997 to 2002, she earns 12 # rankings in the two sprints over a six-year span, which no other sprinter (male or female) has ever done. Then we end up with two ex-husbands with doping bans, her coach admitting his Mexican steroid connections, Jones' connections to BALCO are revealed (including paying them $7500), BALCO head Victor Conte telling ABC's 20/20 that he personally injected her with PEDs (for which Jones sued him), and the well-researched book Game of Shadows reports she took drugs from BALCO. People have been executed with less evidence. As if she doesn't have a bad enough reputation already, she has sued ex-coach Dan Pfaff to escape paying him the money she owes him and already went to binding arbitration over, and coach Steve Riddick has been arrested and charged in a multi-million dollar check-kiting scheme.

Now she's running well again. Some say her jaw looks different than in past years. One side effect of HGH use is jaw realignment. While an HGH test is out there, no one has yet been caught with it. You be the judge.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A quick post

I'm at the USATF outdoor championships, posting from the AT&T sponsor booth. I just got an autographed & photo with triple jumper Walter Davis. More later.

Friday, June 23, 2006

USATF Championships, Ohio connections

I'll be taking off for Indy fairly early tomorrow, and without internet access there will be no updates until Monday. And that one will be a doozy.

From the top of my head, here are the athletes in the open (senior) championships with Ohio connections. I'll cheer for each and every one of them.

Men's 100 meters
Kendall Stevens, Lima Senior HS / Univ. of Findlay; 2006 NCAA D-II champ. May or may not compete, as he's recently been indicted for carrying a concealed weapon and obstruction of justice in connection with a June 6th murder. Poor guy, you can take the kid out of Lima but you can't take Lima out of the kid.

Kenneth Wade, Toledo Rogers HS / Univ. of Cincinatti. Just about the last guy in, but still a great accomplishment for someone who never was a big star in high school. One of my two co-Superfans was Wade's high school coach.

Men's 200 meters
LeShaunte Edwards, Cleveland Rhodes HS / Univ. of Akron. Status is "pending", so he might not get in. One of the best MAC sprinters since Thomas Jefferson, it appears his best days are now behind him.

Stevens' status in the 200 meters is pending as well.

Men's 800 meters
Michael Inge, Elyria HS / Kent State Univ. The 2003 USATF junior champ at 800 meters has so far not lived up to his age-group championship hype. Redshirted the indoor & outdoor seasons at KSU; has one year of eligibilty left.

Men's 1500 meters
Rob Myers, Lancaster Fairfield Union HS / Ohio State Univ. With Bernard Lagat in the field, you can't really say Myers is one of the favorites, since no one is going to beat Lagat. But Myers is as good as or better than anyone else.

Ofer Barniv, Kent Roosevelt HS / Kent State Univ. Status is pending, and would have the slowest qualifying mark.

Men's Steeplechase
Brian Olinger, West Lafayette Ridgewood HS / Ohio State Univ. Has shown flashes of brilliance but raced like crap at the NCAA two weeks ago. Probably won't beat Lincoln or Slattery but there's no reason he shouldn't beat everyone else.

Robert Gary, Ohio Stat Univ. Getting long in the tooth but should still scare the crap out of Olinger.

Dan Huling, Miami Univ. It would be a huge accomplishment just to make the final for this recent NCAA All-American.

Men's 110m hurdles
Joel Brown, Ohio State Univ. The gap between the "big three" (Allen Johnson, Dominique Arnold, Terrence Trammell) and everyone else should be big enough to drive a truck through it. Brown is every bit as good as everyone else.

David Payne, Univ. of Cincinnati. Usually finds his way to the finals in these things.

Ryan Wilson, Westerville South HS. Could make the semis, will probably not make the finals.

Brandon Hon, Cincinnati Walnut Hills HS / Univ. of Cincinnati. The only athlete even attempting both hurdle events.

Men's 400m hurdles
Hon's status is pending.

Men's Pole Vault
Tim Mack, Cleveland St. Ignatius HS / Malone Coll. Can the Athens gold medalist regain the USATF title?

Men's Long Jump
Joe Allen, Toledo Rogers HS. Joe is not considered a threat in this competition, but did get second at the USATF indoor this year ahead of Bashir Ramzy. Anything can happen! Was also coached by one of my fellow Superfans.

Nathan Mayle, Ohio Univ. Status is pending. If he makes it in, he might be the only athlete competing who will also play D-IA football this fall.

Men's Triple Jump
Allen is pending in this event; he might get in on the strength of his third-place finish at this year's USATF indoor.

Men's Shot Put
Dan Taylor, Burton Berkshire HS / Ohio State Univ. Taylor is just on the edge of being one of the elites, and should push at least one of the three international stars in the lineup.

Bryan Vickers, Circleville HS / Ashland Univ. Not to be confused with the NASCAR driver.

Men's Javelin Throw
John Hetzendorf, Kent State. Ranked #3 in the US last year, he should make the finals and be near the top. But this event is very unpredictable.

Women's 100 meters
LaShauntea Moore, Ak. Hoban & Fireston HS / Univ. of Akron. Better at the 200.

Women's 200 meters
Moore won an NCAA title at Arkansas in 2004. Her qualifying time is decptive; she got it running into a stiff headwind while winning the Reebok Grand Prix. I'll be surprised if she's not in the final.

Women's 400 meters
Moushami Robinson, Columbus Brookhaven HS. No one is going to beat Sanya Richards, but Robinson should make yet another USA 4x400 team with a top-4 finish.

Mary Danner, Cincinnati Walnut Hills HS / Univ . of Cincinnati. A likely finalist; she was ranked #7 in the US last year and was the USATF indoor runner-up this year.

Women's 800 meters
Kameisha Bennett, Dayt. Meadowdale HS. Listed as qualified but "open", so it looks like she's skipping this meet.

Women's 5000 meters
Michelle Sikes, Lakewood HS. Status is pending.

Women's 10,000 meters
Angela Homan, Spencerville HS. Won't win, but will be in the thick of it with everyone else. Just used up her eligibility at Auburn and went out a winner on their NCAA champion team.

Tara Storage, Beavercreek HS / Univ. of Dayton. Disappeared for a few years; apparently is still inseperable from twin Kara as both work and run at Wright-Patterson Air Force base.

Women's Long Jump
Tianna Madison, Elyria HS. The World champion.

Women's Shot Put
Adriane Blewitt, Ashland Univ. Recently named to the NCAA D-II Women's Silver Anniversary all-star team.

Women's Discus Throw
Beth Mallory, Ashland HS. A certain finalist.

Blewitt is also entered.

Melissa Bickett, Richfield Revere HS. Just made it in.

Women's Hammer Throw
Keturah Lofton, Zanesville HS / Ohio State Univ. The recent OSU grad won the Big Ten this year.

Women's Javelin Throw
Kim Kreiner, Mogadore HS / Kent State Univ. The defending champ is ten feet better than the field.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

USATF Championships, updated reports that further storms have ended the meet for the night, pushing the 100m first rounds, the women's jav final and both 1oks into tommorrow's competition. This may be bad for the athletes but it's awesome for me. I'm not getting to the meet until tommorrow, and now I get a bit more action for my money.

And for those complaining that the meet got moved off the left coast, piss off. At least the track isn't threatened by smog, mudslides, wildfires, or earthquakes.

USATF Championships

Apparently they had a storm this afternoon that put the meet an hour behind schedule, and another one has blown up and forced another delay. Wimps.

If you're not from the midwest, this kind of stuff might alarm you. But I tell you they've got nothing. Nothing! In Toledo last night, it stormed for 2 1/2 hours straight, dumping up to 9 inches of rain plus golf-ball sized hail, 60+ mph winds, and a tornado. And that was just one of the three storms we've had between yesterday and today.

Three years ago a storm came through Bowling Green with a gust over 100 mph. It blew a hole in the side of the Perry Fieldhouse and took the roof off the airport's hangar. And Whitaker Track?

Blew the pressbox clean off.

Now it's not like the Great Plains around here; losses of life or significant property damages are rare, once in a generation or less in any given county. But slightly violent storms are a common summertime occurrence. And if you've done high school track in northern Ohio you get toughened up, because the weather here always sucks in April. Elyria's Tianna Madison shrugged off the weather when she the World Championships long jump last year in a driving rainstorm, saying "My mental capacity goes beyond it, I'm from Ohio where it's cold".

Marathon Trials Announced

This just in: as expected, women in Boston the day before the BAA marathon, men in New York the weekend of the NYC race. Both criterium-style multi-loop courses that end at the traditional finish lines.

Weldon Johnson helps clear up some confusion.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Marathon Olympic Trials

We've been waiting for an announcement on the 2008 marathon Olympic trials for quite some time, almost a year. The rumor over this whole waiting period is that both races would be held in conjunction with major marathons, with the men in New York and the women in Boston. Both would be on fan-friendly criterium courses on separate days; the men would run in Central Park on the Friday before the NYC marathon and the women on a course similar to the Tufts 10k on the day before the BAA marathon.

It's supposedly been a done deal for a long time. The lack of an announcement has apaprently been because of "contractual issues" between USATF and the USOC (more on that later). The Washington Times, of all places, reports that an announcement should be coming at the USATF meet this week.

There have always been problems with this idea on the men's side. First and foremost, the trials would be 10 months before the actual Olympic marathon. This isn't too bad; I remember a trials that was just 3 months before the Olympics, which is way too short a period of time to recover and rebuild. When Steve Spence won a bronze at the 1991 World Championships marathon, he credited being named to the team the previous fall as a big advantage. No, the real problem is that it's just 8 weeks after the Osaka World Championships marathon. This is going to make it very difficult to find marathoners willing to run in Osaka since it will basically ruin their Olympic chances.

Now the stink is that the men's race will be on the full NYC course and will start a little over 2 hours before the main race. As usual, there are arguments about the wisdom of such a choice, but it has no real effect on the good and bad points outlined above.

The fact that there were issues to iron out between USATF and the USOC, and that they couldn't get it done, is hardly surprising. These are two organizations just as bent on self-destruction as the Democratic Party. Then there are those who believe the "contractual issues" are the kind of problems the AAU was famous for. From Let's Run:

"This is a situation that gets uglier on a daily basis. A little over 2 years ago USATF decided that the mens trials were going to be held in New York. This is a great choice but not everyone was on board with this so they spent the past year trying to "buy support". Once NYRR had convinced (bought) enough of the people that are in a position of importance to see things their way, the deal was done. Now USOC realizes that there has been a lot of "buying" going on and they want their share. In the mean time the athletes are left to wait and wait and wait. They are at a stalemate as USATF has already accepted so many favors from NYRR that they are forced into trying to make it happen in New York. Most athletes don't want it in New York because of the November date. Others just have a bias against New York buying their way into things. USOC is now holding the cards. If NYRR gives a little more $$$ to USOC it will be announced. Then USOC will get their cut, USATF will get their cut and all is well."

In all honesty, I think the real problem is that an Olympic Trials for the marathon shouldn't exist, that they are a bad thing for the truly elite professional runners. Things are vastly different for marathoners than for those who compete on the track, and also vastly different than the only time we ever were a force to be reckoned with on the men's side (1972-84).

How so? These days marathoning, like the rest of the sport, is openly professional. Unlike those who compete on the track, though, these pros get only two, maybe three chances a year for a payday. The Oly Trials asks them to chuck one and race for free, just to win a chance to run another race for free. The World Marathon Majors series adds another level of problems, as the OT requires these athletes to give up a chance to score points. I firmly believe that's at least one reason why the trials are being held in conjuction with Majors races, so as to blow only one chance to compete on the circuit (rather than split the timing and ruin two). The most advantageous part of having an OT for track & field is that it's the biggest track meet in the USA in any four-year period, with unmatched press exposure. But with marathoning this isn't true; Chicago, New York and Boston all draw more attention than the OT.

How would you pick the teams? Easy. Pick a date and take the top three in the WMM standings at that point. Literally any American would have a shot at making the team. Yeah, it would ruin the sub-elite's quest for a 2:22 OT qualifier, but that's just too damn bad. The sport is not about amateurs anymore.

Monday, June 19, 2006


I'm blogging this during the first intermission. If you ask "Of what?", then you sure ain't from around here. This is hockey country.

It does seem odd to be watching an ice hockey game on the same day that I had to turn on the air conditioning. Heck, the sun's down and it's still 74 degrees in the city where my CBC broadcast originates...or rather, 23 degrees.

My ethnic background could only be accurately described as "white" in every meaning of the word, but I suppose I could call my heritage "Canadian-American" if I went back two or three generations. I grew up with the CBC; I got confused as a kid because the US broadcasts of Sesame Street taught me Spanish but the Canadian one taught French. I got it all screwed up. My father rarely watched Monday Night Football, but never missed Hockey Night in Canada. I guarantee he's watching right now.

I am cheering hard for the Oilers tonight. So far they've been outplayed but are only a goal down. Edmonton was not my favorite team as a kid (I was more a fan of the Red Wings and the Canadiens) but things have changed now. Five years ago I spent ten days in Edmonton at the VIII World Athletics Championships. Now, it was not as cool a city as Chicago or Boston, but I wasn't there for tourism. Edmonton surprised me. It's like a small town of a million people. The light rail stations were sparkling clean (as you'd expect a city to make it when the world's media is coming) but grout was so clean I knew it had never been dirty in its 23 years of existence. And the most striking but little-known characteristic of the Canadian people, a tremendous sense of fair play, was on display. The drug cheat Olga Yegorova, who was caught ealier that summer but escaped on a technicality, was booed by the entire 50,000 people in attendance. I've rarely run into a mean Canadian but there was a complete and total lack of them in Edmonton.

I salute the fans sitting in The Sherlock Holmes pubs tonight. Win or lose, you're my kind of people.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Program Reinstated

Just the other day it was announced that Fresno State University would reinstate their men’s cross country program. The team was cut three years ago, along with men’s indoor track and soccer and women’s swimming; outdoor track avoided the axe only after head coach Bob Fraley offered to work for free.

This is being hailed as a victory for track, but it’s not much of one. The AD cut the wrestling program at the same time, and I figure bringing XC back is just trying to put some shine on that turd. Cross will cost the university literally nothing, as it adds no administrative or scholarship expenses to the track program, and the NCAA’s sport sponsorship will cover the rest. The AD’s press release gives some shockingly reasonable rationalizations for cutting wrestling, while avoiding the standard blame-the-women-and-Title-IX song and dance.

Cuts of any kind always fit into a bigger picture, however. Fresno State’s football team is known as a BCS whore, willing to play any big-conference team anywhere any time, as long as there’s a big payout. They haven’t been a doormat, either, with a 10-8 record in these games, once being a single win short of making it into a BCS bowl. But the system is rigged against teams from the “mid-major” conferences, both competitively and financially. Also, as a member of the WAC, whose members stretch from Louisiana to Hawaii, Fresno State’s football travel budget is even more ridiculous than that of a typical school. So they reap little if any gains from the huge amount of resources poured into football.

One of the reasons for cutting wrestling looks nice enough on paper; #5 cites the poor classroom performance of the team. An AD actually pursuing the educational mission of the institution is a refreshing change. However, this isn’t just any university. These guys are still paying Jerry Tarkanian an amount approximately equal to the entire annual scholarship budget for men’s track, and having ever hired Tark the Shark means your school doesn’t give a crap about academics, let alone keeping him on your staff. Tark “retired” (read: was forced out) when FSU’s basketball program was found to have been involved in academic fraud and illegal payments, resulting in probation by the NCAA. Recently, the probation was extended and the Bulldogs narrowly avoided having the entire program shut down by the NCAA. Nice guys, huh?

Bottom line: can afford illegal payments to basketball players, cannot afford other sports. Got it?

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Onion

Justin Gatlin: 'Under The Right Conditions, I Can Run The 100 In 3.2 seconds'

Conditions include an aiding wind equal to a Cat 4 hurricane and dropping off a cliff.

More Fantasy League Stats

Now I've done some calculating on the women's side. The top ten:

Brigitte Ann FOSTER−HYLTONJAM100mH185.6
Lolo JONES USA100m,100mH176.6
Blanka VLAŠIĆ CROHJ176.6
Sanya RICHARDSUSA 400m176.0
Delloreen ENNIS−LONDONJAM100mH173.4
Danielle CARRUTHERSUSA100mH170.7
Lashinda DEMUS USA 400mH166.2
Tirunesh DIBABA ETH5k, 10k164.7

The top fifty, men and women combined:
Bershawn JACKSONUSA400mH197
Asafa POWELL JAM100m196
Justin GATLIN USA100m,200m195
Virgilijus ALEKNA LTUDT192
Brigitte Ann FOSTER−HYLTONJAM100mH185.6
Lolo JONES USA100m,100mH176.6
Blanka VLAŠIĆ CROHJ176.6
Sanya RICHARDSUSA 400m176.0
Delloreen ENNIS−LONDONJAM100mH173.4
Danielle CARRUTHERSUSA100mH170.7
Suleiman Kipses SIMOTWOKEN1500m168
Lashinda DEMUS USA 400mH166.2
Gary KIKAYA COD400m166
Wilfred BUNGEI KEN800m166
Tirunesh DIBABA ETH5k, 10k164.7
James CARTER USA400mH165
Kim GEVAERTBEL200m164.6
Isaac Kiprono SONGOKKEN1500m,5000m165
Meseret DEFAR ETH5000m164.1
Alleyne FRANCIQUEGRN400m163
Cydonie MOTHERSILLCAY200m163.1
Stanislavs OLIJARS LAT110mH162
Kenenisa BEKELE ETH5k, 10k161
Maurice WIGNALL JAM110mH161
Susanna KALLUR SWE100mH160.2
Bernard LAGAT USA1500m,5000m160
Daniel Kipchirchir KOMENKEN1500m160
Miguel PATE USALJ159
Janet JEPKOSGEIKEN800m159.1
Marc BURNS TRI100m159
Xiang LIU CHN110mH159
Kenia SINCLAIR JAM800m158.2
Jeremy WARINERUSA400m158
Rashid RAMZI BRN800m,1500m158
Wallace SPEARMONUSA200m158

Seeing a name like Jeremy Wariner's near the bottom of the list is not indicative of a poor season so far, just one that hasn't started in earnest yet.

The formula:
*World Ranking points divided by ten
*best point total from any single event on the World Athletics tour
*best finish in any one event at the World Athletics Final or World Cross Country long course (points system similar to that of the WAT, but higher)
*best finish in any one event at either World Cup or World Indoor Championships
It can't be helped, but this system ends up excluding multi-event athletes, racewalkers, and road racers.

If anyone is interested in getting into a fantasy league, post a comment.

Fantasy League

Fantasy leagues are flat-out the greatest thing that ever happened to professional sports. They make contests that you'd otherwise care nothing about suddenly become important, if for no other reason than to try to beat your old college roommate. I mean, the Packers might be behind by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter but you end up screaming at Bubba Franks to catch the damn ball so you can show that bastard who never picked up his socks who's boss!

Yahoo! has fantasy leagues on all kinds of sports, but track is notable in its absence. Track & Field News sometimes runs online prediction contests for an individual meet, but there's a complete lack of full season-long fantasy leagues out there.

The structure of the sport makes it kind of hard. Thousands of meets spread out over the globe with widely varying levels of competitiveness even within those meets, not to mention between them, makes it difficult to come up with a realistic points system.

I've come up with something, based mostly on the IAAF's World Rankings and World Athletics Tour standings. With the real track season just getting underway, here are the early leaders among the men (I haven't calculated women yet):

Bershawn JACKSONUSA400mH197.2
Asafa POWELL JAM100m196.2
Justin GATLIN USA100m,200m194.8
Virgilijus ALEKNA LTUDT191.5
Suleiman Kipses SIMOTWOKEN1500m168.1
Gary KIKAYA COD400m165.8

Powell and Gatlin being near the top is no surprise. They've gotten the early press with their world records. But Bershawn Jackson? He's been very active, with five races in May and June already, but what's more impressive is he's gone to the best races he can find and won them all. And what about this Irving Saladino guy? Same deal, four wins in four tries on the tour, one of them in the Olso Golden League meet over the top US jumpers. That's the other thing about fantasy leagues--rising stars are recognized quickly.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The ultimate OOPS!

My cigarettes have filters on them. I don't think that guy's did.
--Tigers manager Jim Leyland

So I got my new Track & Field News in the mail yesterday. I paged through it; I barely read it anymore and the only reason I get it is for the e-mail newsletter. I saw a headline on page six about the Stanford 10k (six weeks ago--that's news?) which said it was the first track rematch between Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenhein since high school. Ididn't look too close and thought maybe they meant at long distances or in a standard event or something, because I knew they had raced sometime in the last 5 years.

Nope. They meant what they wrote, and they were flat-out wrong. Webb and Ritz faced off at 2 miles in last year's Prefontaine Classic. Their lead article was based on a mistake that ANYONE who covers this sport for a living shouldn't have made.

Now, this isn't the first time they've made a big goof. For example, five months ago they loused up the cover, calling Donovan Powell the 100-meter world record holder when it's actually his younger brother Asafa.

And this is the magazine of record in our sport. To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, whenever we think press coverage of track is improving, we know this too will pass.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Good Riddance

Today's Toledo Blade reports Greg Christopher of Purdue University will be Bowling Green State University's new athletic director, replacing the outgoing Paul Krebs. The Blade, for the first time I'm aware of, made reference to Krebs' hatchet job at BGSU, stating "he led makeovers for several of the school’s athletic programs".

In case you don't remember, Krebs basically started the trend on cutting track programs at Division 1-A universities (he took out men's swimming and tennis as well). At least a dozen other universities followed his lead, four of them in the MAC alone. Of course, he sold the cuts as fiscal responsibility and adherence to Title IX, which were classic examples of administrative Newspeak; actually he decimated the athletic department's finances and BGSU's female athletes are worse off now than when he arrived.

I knew that the track teams would never come back as long as Krebs was here, but I have little hope even now. Let's just all give Krebs the "you're number one" sign as he leaves town.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Anti-Doping News

For some time now, law enforcement has been the weapon of choice in the anti-doping arsenal. It really started with the Festina affair at the 1998 Tour de France, where French police caught a masseur at the border in a car loaded with EPO and other blood-doping paraphernalia. The BALCO affair began when a couple of FBI agents who worked out at the same gym as Barry Bonds got suspicious and started poking around. Last year the DEA knocked out the majority of the US steroids supply in a giant bust called "Operation Gear Grinder" (arrests and charges continue to be made).

And it has gone on. This year Spanish officials got the goods on a huge operation run out of a Madrid apartment, which apparently did blood doping the old fashioned way (since it is actually more difficult to spot in tests). Initial reports say that as many as 150 cyclists could be implicated, not all Spaniards, which would have a giant impact not only on the Tour de France but the entirety of professional cycling.

The FBI got journeyman pitcher Jason Grimsley to tell them what he knew about steroid and HGH use in the major leagues, and got in (more) trouble when he got cold feet and stopped talking. Among those who may be implicated is current darling Albert Pujols.

Track has always seemed to be on the outskirts of this. A lot of track people went down with BALCO, but it was never really about them in the first place. The baseball-HGH thing may turn out to have track connections, but again they're collateral damage in the fight to clean up baseball. Now we might have some big-time news; the Spanish cycling saga appears to have some connection to Jos Hermans, the manager of Haile Gebreselassie and Kenenisa Bekele. There's nothing that even suggests Hermans-managed athletes may have used prohibited blood-manipulating techniques, but the mind does wander.

Even drug-testing guru Dr. Don Caitlin says the testing system is woefully inadequate. But if the po-po can start scaring the bejesus out of people, even great testing might become only the second line of defense.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

NCAA broadcast review

The upside: The meet was on live TV, the first time in 24 years. Team scoring was the feature, and every event was analyzed in that context.

The downside: Little else was done right. These people did not do their homework.

My constant complaint with track on US television, especially live broadcasts, is that the meets are not scheduled tightly enough. Often times there are ten minutes between events. I can accept that there are reasons this is done, but you'd think a sport that's constantly complaining about lack of visibility and attention would actually consider spectator interest when planning its championship. The issue some people have with baseball is that they cram eight minutes of action into three hours of game time; sprint-heavy TV coverage has the same problems. You get three minutes of pre-event hype, less than a minute of action, three minutes of (over-) analysis, and a commercial break. Yawn.

It does not have to be this way. A track and field meet is a three-ring circus. The NCAA meet has 42 events over four days. Some of that down time can be used to update the viewer on current field events or play tape of races that didn't get on the air live. There's no shortage of action at the NCAAs.

Did we see any of this? Sort of. Yeah, they gave us some field event updates. We saw Garret Johnson put the shot twice and got told he moved from fourth up to first. Were we kept up to date on this while it happened? No. Was any drama or suspense about the outcome built? No. Did we even see any shot put standings listed on the screen (you know, the way they figured out how to do on TV some 40+ years ago)? No. Shot coverage was two clips of tape and Dwight Stones reading some results off a piece of paper. The other field events got even shorter shrift; it was the basic "here's who won and their winning attempt" crap that US television has done for decades.

And then there was the men's triple jump; during the men's 1500 meters, Florida State clinched the team title with Rafeeq Curry's TJ win. CBS, to their credit, gave us the picture-in-picture format to show us his final attempt live. But we got no event standings or the mark he just made, just him on the runway, followed by Michigan's Michael Whitehead taking the last attempt of the competition. Again, we weren't told what distance Whitehead needed to overtake Curry, it was just some guy running and jumping. And while we're getting this, the TV screen misses FSU's Tom Lancashire making a huge break in the 1500. Arrrgh!

Now, I understand that Friday's action was on CSTV, and CBS might not have retained the rights to show that action on Saturday's broadcast. But for cryin' out loud, give us what you have! The men's and women's 800 meters were run just before the broadcast began, and while CBS did show them, it was only the last 120 meters and in slow motion. Christ, it would have only taken two minutes each to show the whole damn race! Then, CBS skips showing us the women's 1500 and heptathlon so they could have their talking heads interview winning coaches and drone on and on and on....snore....

Taken in aggregate, the way CBS covered the NCAA championships was almost apologetic. You get the impression that they thought the viewer doesn't actually like watching track. "We're sorry you turned your TV to this. We'll try to avoid showing you a track and field meet. We know you'd much rather see some talking heads and interviews with people with nothing to say other than 'Winning feels great! I worked so hard for this!' Maybe if we suck balls at this we won't have to come back and do it again."