The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Sunday, February 25, 2007

USATF Indoor Championships

My thoughts on the meet and its broadcast...

Race of the Day: Men's high jump (technically not a race, but whatever). Won by Tora Harris in a rather long jump-off. Too bad we didn't get to see any but the final attempts. Honorable mention: men's mile, a slow-start / fast-finish affair.

Trend: The studs didn't show up, making this easily the weakest meet of the Visa Championship Series so far this year. MIA included Shawn Crawford, Lashawn Merritt, David Krummenacker, Bernard Lagat, Belota Asmerom, Brad Walker, Gail Devers...

This Week's TV Gripe: Why do the announcers have to tell us how many laps are left? It's easy enough to put it in the little time/event box at the bottom of the screen.

Other notes: AT&T plugged a nice little fansite...Carl Lewis talked about professionalism, which was his constant battle with TAC leadership...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oldest Annual Footrace in the World


Well, I'm not sure that it is, but it's real darn old.

Today is what my friend Jenny Domanski calls "Spot-the-Catholic Day", so that makes yesterday Shrove Tuesday. Since 1445, the English town of Olney has put on a women-only 415-yard "pancake race" on that day.

This year's winner was 42-year-old Jane Hughes, who covered the distance in 73.5 seconds. No word yet on how this compares to the course record.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

IAAF Gets In the Anti-Global Warming Act

Today the IAAF announced its "Green Project". Basically, they said if we don't all do something, we ain't gonna be running/jumping/throwing but scratching for survival. They're some two years behind FIFA's "Green Goal" and way outclassed in terms of planning and execution, but it's a start.

The press release mentions transportation as one area of effort. Air travel accounts for up to 10% of all greenhouse emissions and is rapidly expanding. For a global sport, working on this is the biggest single thing they (or you) can do.

Fortunately, it's ridiculously cheap and easy. Online agencies such as Expedia.com offer Terrapass, a "carbon offset" which makes your travel carbon-neutral by funneling your money into industrial efficiency and renewable energy. If you fly 6,000 miles, you create 2500 pounds of CO2--which can be canceled out by ten measly bucks. Terrapass is only one company; there are dozens of other transportation carbon-offset programs out there. The IAAF should be pushing this big-time.

WCSN on TV

Yeah, baby!

It's small, but a beginning. WCSN will be on Granite Broadcasting, a cable carrier in 11 markets. If you want to bother your own carrier, here's how you can contact them and tell them "I want my WCSN!"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Duel in the Sun


Yeah, I know it's a bit late for a book review (it came out a year ago). But I'm an amateur and have to buy these things myself. Besides, the paperback edition comes out in three weeks.

The book traces the lives of both Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley in flashback form while detailing their 1982 Boston Marathon battle. Brant does a good job of avoiding the problems usually found in this kind of material.

He doesn't shy away from telling us about the dark side of either athlete. For the first half of the book, I thought it ironic that Beardsley is the one named "Dick" because Salazar sure comes off as one. But around the same time that we learn about nice guy Beardsley's descent into drug addiction, we also get to see the humble side of Salazar.

The other problem inherent in biographies is a lack of plot. This is because life doesn't have a plot, it's just a bunch of stuff that happens. For example, Coal Miner's Daughter is a good film but at the end I found myself wondering what the whole point was. By contrast, Walk the Line builds towards a climactic moment. Brant accomplishes the same here by telling each runner's story in a topical rather than chronological fashion.

Brant gets all the little things right, too. I am ignorant of the Cuban-American exile community, and he could be way off base about it and I wouldn't ever know. But I do know plenty about addicts, and Brant's description of Beardsley's life before his horrific accident reveal an addiction waiting to happen. Based on that alone, I trust the author; and the superfan of track history in me didn't see a single error or exaggeration anywhere either.

Final judgement: on the same level as Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, and maybe better. Easily worth your $12.

Fantasy League -- New Season

The new track season is already under way (sort of; it's only indoor). In a few weeks my fantasy league will start up. If you're interested, send an e-mail to tracksuperfan@yahoo.com and you're in.

Here's how it works. You pick athletes, they earn points from major meets over the season (mostly the World Championships and World Athletics Tour, but others as well). You can pick any athletes from any events. They also get points from the IAAF World Rankings.

We'll start with a draft in mid-March where each team gets six athletes. Six more times over the course of the season you'll pick up another athlete. Your team total at the end of the year comes from your eight best athletes.

There are no entry fees and no prizes (except bragging rights, of course). The point of the whole thing is just to make following the sport even more interesting and exciting.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

TV Listings

Here's an update. Additions/Corrections/Deletions? Post 'em.

Sunday, February 25
4:00 - 6:00 p.m., ESPN2
AT&T USA Indoor Track & Field Championships


Tuesday, February 27
4:30-5:00 p.m., ESPN Classic
SportsCentury: Florence Griffith Joyner

Saturday, March 17
6:00 AM, ABC
Rodes City Run

Saturday, April 28
1:00 - 3:00 p.m., ESPN2
Penn Relays

Saturday, May 19
5:00 - 7:00 p.m., ESPN
adidas Track Classic

Saturday, June 2:
11 p.m. - 12:30 a.m., ESPN2
Reebok Grand Prix

Sunday, June 3
1:00 - 2:00 p.m., CBS
Reebok Grand Prix

Sunday, June 10
4:00 - 6:00 p.m., NBC
Prefontaine Classic

Friday, June 22
8:00 - 9:00 p.m., ESPN2
AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Saturday, June 23
2:00 - 3:00 p.m., NBC
7:00 - 8:00 p.m., ESPN2
AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Sunday, June 24
1:00 - 3:00 p.m., NBC
AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Wednesday, July 4
7:00 a.m., Fox
Peachtree Road Race

All-Time Top Tens -- Men's 800 meters

Ninth in a now-resurrected continuing series.

#10. Joaquim Cruz, Brazil
#9. Mel Sheppard, USA
#8. Alberto Juantorena, Cuba
#7. Ted Meredith, USA
#6. John Woodruff, USA
#5. Douglas Lowe, UK
#4. Sebastian Coe, UK
#3. Mal Whitfield, USA

#2. Wilson Kipketer (Kenya / Denmark)
Born December 12, 1972, Kapchemoiyiwo, Kenya


There's less to tell of Kipketer's story to tell than of the others in this series, as he's the most contemporary of them. He had the prototypical champion runner's pedigree; a member of the Nandi tribe, he was first noticed by Kip Keino who suggested he attend St. Patrick's high school in Iten. He made the Kenyan team for the World Junior Championships twice, where his best result was fourth.

He saw rapid improvement in 1990, the same year that he went to Copenhagen as an exchange student. From that moment forward he made Denmark his home. His relations with Kenyan officials were so strained that given the choice of running in the 1996 Olympics for Kenya or not running at all, he chose the latter.

Kipketer's 1996 and 1997 seasons were possibly the most dominant ever in this event. I really am of two minds as to whether he should be list as #2 or #1. He won three World Championships titles but failed in other major events, most notably the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Had he won that race, he'd be #1.

Year Rank Mark Meets, etc.
1993 --
1:45.46
1994 1 1:43.29 17 wins in 19 meets
1995 1 1:42.87 1) W Ch; 10 wins in 12 meets
1996 1 1:41.83 undefeated in 13 meets
1997 1 1:41.11 WR 1) W ID, 1) W Ch; undefeated in 13 meets
1998 4 1:43.18 3) Euro Ch; ill (malaria)
1999 1 1:42.27 2) W ID, 1) W Ch
2000 4 1:43.35 2) Oly Gms
2001 --
--
injured
2002 1 1:42.32 1) Euro Ch; 9 wins in 10 meets
2003 5 1:43.28 2) W ID, 4) W Ch
2004
1:43.88 3) Oly Gms


Links: Wikipedia -- Statistical Bio

Monday, February 12, 2007

Runners Find Dead Bodies

Headline from today's "The Onion": Nation's Joggers Sick Of Finding Dead Bodies

Their graphic illustrates the problem.

LEADING FINDERS OF CORPSES

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Anti-Doping "News"

Sports Illustrated's "The 10 Spot" notes the trend towards children's books "written" by sports stars, and suggests some ideas. They put forth the following for Floyd Landis:
In the deposed Tour de France champ's Is That a Whisker on My Chin? the teen-aged protagonist starts to undergo "changes," as a perfectly natural surge of testosterone helps turn him into a man but skews his doping tests in a medically plausible way. Qualifies as both young-adult fiction and fantasy.
Perfect snark.

Tyson Invitational / USA XC

My thoughts on this weekend's meets and their ESPN2 broadcast...

Race of the Day: Men's 4x400m relay. What was supposed to be a WR attempt by an American all-star team turned into quite a competition. Baylor almost beat a collection of the world's great long sprinters.

Trend: Kevin Sullivan had his best race in quite some time, coming from waaay back in the 3k to win and break his own Canadian record. At almost 33 years old, this is not the time most middle-distance men start breaking PRs. He did get a new coach sometime in the last year or two, leaving his longtime mentor Ron "Warhurts" Warhurst. Whether or not the Michigan coach deserves the criticism some give him is up in the air, but continued improvements would certainly give more ammunition to the haters.

This Week's TV Gripe: Maybe they did this in the last two minutes of the broadcast (I turned it off at that point, assuming there would be nothing). I saw the beginning of the women's pole vault...and not the finish. What gives? Can't edit tape in two days? Yikes, these people are amateurs!

Betting on Track

Earlier this month a new gambling website dedicated to track & field came online. Britain's Telegraph newspaper sheds light on some possible problems: "athletics is relatively new to betting and is apparently unaware of the risks that un-policed gambling poses to the sport's integrity". Betcha didn't know the bookie running the operation is also an agent to several top athletes.

Friday, February 09, 2007

2016 Summer Olympics

The Chicago Tribune's Phil Hersh weighs in on the Windy City's chances.

I really, really hope Chicago gets the '16 Olympics, and I think the chances are good. Hersh does not specifically mention this, but the '00, '04, '08 and '12 games are all out of the general US time zones, which is very bad for TV ratings. No ratings, smaller TV contracts over the long term, less moolah. A fifth straight games in this situation seems highly unlikely. That doesn't mean they have to be in the USA, but I'd be shocked if they weren't in the western hemisphere.

You can see more on the bidding process here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

USATF Cross Country Championships

The race is Saturday morning in Boulder. There's been much discussion about the race, almost all concentrating on the men's competition. Now that Ryan Hall has withdrawn, the race won't be quite as big a showdown as anticipated.

On the other hand, I foresee a tremendous battle in the women's competition. Deena Kastor and Shalane Flanagan are entered.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Anti-Doping News Update

Two weeks ago French middle-distance runner Hind Dehiba was caught at Charles de Gaulle airport with hGH and thirty other prescription medications.

Now we know why she was caught. She told France's anti-doping authorities (AFLD) that she was training in Morocco, but when they tried to test her she was in Albequerque instead. So they tipped off customs officers to be on the lookout for her when returning to France. She was tested that same day and has turned up positive for EPO.

It may just be coincidence that Albequerque is the home of Eddie Hellebuyck, who tested positive for EPO in 2003 (apparently, you can get that stuff anywhere). But I thought it was worth pointing out.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tommie Smith Autobiography

Just released; NBC Sports discusses and provides us an excerpt. This is at the top of my Amazon.com wish list, and for several reasons.

The protest at left is all anyone wants to talk about when Smith's name comes up. And with good reason; it was an important thing. But there's plenty more to the man. For example, I wasn't aware that Smith and Carlos are no longer on speaking terms because Carlos maintains he let Smith win the 1968 Olympic 200 meters.

A decently-written biography of a great athlete is good enough all on its own. Smith was great by any measure. (For proof, see YouTube.) He was undoubtedly the best long sprinter in history until Michael Johnson came on the scene. However, with Smith there's the added story of the turbulent times, what happened to him before, during and after, and how he reacted to it.

The other guy in the picture? Peter Norman reached the finish line last October from a heart attack, age 64. His life story (a fascinating one on its own) was recently told in a film titled "Salute". HBO's documentary "Fists of Freedom" gives a broader view of the 1968 Olympics and the Olympic Project for Human Rights, but unfortunately it's never been released on video. Another view of the events are told in Lee Evans' biography, "The Last Protest". And in 2005, a sculpture honoring the three men was unveiled on the San Jose State campus.

Picked on the Wrong Guy

From today's New York Post:
Two rookie cops yesterday chased down a Queens punk who, after stalking their Police Academy classmate, bashed his skull with a baseball bat and stole his gun and handcuffs, authorities said.

The thug, Danny Fernandez, 21, looked for a cop for more than three hours before he pounced on Officer Joseph Cho at around 1 a.m. on 102nd Street and 39th Avenue in Jackson Heights, sources said.

Fernandez was nabbed moments later by fleet-footed Officer Patrick Lynch...
Lynch is just out of college, where he was on the track team.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Jesse Owens


Runner's World has an excerpt from Jeremy Schaap's new Jesse Owens biography this month. MSNBC has another. Two of the most interesting reviews I can find online come from Playboy (link safe for work!) and The Jewish Daily Forward. (I also happened across two truly frightening reviews on neo-Nazi sites.)

I haven't read the whole book yet, so I'll hold off passing judgement until I do. So far, it appears that Schaap's book is one of if not the most honest Owens biographies yet. He's willing to take on several myths--and there are many.

Aside from specific events that may or may no have actually taken place, there are other issues that always get overblown. Owens is popularly idealized as "the man who outran Hitler" and who disproved Nazi racial supremacism. But in 1936, America had its own theories of white supremacism. Owens' exploits had little if any effect on either country; Germany still exterminated 6 million Jews and tried to take over the world, while blacks still got treated like dogs or worse in America. The Germans won the medal count in 1936, and US head track coach Dean Cromwell said "the Negro excels ... because he is closer to the primitive than the white man".

Even Owens' 4-medal performance was due at least in part to luck. It was a break from long-held tradition for the 100m champ to run on the relay. And Eulace Peacock owned Owens in 1935, beating him in 7 out of 10 competitions that year; it's likely that Peacock would have been Olympic champ if he hadn't fallen to injury in 1936.

Owens was really good at track--one of the best ever. He was pretty good at the 100, much better at the 200, and the second-best long jumper who ever lived. He was also a really nice guy who didn't publicly fume at the raw deals he got. He was in the right place at the right time to become idealized as a hero. And that's exactly what has happened to him.

Millrose Games

My thoughts on the Millrose Games and its broadcasts...

So last night I'm watching the ESPN2 live coverage, and around 8:45 I finally figure out the Wanamaker Mile won't be on, and I'll have to wait until NBC's tape-delay broadcast to see it. OK, I can deal with that. It's certainly better than last year, when it wasn't on until two days later during the Super Bowl.

Well, today I sit down, turn on the tube, and...no meet. My local station decided to run a zit-cream infomercial instead. This is not the first time they've done this; in fact, they used to cut every meet/road race/triathlon until our local clubs bitched up a storm about it and we finally got to see the NYC marathon and Hawaii Ironman races last fall. But I swear, I'm going to go over there and put my foot in someone's ass.

I didn't get to see the Wanamaker Mile, the women's pole vault, the men's shot or the men's 60m (bad). On the other hand, I didn't have to hear Carol Lewis (good).

The usually-better-than-this Tim Layden took the MSG fans to task for leaving while Isinbayeva attempted a World Record...but he got her first name wrong, and his editors didn't catch the foul-up either. Still, his analysis is worth reading.

Race of the Day: Sounds like the Wanamaker. Lagat won again but it was not easy. Last week I thought Webb looked good. While I didn't get to see him, the stink is that he didn't this week. If any more confirmation was needed, we now know Craig Mottram is the real deal.

UPDATE: Nobby Hashuzime's comment: "from what I have seen so far, Mottram is a very smart runner and Webb is not. Webb seems to have his peak all over the place. There's no doubt that Webb is a very talented runner but, again from what I've seen, he doesn't seem to know when to peak."

Trend: Shawn Crawford is running well again. He says he's not being coached by Trevor Graham anymore. As Mike Wallace would have said, "And you expect me to believe that?"

This Week's TV Complaint: Post-race interviews. Most sports interviews right after the fact are rather pointless, but in track they're even more so. Unlike football, for example, our sport has precious little in the way of strategy. As a result, these interviews are little more than a breathless and sweaty exclamation of platitudes and cliches and the occaissional Lord-thanking. For most meets, I simply tape the show and zip through these mindless exchanges.

At the Edmonton World Championships they had a "media 800", where the athletes turned the table on the writers and broadcasters. Among the humiliations they (deservedly) suffered was having a microphone shoved in their faces as they crossed the finish line.

The Wisdom of Calvin & Hobbes

Whilst doing a two-and-a-half hour long run this morning in truly deoplorable weather, I reflected on this deep thought.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I'll Make a Killing!

There's now online gambling for track & field. Just one problem: since last summer it's illegal to gamble online in the USA.

Over at the old folk's home...er, I mean, the T&FN message board, the discussion includes an overview of the Stawell Gift and the actuarial and economic systems of bookies.

The amateur code was created at least in part due to the corrupting influences of gambling. London's Lillie Bridge track "and associated grandstand was burnt down on 18th Sept 1887 by rioting spectators after a fixed sprint match between Harry Gent and Harry Hutchins did not take place because neither of the participants would agree to lose."

Ohio U update

The following was sent to me via e-mail from a former college teammate. The author is uncredited but obviously the parent of an affected Ohio University athlete.

Below is the majority of an open letter from an OU athlete's parents. I cut out the "my poor son" portions, but thought some of the reported facts might interest you.




Here is what, you as alumni should be upset about and keep hounding the adminstation about from now till the time they come clean or reinstate the program or come to some kind of compromise like Miami did several years ago. This has far more to do with a new football coaching staff that has an insatiable appetite for spending and perks than it has to do with Title IX.

Your athletic director has stated over and over in the media that this has to do with equalling the number of scholarships on the men's side of the equation as the women's side. One of your assitant athletic directors, Amy Dean's mantra was "compliance, compliance, compliance."

By cutting men's indoor and outdoor track (five scholarships), and men's swimming (zero scholarships), and women's lacrosse (12 scholarships), that even with my poor math skills, that's a net gain of seven scholarships on the men's side.

This is about the interest of one football coach, who allegedly (haven't seen it in writing yet) got a $100,000 bonus for taking the team to a bowl game, which the team lost money making the trip. There are several more stories coming from the current track coaches about the football program's largesse in general and while on the road in Mobile. As you know, the football coach and the athletic director both are from the Big 12 Conference and have grand plans for the football program, I guess to lose even more money. The sad part is, both will jump ship the first time a larger school makes them an offer. The coach already interviewed at Minnesota but didn't get the job.

These are just a few of the changes that have come about since he and his staff arrived in Athens:

For the first time ever last year, the athletic department paid to keep the team on campus all summer to help them with academics at an estimeted cost of $100,000. Still, the starting tight end failed "softball" and was ineligible for the first couple of games before fall quarter started. He also was ineligible for the bowl game. New quarter, same results I guess.

For the first time, starting last year, the entire football team and staff began staying at Burr Oak Lodge the night before home games. I don't know what that cost is but 85 players, plus staff, has to add up a good bit faster than relay batons and vaulting poles. Oh, and by the way, in addition to the 85 FULL scholarship athletes, they have another 30 or so walk ons and red-shirts.

For the first time ever the team went to a bowl game, every player had his own room at the Univesity Inn for the month of December while they stayed on campus. At $129 to stay there for one night for home track meets, I wouldn't want that bill. Do the math. It had to be 10's of thousands of dollars. There is a rumor that this announcement, cutting three sports, came when it did, because there was so much money
spent participating the GMAC Bowl two weeks before the cuts.

The round numbers I'm hearing is that football took in $1.9 million dollars in 2006 and spent $4 million. They consume about 30 percent of the overall athletic budget. Indoor and outdoor and cross country combined use slightly less than two percent. And, they are keeping the coaches anyway, so where are all the savings?

On the compliance side, there is a website "womensportsfoundation.org" that had an article that ranked the schools in Div. I-A football conferences that participate in the BCS, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-10 and SEC, and then added the Mountain West and the MAC to the mix to make an eight conference tournment out of this mock
competition. The author did a "tournament" comparing the best school in each conference with regard to Title IX compliance based on 2004 criteria set by The Chronicle of Higher Education. By the way, Ohio was top ranked in the MAC.

To quote the article: "In the tournament involving Title IX compliance, the Ohio University Bobcats of the MAC defeated the Stanford Cardinal of the PAC-10 in the finals to win this mythical national championship." So much for non-compliance.


Based on my experiences at Bowling Green, I would say the only kind of action that will get results is to play hardball and put the AD's job in jeopardy. Diplomacy simply does not work.

Swimming World has a pretty good article. Some choice quotes:

First, the University is not out of compliance with Title IX...So why does the athletic director maintain that his department is not in compliance? I believe there are only two possible explanations: Either his analysis was seriously flawed or there was a deliberate attempt to misstate the facts.

...we have learned that even as the A.D. is crying "poverty," he plans to move on with building a $20 million indoor football practice facility.