The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Searching for a Gym

Over the last ten years I've apparently been spoiled when it comes to gyms. In the small college city where I used to live, there was the university's rec center, a city-run rec center, and literally just two other gyms in the entire city. The one where we had a membership was on the opposite side of town, which meant it took five minutes to get there. And we paid a whopping $40 a month.

In our new place of residence, the old-town part of a large and sprawling suburb, no such luck. Mrs. Superfan has a rundown on the adventure of trying to find a suitable site to hoist iron.

Note: You may recall "YMCA" as the Village People's biggest hit, and that the almost-true story of their creation, "Can't Stop the Music", starred '76 Olympic decathlon champ Bruce Jenner. "Can't Stop the Music" is considered one of the worst films ever made; Jenner was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award in the "Worst Actor" category (inexplicably won that year by Neil Diamond).

A beginning

Promotional Nike poster: free

24 inch by 36 inch poster frame: $19.95 plus tax

First thing that makes my basement bar feel like a real sports bar: priceless

2007 Roundup

The IAAF has its reviews:
Sprints - Middle Distance - Long Distance - Road/Walks - Hurdles - Jumps - Throws - Multis

The EAA has even more

Friday, December 28, 2007

Best (and Worst) of the Year, Part 2

Best newcomer: Donald Thomas

Least honest moment: Marion Jones' "confession"

Most tragic moment: Ryan Shay

Cement-noggin officials award: Paris Golden League steeplechase lap counters

The Track & Field Superfan's Best Moment (aka best thing I saw live & in-person): The battle to the finish at the NCAA Division I Men's Cross Country championships
Honorable mention: Tyson Gay at the USATF meet

Best example of why to tell your coach about injury pain:

Worst example of backbone: British Olympic Association

Best example of why one-off selection meets scare the hell out of Olympic advertisers:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Best of the Year, Part 1

The Superfan's picks for the best for a track fan...

Best in "print" journalism: SI's Tim Layden. He wrote daily at both the USA and World championships plus a few other times. He really gets what track is all about and also has a firm grip on sports' drug problem.

Best in video format: The Worlds coverage by Versus/NBC. Two hours daily, with a minimum of the fluff that drives us all nuts. They also appear ready to cut the abominable Carol Lewis free in favor of Ato Boldon, the best on-air talent to cover track in quite some time. This bodes very well for the coming year of the Trials and Olympics.

Best book: Jeremy Schaap's Triumph got good press coverage. It's a good book but the true fan learns little he didn't already know. Tommie Smith's Silent Gesture has a cool cover photo and that's where it ends.

No, the best book of the year was C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America. It covers the not-quite-famous 1928 Transcontinental Foot Race (aka the "Bunion Derby") and the myriad cast of characters involved. Far and away the most fascinating was the race's promoter, C.C. Pyle, who might be described as a combination of Arli$$, P.T. Barnum, and Don King--colorful, entertaining, and totally untrustworthy; he could be considered the architect of today's big-money sports machines. It's a bit out-of-the-way, but most bookstores have it and a bigger library might have a copy. You won't put it down.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Anti-Doping News

Most every paper in the country ran a short wirestory on Marion Jones today. Most didn't go much beyond saying this:
Marion Jones used several different performance-enhancing drugs over a substantial period of time, according to a detailed doping calendar that was part of several pages of court documents released Friday.
The San Francisco Chronicle tells us a bit more.
To demonstrate the extent of Jones' use of banned drugs, the government filed a set of doping calendars and ledgers that were seized in a raid on the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in Burlingame in 2003.

An accompanying affidavit by IRS criminal investigator Jeff Novitzky said the documents showed Jones regularly used the undetectable BALCO designer steroid known as "the clear," along with human growth hormone, insulin and the blood-doping drug erythropoietin, or EPO. To ensure that she could beat tough Olympic drug tests, Jones had her blood tested for steroids by a private laboratory, the documents showed.
Most sports fans read this as merely info that Jones was doping, which we all knew already. The Chronicle actually does an unusually good job of journalism by carefully explaining why this info has come out: Jones is being sentenced for perjury, and the documents show that she "engaged in a concentrated, organized, long-term effort to use these substances for her personal gain, a scenario wholly inconsistent with anything other than her denials being calculated lies."

So over at the T&FN message board, attack dog Epelle actually posted the documents referred to above. Those calendars are not news; we knew about them some four years ago. But back then Jones' defenders said they could have been created by anyone who had it in for her. To say that now is ludicrous; federal prosecutors don't take risky items to trial as evidence.

But in the bigger picture, it should be noted that the number of times bold accusations of doping are made and do not ultimately turn out to be true are few and far between. Back in the 1986-88 time period, Carl Lewis made statements about steroid use that in retrospect could only have been directed at Ben Johnson. At the time he took a lot of flack for it, but he turned out to be right and I can't recall anyone apologizing to him about the whole thing. And this is only one example.

Friday, December 21, 2007

In The Bleachers, Tank McNamara

Track & Field News annual awards

T&FN has finally gotten the idea of the internet. GH and the gang used to be afraid their mag would be scooped by the newfangled series of tubes. This year they're instead using it to pimp the 61st annual Annual Issue. Yesterday they announced Athlete of the Year top tens (Tyson Gay & Meseret Defar took the top honorses); today they did U.S. Athlete of the year top tens (Gay & Allyson Felix); Sunday they'll do #1-ranked athletes in each event, and Monday they'll to event-by-event top tens. The real fans will want the annual issue in print for all the nitty-gritty details and explanations, and others won't care enough to pick it up anyway. But now they at least called some attention to themselves and built anticipation.

The only award T&FN isn't putting on the web is the Performances of the Year. It's not an award they do much with; you won't see a summary of past year's leaders on their website and I can't recall ever seeing it in the mag. But I gots to have me historical data. So I took a trip down to the university library and I think I've got a complete listing of annual men's POY rankings (five deep) compiled in this Google spreadsheet.

Some background info is in order. T&FN first picked a POY in 1959 (the year they began the AOY honors). The first year I know of anything beyond first place was 1966, when they also picked some honorable mentions. The practice was discontinued after a few years, but starting in 1973 the voting results have been published in each Annual Issue.

Some trivia: Scoring on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis, leaders are Sergey Bubka (23), Carl Lewis (19.5), Edwin Moses (18.5), Haile Gebrselassie (18.33 plus any earned this year), and Michael Johnson (14). . .The Greatest of All Time, Lewis, never had a POY winner. . .No one has ever had three POY winners; only Bubka, Johnson, Said Aouita, Jim Ryun and Liu Xiang have had more than one. . .The highest-scoring event is the 10k (49 5/6 pts), the lowest is the 20k walk (1/2 pt).

I've only compiled the men's rankings. This is due to sexism, but not on my part. T&FN didn't start doing an Annual Issue for women until 1980. Prior to that the job was done by Women's Track & Field World magazine (which finally folded that year), and back in the 50's and early 60's rankings were published privately by Czech statman Jan Popper. If you think finding a library with early holdings of T&FN is difficult, WT&FW is harder on an order of magnitude. Compiling such errata for women is an ongoing project.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sports Bar

For the last two weeks I've been working more or less nonstop on my new house. I've had precious little time to blog or much else (I've missed more days of running in the last 3 weeks than I have all year). So this post is, understandably, about the house.

I moved out of my college town of Bowling Green and into Sylvania, a suburb of Toledo located right on the state line. The move was neccessitated by my wife graduating with her Ph.D. and gaining employment in Ann Arbor (we decided to stay in Ohio so I could keep my job and to remain close to family). Anyway, we moved out of a rather ordinary 3-bedroom 1928 Sears & Roebuck house and into an almost identical 1927 home. We loved the house the moment we saw it, but one detail sealed the deal for me. It has a finished basement with a bar.

I've fantasized about a basement bar for a long time. My plan is to rig it up as "The Bell Lap", the nation's only track & field-themed sports bar. As of yet, my plan hasn't gone much beyond putting up a Hayward Field panoramic photo print and having friends over to watch a lot of track. I'll keep the teeming millions updated with progress reports from time to time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Anti-Doping News

Official pronouncements are that "there has been widespread anabolic steroid use" in the sport for an extended period of time and that "everyone involved...shares to some extent the responsibility for the steroids era". Some athletes were given a heads-up to drug tests. The problem wasn't isolated to one group. The suggested remedy is an outside and independent agency with the ability to investigate even in the absence of a positive test.

Sounds familiar? Nope, it's not about track. It's former senator George Mitchell's report on baseball. In one year, baseball gets to feel all the pain that track has had in dribs and drabs every year since the Carter administration.

Various media outlets are expressing some degree of surprise that Roger Clemens was named as a long-term doper. To those with a grip on reality, it's as much of a surprise as finding out that the government lies and people cheat on their taxes. One of the physical laws of baseball (as proven by Bill James) is that players' performance drops off in their 30s and the dropoff accelerates as they approach 40. Clemens' high levels of performance late in his career is as unnatural as that of Barry Bonds. The only difference is that Bonds is a jackass and Clemens is not; the press gave Clemens a free pass while Bonds' bad attitude more or less began the BALCO investigation.

At least ESPN had the class to put John Kruk on their news coverage; I can't possibly imagine that fat tub of goo using something designed to help him work out harder.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Happy Retirement, Sid Sink

Raise a glass to the man of the evening.

I first met Sid in the fall of 1988. I was a high school senior who was being recruited by Bowling Green State University. Not for athletics--I wasn't any good--but for academics, as I was a National Merit Scholarship finalist. The recruiter found out that I wanted to walk on to the cross country and track teams, so she arranged for me to have lunch with the coach. That lunch taught me everything you need to know about this man.

I thought it was a very big deal that the head coach was going out of his way to meet me. Now I know that Sid simply doesn't turn down a meal on someone else's dime. But while taking advantage of this opportunity, Sid paid attention to me and my interests even though it was obvious I would never help his team. All the years I was on his team and afterwards as well, Sid has always had time for me because he never saw athletes as mere cogs in a sports machine but as real people.

At lunch that day I made a bit of a faux pas. I gushed "Weren't you in the Olympics?", to which Sid replied a short, clipped "no". I thought I'd offended him because I confused him with BGSU teammate Dave Wottle. In fact, Sid was easily good enough to have been a 1972 Olympian; in 1971 he was NCAA and AAU steeple champ, a Pan-Am silver medalist, and set an American record. But sciatica severely hampered his training in '72 and he finished a well-beaten ninth in the steeple trials. He bravely came back and attempted to make the team in the 5000, not his best event, and came up just short in a late charge.

That exchange actually showed that Sid really doesn't feel a need to talk about himself or his own accomplishments; he's quite modest. But it also showed why I and my teammates enjoyed running on his teams. He was still irked by that episode some sixteen years later because of a personalioty trait every speaker tonight talked about--his tremendous competitive desire. Whatever it took to do his best was what he was going to do, and real competitors appreciate that. Thanks, Sid.

I came to Bowling Green the next fall and never left until now. I think it's fate that the movers came to my house this morning, the very same day that we celebrated the end of Sid's 40-year attachment to the University. With the exit of Sid, no one with any connections to the BGSU men's track program is left here. They said they couldn't afford men's track, cut it, and proceeded to spend $2.2 million on a stadium upgrade, $800,000 on artificial turf, and $7.4 million on an athletic center. Yesterday they announced plans for a $38 million "convocation center", aka basketball arena. But they still can't afford men's track.

Yep, it's time for me to go.