The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Effect Will The Election Bring?

Election day is one week away. Well, sort of--there's enough early voting going on around the country that next Tuesday is only nominally election day. To stretch a metaphor, it's no longer the Super Bowl but the seventh game of the World Series.

While my political preferences are no secret (I'm a hard-core political leftist) the question to ponder here is how this election could affect track & field. Most have no affect whatsoever, but there's going to be so much upheaval going on next week that its coattails will even extend into the world of sports.

#1. An Obama Presidency Will Give Chicago A Leg Up on 2016
There are several issues here. First of all, Bush's popularity abroad is just somewhat better than that of Idi Amin's, and a clean break with his ilk can only help Chicago's effort. Generally the aristocrats who run the IOC don't give a damn about public opinion, but it sure can't hurt. There's also the fact that Obama is a Chicago resident; I don't know how much help it is.

But in the eyes of the IOC, Obama's biggest plus is that he's not McCain. Saint John got pretty uppity with the IOC in the wake of the '98 Salt Lake City bribery scandal. He chaired the Senate Commerce Committee's hearings on the affair and even summoned then-president Juan Antonio Samaranch (who, of course, didn't show). The IOC may well have deserved such a working-over, but that doesn't mean they liked it. These kinds of people tend to have long memories and hold grudges...otherwise they wouldn't have gotten themselves into positions of such unchecked power.

I still think Rio is damn near a lock to get the '16 Olympics.

#2. Ted Stevens Goes Down The (Series Of) Tubes
In case you missed it, Stevens was found guilty yesterday on seven counts of corruption, which makes his re-election unlikely. What the heck could this possibly have to do with track & field?

Stevens has been notoriously defensive about his pet projects, even by Senate standards. So if anyone wants to toy around with the Amateur Sports Act you'd have had to go through him..and he's prickly to say the least. The ASA was authored mostly by Stevens in 1978 and broke up the AAU's power. It was updated in 1998 and Stevens was at the helm of that project as well. It is the law to which USATF owes its very existence. As far as the details of the law and whether it needs changing or not, I have no idea. But I do know USATF is in dire need of fundamental change and appears incapable of doing that by itself. If you're going to attack the root of the problem--the very structures and mandates as handed down by the ASA--your #1 roadblock will soon be out of the way.

#3. Race-Baiting Won't Play In A Presidential Election
There's been plenty of this at certain campaign rallies, along with some other sleazy items that mostly sailed under the media radar. An Obama victory would indicate such strategy is less useful than it once was.

This fall we will have an important election for the new president of USATF. The presumed frontrunner, and a year ago considered a lock, is a Columbus resident named Stephanie Hightower. While not as openly using her race for self-advancement as co-clown Brooks Johnson, she is not shy about taking advantage of literally anything that will advance her own interests. She would not be a good president; the usually-sedate Michael Johnson has called her "a bitch on wheels".

Brooks Johnson has already "resigned" his USATF post after getting the message from new USATF CEO Doug Logan; several decent candidates have been emboldened and decided to run against Hightower (and effectively end their USATF careers should they lose). Let's just hope that if race-baiting can't stop Obama, it can't propel Hightower.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why no college students at college track meets?

That's the subject line for a Let's Run message board thread. Some people note lack of marketing, but that's not the heart of the problem. Here's my take...
Let me ask you this...would YOU go to a 6-hour sporting event with no system to determine a winner, and nothing on the line? I don't go to any college invitationals, and I'm about as rabid a T&F fan as there is. Dual, conference, regional, or national meets--I'm there. The rest of 'em don't give a damn whether a single spectator shows up and I'm happy to meet their expectations.
College students don't go to college track meets because it's never been a priority of meet organizers, plain and simple.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We're Not Suffering Alone

Today NBC announced its new cable HD offering, our old friend Universal Sports (formerly WCSN). While celebrating the likely event that my cable provider picks it up, I suddenly had a sobering thought: All Carol Lewis, all the time.

But as Slate reminds us, track isn't alone in being saddled with complete idiots behind the microphone.
Last week, Kruk's SportsCenter segment on the Tampa Bay Rays concluded with the meaningful observation that they are "a special team that can do special things." This would all be more shocking if Kruk wasn't on a baseball broadcast, where such statements are the coin of the realm. While ESPN is the most egregious offender, the pre- and post-game shows on TBS and Fox aren't much better. TBS's cacophonously uninformative production features former pros Dennis Eckersley, Harold Reynolds, and Cal Ripken Jr. yelling excitedly at one another for a half hour, like a better-natured but equally unintelligible version of Crossfire.

And why are we in the same boat as the national pastime?
[W]ith so many fans, football shows can afford to devote screen time to relatively esoteric subjects that will appeal to the die-hards. With baseball's playoff games routinely rated lower than regular-season football, producers have obviously decided to appeal to the dreaded "casual fan."
Which is, of course, self-defeating. Treat a viewer like you don't expect him to come back, and he won't let you down.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I'm Still Alive

Wow--three weeks without a post.

School started, and two weeks into it I was given a schedule of classes totally different than the one I had prepared for, plus I'm coaching a team that I feel deserves a significant share of my attention. In short, I've been barely had time to keep up with the Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart, let alone post the wacky things that travel through my head. No lonesome 20-milers, no deep thought.

I have come across one new thing online that merits mention. Ben Wietmarschen, of Less Than Our Best fame, is writing about college XC for in a feature called The Meat Grinder. Not only is it (intentionally) laugh-out-loud hilarious, it's also (maybe unintentionally) a highly informative guide to the sport's regular season, which to me always appeared about as pointless as regular-season basketball.