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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Ten of the Decade #3

My #3 fan experience of the decade was my trip to the 2008 Olympic Trials.

A sports columnist whose name (and column) escapes me at the moment said that in 2008, track & field in the USA was down on its luck and experiencing hard times of its own making. So like many who have seen the same kind of trouble, it did the only right thing: it went to church. Hayward Field is the cathedral of the sport in America.

Maybe a more apt comparison is Portiuncula Chapel. For those (like me) without deep knowledge of Catholic history, that's the name of the tiny chapel erected near Assisi by St. Francis. Cathedrals are big, overdone wastes of money, the medieval equivalents of today's megachurches. My wife and her sisters were disgusted by the accumulation of wealth in the Vatican; now she teaches at a small Catholic college that regularly uses a recreation of that chapel.

Hayward Field is hardly a giant stadium; to seat more than 20,000 they have to bring in so much extra seating that it spills over onto adjoining roads. To meet management's credit, they decided to make this "bug" into a "feature", and close down the area around the stadium and make it a festival. It was a great idea, allowed beer and food to be served right near your seats, and made for great arial shots on TV.

The stadium itself is old and beautiful. When you walk in, it sounds and looks like waiting in line for an old wooden roller coaster. Its signature roofs brung up memories of the old Tiger Stadium. It is filled with people who are thrilled to be there.

The meet? Great. It's an Olympic Trials, which Garry Hill thinks is the greatest meet in the world. (He's wrong, but not by much.) The thing that stood out most was that it seemed like a gathering of the sport for the entire country. I worked a Running Film Festival where everyone showed up, and I mean everyone. I hung out with people who worked on press row. I ate pizza in the booth next to John Godina; I introduced myself to Rob Myers and had coffee with him.

The most thrilling moment was such a little thing. I'm a teacher and have seen Lean On Me more times than I care to count. During Hazel Clark's victory lap, I stood at the fence next to the track. I looked over my shoulder at one point and saw a very fit but clearly middle-aged woman, who I vaguely recognized. A moment later I figured out she was Hazel's older sister, umpteen-time national champ Joetta Clark. There was an old man with her who exuded a quiet badass attitude. The next time I looked, they were gone. Only then did I realize he was Joe Clark.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Ten of the Decade #4

Coming in at #4 is Universal Sports and its predecessor, WCSN.

Back in 2005, there were no US takers on broadcasting the World Championships. WCSN, which I think was an offshoot of MLB.com, popped up to offer hardcore fans a chance to see the meet. I passed, as my cable provider carries CBC, but some friends said it was fantastic as they used the BBC feed--no commercials and announcers that had multiple brain cells.

Originally this was supposed to be a one-off deal, but they kept the website going for the rest of the season and covered a bunch of late-season invites and the World Athletics Final. It came back the next year with an expanded slate of European indoor and outdoor meets. In 2007 they added other Olympic sports, and in 2008 they started up their own cable channel. By the end of that year, NBC gobbled it up and called in Universal Sports.

Unfortunately, NBC at times uses its own announcers instead of the Beeb's, but mostly they leave well enough alone. They've completely dropped the indoor season, but have done some wonderful coverage of domestic marathons. All in all, it's the best thing to happen to US track fans in a very long time.

ABC/ESPN has announced they're going after the next round of Olympic coverage. If they manage to wrest it away from NBC, I wonder what will happen to Universal Sports. I can't imagine they'd keep pumping money into an Olympic vehicle.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top Ten of the Decade #5

National championships don't come to the Rust Belt very often. When they do, I go. The 2006 and 2007 USATF Championships in Indianapolis come in as my #5 of the decade.

The meets were good, as nationals always are, and not quite memorable, as they never are in non-Olympic years. But that was only part of it. Three or four days of all-day track is great all by itself.

The weird thing about a major multi-day track meet is that the area is crawling with people who are celebrities to you and pretty much no one else. In 2007 I was sitting in Starbucks killing time on Saturday morning and Shalane Flanagan came walking by with her dog. Note: she's even better looking in normal clothes.

Done right, an event like this can really show off a city. In 2006 we didn't get rooms until the week before the meet, so we had to stay in a run-down area, but managed to find a wonderful little neighborhood restaurant. If you're ever visiting Indy, Datsa Pizza is the kind of all-walks-of-life place that I love. And in 2007 we stayed right on Monument Circle. I never knew downtown Indy was such a happening place--highly unusual for a mid-sized Rust Belt city.

The stadium was the same one that hosted the famous 1988 Olympic Trials, where FloJo put on a show and Carl Lewis and Larry Myricks staged one of the greatest long jump battles in history. Unfortunately, the stadium is being torn down.

My fellow travelers liked the experience so much that we may go all the way to Des Moines if they get the USATF meet.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top Ten of the Decade #6

Life in the Rust Belt has a lot of disadvantages. Coming in at #6 is one of the perks, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and its Olympic coverage.

The last three summer games have been so far off US time zones that NBC has seen fit to time-shift coverage of most events. And, of course, it's the typical brain-dead jingoistic crap they've been feeding us for decades.

Our northern neighbors, however, show things live. For Sydney, I got up at 3 AM to see the track finals. Athens and Beijing required morning viewing, too, but for them the sun was already up. I saw the fantastic 2000 Tergat-Gebrselassie 10k duel right before I left for school, and had to keep my mouth shut about it for those who planned to watch it later that day.

CBC is just as centered on their own athletes as NBC is on ours, but there are two fundamental differences. Whereas NBC makes no apology for this, CBC is a tad embarrassed. But also, there just aren't enough top-end Canadians in the Summer Olympics to fill the 20 or so hours a day they broadcast. The combination of these two can lead to some great stuff. For example, in Sydney the Canadians had two finalists in the men's high jump, and they ended up showing every single attempt in the competition, even after Boateng and Boswell were out.

Also, the level of expectations for success are so vastly different. CBC cut into other coverage to go live to the men's shot put in Beijing, because Dylan Armstrong was almost in the bronze-medal position. Almost winning a bronze medal makes you a headline in Canada.

Unfortunately, privately-run CTV will be showing the 2010 and 2012 games, and there is no affiliate in the Detroit/Windsor area. Canada has a Conservative government right now, with too many American-style conservative kooks, and 20% of CBC's operating budget has been cut. You know how that argument goes: government is incapable of doing anything right, except for when they do, in which case we'll screw it up so they can't.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Top Ten of the Decade #7

On Christmas day, I celebrate the single greatest gift I've been given as a track fan.

Six years ago I was asked to be the announcer at our high school's league championship. I can't believe they pay me to do this job. It is not only the best job to have at a track meet, it is the best way to experience a track meet. You know everything, and I mean everything, that is happening. Schedule, start lists, results, team scores, all the moment it is official. I heavily supplement the stuff meet management gives me with my own research. I have profiles of all the top athletes in each event. I have league history dating to 1926.

I use a wireless microphone so I can move around and update field events. Last year I got to cover Erik Kynard's outdoor state record high jump. That was great, but I get just as much a thrill out of announcing a new PR for a run-of-the-mill pole vaulter or other such things. Tracksters so often toil in obscurity just for the reward of success alone, and they deserve recognition for it.

I've noticed that stadium announcers usually do a better job than their TV counterparts. The recent NCAA cross-country championships would have been much better if they'd shut off the talking heads' mikes and just used the PA announcer. Ditto at US championships and Olympic Trials. I don't know why this is, except maybe that meet management won't accept mediocrity while TV does.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Top Ten of the Decade #8

The explosion of the Internet during the last ten years comes in at number eight.

Al Gore invented the Internet long before 2000 (while he was developing the global warming hoax). I had my first Internet account in 1994. But it's usefulness, breadth, and immediacy took off this decade. All the better for track fans.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Ten of the Decade: #9

Coming in at #9 is a personal experience, competing in the Boston Marathon.

In the fall of 2002 I ran my second serious marathon, dropped 20 minutes off my PR and got a Boston qualifier. I sent in my application and booked a room the next day.

I didn't have a particularly good experience from a racing perspective. I overtrained, came in with a nasty cold, and my quads felt beat down by the 10-mile mark. It was not good. I ran 34 minutes slower than my qualifying time. I was so ill afterwards I was running a fever and couldn't eat.

Otherwise, it was tremendous. Boston is an experience like no other. For one, most people in Boston treat you like a celebrity just because you're running. "Oh, you're a marathoner." On the other hand, during the race they treat you just like a pro athlete, which means verbal abuse from literally a million people if you're having a bad day.

One simple thing that was cool was the school bus ride out to the start. As adults, we rarely get the experience of riding a bus to an athletic event. (I do it all the time as a coach, but that makes it different somehow.) I never thought I'd miss it until I had to do it again. I was stuck with a bunch of people I didn't know, but everyone else was too, so we were all pretty friendly.

Upon arrival in Hopkinton, I was part of 20,000 people waiting around and killing time. 150 yards of port-a-johns was not enough. It was weird to see cops telling you where to urinate in public instead of giving you a ticket for it. And in that mass of people, without a cell phone, I managed to meet up with a former college teammate. I remarked to him that it was the whitest group of people I've ever seen in my life. Helaughed and told me to go down to the church where they house the pros where I'd see the blackest.

Boston is the only mega-marathon I've run, but I've done others with upwards of 3,000 entrants. After about 4 or 5 miles the crowds thinned out and I had no trouble at water stations. In Boston, I was still struggling for elbow room in the last mile. Every other race I've done has broad swaths of emptiness where there are no spectators at all. Boston has people lining the course for all of the last 20 miles, and they get thicker and thicker the closer you get to the finish.

I wanted to go in 2003 because the race was on the Monday of my spring break. I stayed in town for a few days afterwards to do the tourist thing. I'm planning on going back in 2011 when another such alignment happens, and thinking about trying to find some off-the-beaten-path things to see.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top Ten of the Decade: #10

This whole blog is about the sport from a fan's experience. So while everyone else counts down the greatest this or that, I'm going to count down my favorite new developments or personal experiences.

Coming in at number ten is the return of the college dual meet. Ten years ago it was down to UCLA v. USC and Stanford v. Cal. Now we've got Oregon-UCLA, Texas-Arkansas, Texas-Texas A&M, Ohio St-Michigan, Iowa-Illinois, and a whole bunch more. Duals are great entertainment and make good press.

Bad Running Movies

I'm a fan of so-bad-they're-good movies, such as Can't Stop The Music. If you do too, you may want to check out this discussion thread.

It sounds as though the one most up my alley is Courage, a sort of Deliverance with ultrarunners in the southwestern desert.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Anti-Doping News

An update on the Anthony Galea situation:
TORONTO — A Canadian doctor known for treating high-profile athletes was charged Friday with conspiring to smuggle human growth hormone and other drugs into the United States, according to documents filed with a Canadian court.

Dr. Anthony Galea, a sports medicine specialist who practices in the Toronto area, is suspected of attempting to bring illegal drugs into the United States between Jan. 1, 2007, and Sept. 14, 2009, according to documents filed at the Ontario Court of Justice.

The drugs listed among the charges are Nutropin, a brand of human growth hormone, and Actovegin, a drug made from calves’ blood that is not approved for sale in Canada or the United States. Human growth hormone is considered a performance-enhancer in sports and is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
...
In the United States, federal investigators are seeking to determine whether Galea has provided performance-enhancing drugs to top athletes. The New York Times reported Friday that [his assistan Mary Anne] Catalano, who is cooperating with investigators, has told authorities in the United States that Galea did provide such drugs to athletes.
No one is going easy on Tiger Woods these days, yet the first NY Times article on the case ran a Dara Torres photo ahead of a Woods photo. Both are among the athletes Galea has worked with, and such is the level of distrust of a 40-year-old woman with the abs of a 20-year-old man.

The only track name that has surfaced so far is Donovan Bailey. It should be noted that unlike Victor Conte and BALCO, Galea is an M.D. and some athletes have gone to him for undeniably legitimate purposes. But when a guy proudly states he takes HGH to keep up with his 22-years-younger wife, you get the idea that his bounds of propriety aren't quite the same as yours and mine. So possibly he's known on the down-low as a guy who will get you what you want.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sport and Nationalism

In the current issue of Sports Illustrated, Stephen Colbert (the person, not the character) gets it all wrong.
"My character is a patriot, and he believes that the Olympics are war," the comedian says of his TV alter ego, the self-aggrandizing, jingoistic spawn of Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter who hosts Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. "It's a way to prove who's got the best country. Only nobody gets hurt."
Oh, how little he understands. His character is not misguided--on this point he's absolutely right.

I just got back from seeing Invictus, which is over two hours of people trying to prove that their pariah nation really is just as good as all the others. Oh yeah, there's all that national unity crap, but nationalism is a prerequisite for the unity. Otherwise South Africans would see no reason to cheer for the South African team over all the others. The real triumph of Nelson Mandela was to get blacks to see themselves as South Africans, and thus the importance of preserving the republic and its form of government rather than tearing it down through civil war.

You think nationalism is overblown? Let me tell you a story. In 1996 the Olympic torch relay came through the small college town I was living in. My wife and I went out to see it with a bunch of grad student friends of hers. As the torch approached, they broke out into cheers of USA! USA! USA! These were creative writing students, the biggest bunch of anti-authoritarion pot-smoking slackers I've ever seen, and even they were spouting nationalism at the very sight of an international act of peace and brotherhood.

Patriotism and nationalism are close, but not the same thing. When patriotism gets ugly it turns into nationalism. Yesterday Fox News brought us a specific example of this. Glenn Beck insulted India's health care system (which strikes me as odd, considering how many MDs are Indian), and then in his "apology" he pissed on Usain Bolt, saying "Not only do I not know who this guy is, I don't even know what flag that is. It's like a vacation country. Is that Jamaica? Does anybody know? Jamaica. Apparently he runs fast."

He should know who Usain Bolt is. In August, The Daily Show's John Oliver said of Glenn Beck "We can't compete with him. He's out on his own now. He is the Usain Bolt of whackjobs."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Colbert and Olympic Sport

Stephen Colbert appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. Yes. Seriously. I am not making this up--I'm not that good with Photoshop.

He's earned such a distinction by getting his Colbert Nation to cover a $300,000 shortfall in U.S. Speedskating's budget when their main sponsor blinked out of existence.
It could... be a new funding model for the USOC and its individual governing bodies. With the pool of corporate sponsorship getting shallower in the recession, niche sports are searching for new revenue streams. Instead of relying on handouts from mammoth companies, why not appeal directly to small but passionate fan bases? Says Rob Prazmark, the CEO of 21 Marketing and an expert in Olympic sponsorships, "When Colbert did this, all of us in the business went, Why didn't we think of that?"
Would I contribute some coin to help out USATF? I already do, as a member of the organization, and don't get much for my trouble. Of course, the same thing could be said about my "memberships" in public radio and my local museum of art. In those, it's understood that my relationship with the organizations are primarily, if not exclusively, as a source of funds.

If there were a specific fund-raising campaign I'd be more inclined to do something about it. Say, for example, to get lower-level IAAF events to come to the USA. Things like the World Juniors, the Continents Cup, the World Indoor or World Cross Country, or the like. Especially if the plan was to eventually build to a World Championships.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Anti-Doping News

I've said many times that the front line in anti-doping is now law enforcement. More proof:

The F.B.I. investigation of Dr. Anthony Galea, a sports medicine specialist who has treated hundreds of professional athletes across many sports, follows his arrest on Oct. 15 in Toronto by the Canadian police. Human growth hormone and Actovegin, a drug extracted from calf’s blood, were found in his medical bag at the United States-Canada border in late September. Using, selling or importing Actovegin is illegal in the United States.

Dr. Galea is also being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for smuggling, advertising and selling unapproved drugs as well as criminal conspiracy. He is tentatively scheduled to appear in a Canadian courtroom on Friday.

Who does he work with? Tiger Woods and Dara Torres are two of the bigger names.

Person of the Year?

This is different. The IAAF reports that Usain Bolt is one of the ten finalists for TIME's Person of the Year. Boy, if he won, that would be a big "F*** You" to Sports Illustrated, wouldn't it?

He's got to be a long shot, though. No athlete has ever won the award, and he's up against much more deserving people: Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, and Iran Protesters to name just a few.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Santa Speedo Run

ESPN's Page 2 covers The Hub's second-most important annual road race.

Key quotes:

"We were sitting around one Thursday night at the bar, and somebody said, 'We should do something fun and stupid like we used to when we were younger.'"

"There are rare opportunities where you get to be a complete idiot, yet do good and raise money."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bear with my test

I can post from my iPhone. Not a particularly useful thing most of the time, but great for uploading pics and video while away from my laptop.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Superfan and the iPhone

I finally got my iPhone yesterday – it had been on backorder – and it is the shizz.

The Trackgeek 2010 app was the first one I downloaded. It’s pretty good. The twitter feed, photos, videos, and schedules are great. The schedule section is especially well-made; it’s broken down into simple yet complete subdivisions, and each race or meet listing takes you straight to the competition’s official website.

Its drawback is the news feed, which is significantly short of regular reads. For example, it lacks Runner’s World’s Daily News, the single best online digest. Its sample pages showed Let’s Run among its news sources, but so far there’s nothing taken from there either. Basically: good framework, content could be better.

I find the general lack of track/running/Olympic apps puzzling. AT&T is one of the major sponsors for USATF as well as many other Olympic-sport NGBs and Universal Sports. The only reason to have AT&T wireless service is the iPhone. Developing iPhone apps isn’t terribly difficult—amateurs do it all the time. So why haven’t these entities simultaneously helped themselves and their sponsor in a cheap and easy way?

Even the really well-made websites out there, such as iaaf.org and runnersworld.com, don’t have mobile pages. I guarantee you one thing: if Tom Borish was still at the helm of a website, it would have a mobile page and an iPhone app. Essentially no one else with the resources to do something with it is as forward-thinking as he is, and that’s a huge drawback for our sport.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Your Morning Links

RW Daily News has the main headlines, including the ever-present Marion Jones.

Michael Johnson says Usain Bolt should try the 400, and also says track is on a major decline in the USA. Master of the obvious!

GalxoSmithKline will pay for the London 2012 drug testing lab. The money, 10 million pounds, is astronomical by anti-doping standards but spare change to a pharmaceutical company. Seems odd, but the cooperation of a drugmaker cannot be a bad thing (unless they try to control things, which would result in huge bad press for them). In a related and very important development, WADA is ready to start its blood passport program.

Oregon is already selling NCAA Championships tickets.

Canuck Bruny Surin is going into master's competition with an eye on breaking records.

A long list of proposed USATF bylaws changes...discuss.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide

It's time once again for the rundown of things you can buy for the track fan in your life. (Get the hint, Mom?)

IAAF Wall Calendar
Calendars are boring gifts...unless you have to order them from Monaco. Usain Bolt and eleven other world champions grace the pages. $12, order from IAAF.



Born To Run
The best widely-available track book of the year, it does the impossible: it makes ultramarathoning interesting. $15, Amazon.com.



Arkansas Track & Field T-Shirt
Does your fan love college track, but hate Oregon/Nike with a fury usually reserved for the Yankees? Fayetteville might be the real Track Town USA, and they sure have won a lot more. $17.95, Arkansas team fan shop.


USA Track & Field Golf Balls
If you can't be at a track meet, the next best way to while away the hours is on a golf course. Consider them very tiny shots, and tee off with your best Adam Nelson act. You'll get noticed. $24 for a dozen, USATF.org.



Track & Field Necktie

Hey, if you've got to wear a tie, go in style. Or something. Well over a hundred different styles to choose from. $29.95, zazzle.com.



Marathon Picture Poem Mat
If you hate your track fan, or they're bulimic and you want to help them vomit, this is a perfect gift. (Just click on the link and start reading and you'll understand what I mean). Screams "self-absorbed yuppie." $89.99, giftsforrunners.com.

Your Morning Mug o' Links

Slow news weekend in terms of T&F.

RW Daily News has what headlines there are.

Weekend results of big time pro XC: IAAF permit meet in Soria, Spain; EAA permit meets in Lisbon, Portugal and Roeselare, Belgium; Athletics Kenya meet near Nairobi.

Brett Larner does some stat work comparing young US and Japanese runners.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Very Cool Photos

Brought to my attention by Dr. Jonas Mureika on the T&FN message board. Old pictures from the 1932 LA Olympics. Very, very cool.

Track, LA

I happened across an article at ESPN.com titled Can a non-NBA fan be converted? The schtick is a columnist who last cared about pro basketball in the 8th grade goes to both a Clippers and a Lakers game to see if the experience is worth it.

The importance here is in relation to the death of the adidas Classic at SoCal's Home Depot Center. The meet has been horribly attended and poorly covered and deserved its death. Writer Geoff LaTulippe sheds some insight when he describes the crowd at a Lakers game:
I hated most of the people I encountered at this game, and that's for one reason and one reason only: This is L.A., and the poseurs content of any remotely acclaimed public event is high. Wannabe high rollers in sportcoats. Chicks in high heels. Ed Hardy shirts. Little dogs in purses. I loathe the existence of these people -- those who go to a game not for the game, but to be seen. The Lakers' season is like a 41-game convention for the abhorrent. And sadly ... they're the huge chunk of the attendees.

There was someone sitting in the front row near someone else who might or might not have been Kevin Connolly who got up and walked out at one point; Alison brought him to my attention. Dude was wearing a wool hat, a leather jacket and a scarf. A scarf. A scarf at an indoor sporting event in Los Angeles. Oh my God.

I knew Lakers games attracted the attention seekers like crazy-lame moths to a candle, but I didn't realize how completely they inundated the place.
With the outstanding exception of the Texas Relays, a track meet is simply not a place you go so people can look at you. Ditto for a football game. So it's no accident that both track and the NFL have beat an exit from L.A. And neither seems to be much the worse for it.

Yeah, track in the USA has its problems. But the lack of pro-level competition in Los Angeles simply isn't an important issue. Track does have a major presence in New York, which is the media capitol of the world; that the Millrose Games is a sad shadow of what it used to be is far worse for track than its absence in SoCal.

Sign of the Apocalypse

California will have a state high school indoor track championships this coming February.

Yeah, it's only an exhibition...but still, if there's a state in the union that's made its fortune on the idea of outdoor activity any day of the year, it's California.

The meet will be in Fresno on February 5th and 6th. Average high: 60 degrees.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Track iPhone App!

For a while my wife and I have kicked around the thought of getting iPhones. She's had the iPod Touch for a while, which she described as "the iPhone gateway drug". We put it off because we had another year on our current mobile phone contract and weren't really interested in the cost of breaking it.

Just three hours ago my wife found out our contract actually expired two months ago. Our iPhones were ordered in short order afterwards. They'll be here on Monday.

And about ten minutes ago I discovered the first track news iPhone app: TrackGeek. Awesome!

The Hilarity, The Hilarity

This is too precious. Sarah Palin did a Turkey Trot 5k yesterday in Kennewick WA. The Tri-City Herald reports:
Palin had announced on Twitter that she would be running the 5k race organized by the Benton-Franklin Chapter of the Red Cross. She didn't finish the race, opting to leave the course early to avoid more crowds at the end.
(emphasis added)

Wow. Somebody has a complete lack of self-awareness.

All-Time Greats Rankings

Here's what I have right now. Bear in mind the following:
No pre-1947 results are considered
Athletes with a * could earn more points as I work on pre-1962 AOY rankings
I'm still totalling numbers and I'm almost certainly missing some athletes
Women are in the works, but will require quite a bit of research

1 Haile Gebrselassie 309.16
2 Carl Lewis 297
3 Segey Bubka 283
4 Emil Zatopek * 265.5
5 Edwin Moses 253.5
6 Hicham El Guerrouj 247.5
7 Michael Johnson 242
8 Jan Zelezny 214.5
9 Yuriy Syedikh 208
10 Noureddine Morceli 203.5
11 Said Aouita 203
12 Kenenisa Bekele 202
13 Randy Matson 200
14 Janis Lusis * 193.5
15 Seb Coe 191
16 Virgilijus Alekna 187.5
17 Daley Thompson 185
18 Kip Keino 184
19 Ralph Boston * 182
20 Viktor Sanayev 180.5
21 Parry O'Brien * 178
22 Maurice Greene 177.66
23 Dan O'Brien 177.5
24 Jonathan Edwards 177
25 Udo Beyer 176.5
26 Wilson Kipketer 175
27 Ron Clarke 174
28 Colin Jackson 172
29 Javier Sotomayor 169.5
30 Moses Kiptanui 168.5
31 Frank Shorter 160
31 Bill Toomey 160
33 Steve Backley 156.5
34 Valeriy Brumel * 151
35 Alberto Juantorena 150.5
36 Renaldo Nehemiah 149.5
37 Allen Johnson 149
38 Khalid Khannouchi 148.5
39 Igor Astapkovich 148
39 Peter Snell * 148
41 Larry Myricks 147.5
42 Bruce Jenner 147
43 Mike Conley 145.5
44 Janusz Sidlo * 145
44 Jim Ryun 145
46 Dwight Stones 143.5
47 Mike Powell 142.5
48 Greg Foster 142
48 Wolfgang Schmidt 142
50 Tomas Dvorak 141.5

All-Time Greats Scoring Sample

Nourredine Morceli is my example. His career rankings...
Year 1500 3k 5k AOY POY Total Pts
1990 1



10
1991 1 1
6
15 (10 for 1500m, 5 for AOY)
1992 1



10
1993 1 1
1 2 24 (10 for 1500m, 10 for AOY, 4 for POY)
1994 1 1 1 1 1 25 (10 for 1500m, 10 for AOY, 5 for POY)
1995 1 2
4 5 18 (10 for 1500m, 7 for AOY, 1 for POY)
1996 1

10
11 (10 for 1500m, 1 for AOY)
1997 5



6
1998 4



7
1999 5



6


Even in a year where he ranked in multiple events, Morceli can't score more than 10 points from them. If this practice were not in force, athletes who specialized in one event couldn't possibly compare.

The only way Morceli gets more than 10 in a year is if he made the top ten in the Athlete of the Year rankings (scored 10 for #1 on down to 1 for #10) or the top five in the Performance of the Year rankings (5 points for #1 on down to 1 for #5).

For his career totals, we take his best 4-year span, total it, and double. That's '93 to '96.
(24+25+18+11)*2 = 156
We take the rest of his best eight-year span ('90 to '97) and add that in.
156 + (10+15+10+6) = 197
And then the rest of his career is taken at half value.
197 + (7+6)/2 = 203.5

Why do I do it this way? There's a wide variance in career length between athletes, especially when comparing those from different generations. The Olympic cycle meant that most athletes would stick it out for a quadrennium. So that's considered the most important.

Being able to keep up greatness for a longer period of time does help, though, so I took a longer view at a lower level. Beyond eight years is pure longevity, which should just pad an athlete's numbers.

Next up: my current top 50...

Who Are The All-Time Greats?

This is something I've pondered on for many years. My long-time goal was to come up with track's version of Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract. But there are multiple problems with this, not the least of which is my having a full-time job and being fairly lazy. But also, track simply does not lend itself to the same kind of statistical analysis that baseball does.

Which is not to say that it cannot be analyzed statistically; it just includes FAR more variables than a man only equipped with an undergraduate math degree could ever deal with. For example...

1) Major championships. We all know the Olympics are a huge deal, but not all Olympic finals are equal. In '76, '80 and '84 they were compromised by boycotts, and some events more than others. In 1992 the decathlon was compromised by the USA's do-or-die team selection system. In 1948 the decathlon was compromised by the absence of the USSR. And literally hundreds more examples can be found among major international championships. Accounting for them all boggles the mind.

2) There are lots of other competitions besides international championships. How do you account for all of those?

3) World records are important in track, but not all world records are equal. There have been spates of records at times (example: introduction of fiberglass poles) and droughts at others. Which is better, Uwe Hohn's massive javelin throw of 343' 10" in '84 under the old specs or Jan Železný's 323'1" under the current ones? And what about the obvious effects of stricter doping control? Yikes.

Fortunately, I don't have to balance all these things. A committee does that for me every year, and has done so since 1947. Track & Field News' annual World Rankings sorts it out for me. I use those rankings.

So here's what I do. I compile a career rankings record for each athlete. I assign points for that ranking (10 for #1 on down to 1 for #10). An athlete's best four-year span gets doubled. The remainder of their best eight-year span gets added in. And any points earned outside that eight-year window go in at half value.

If an athlete ranks in multiple events in one year, as often happens with sprinters and distance runners, only their best ranking counts.

Now, not all #1 seasons are equal. Some are strong (example: Jim Ryun in the mile in '67) and some are not. How is this taken into consideration?

Well, every year T&FN also comes up with an Athlete of the Year. Not just an AOY, but a top ten ranking for them. They also choose a Performance of the Year, and I've kept track of their top five. Athletes can earn additional points from these.

Problem: AOY choices were only made from '59 to the present, and top tens only from '65. POY choices have an even shorter history. In the November 1969 issue of T&FN, co-founder Cordner Nelson made retroactive picks for AOY going back to 1947, but didn't fill out a top ten. So I'm in the process of doing so, a task I'm doing carefully and none too quick.

What about prior to 1947? There's a man out there working on what he calls "retro-rankings" and is darned good at them. But he's in no hurry to release them to the public. I'm working on it.

Next up...a scoring sample.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Random News & Views

...Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay are going to race each other in NEW YORK CITY! And negotiations to bring Asafa Powell into the mix are ongoing.

...The Reebok Grand Prix is dead, long live the adidas Grand Prix. That New York stop on the Diamond League has switched title sponsors and already has its event list up on its website.

...Bolt says his car wreck last spring made him focus.

...Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones kept their drugs in the fridge next to their vegetables. As tight-lipped as Jones has been, admitting only what she was forced to by the courts, Monty has told all while in the jailhouse. The extended story is quite worth reading.

...Meb Keflezighi was in this morning's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He was on a float with Miss America and was a full head shorter than her.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Your Morning Link Feast

RW Daily News has the main headlines, mostly more NCAA XC stuff.

Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden nominates Usain Bolt for his magazine's Sportsman of the Year, to be announced next Monday. And Arne Ljungvist, the IAAF's anti-doping expert, is certain that Bolt is clean.

World XC champ Gebre Gebremariam will compete at the Great Edinburgh International Cross Country on January 9, which is usually the most competitive XC invitational of the year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Things I Think I Think About XC Nationals

I went to the NCAA D-III championships on Saturday, and the D-I championships on Monday. Random thoughts...

...D-III fans are nuts. In a good way. The kind of crazy getups NFL fans don aren't that unusual for this crowd. Plus, they get to run around like a bunch of crazy kids...which they are.

...The meet was in Highland Hills, and required some police presence for traffic control. I saw a white-haired cop working and thought "I know that guy...where do I know him from?"I chatted with him for a moment. Yep, Jerry Skeabeck, a former contestant on The Biggest Loser.

...On Sunday I met up with some friends and drove over to Indiana. We stayed at a hotel on the DePauw campus, about 45 minutes away from Terre Haute, as did a few teams.

...What's with college XC coaches? Most of them look like freaks. An unnamed team staying at our hotel has a coach who looks like an uglier, scruffier version of Billy Bob Thornton. Minnesota was there, too, and we figured they didn't have a chance because Steve Plasencia looks too normal. They were 24th.

...I thought one race would be close and the other would be an ass-whuppin' of epic proportions. Turns out I was right but on the wrong race. This is Chelanga's lead at about 5 miles:

McNeil ran the second half faster than Chelanga, though.

...Let's Run gave Oklahoma State the favorite status, noting they were significantly superior by any measure save current-season performance. By the same evaluation, Oregon was #2. And that's how they finished.

...Chelanga is a tiny man. At 5' 6 1/2", I rarely see over anyone's head, but when he ran a few inches in front of me he only came up to my nose.

...When I saw Jenny Barringer hit the ground, I presumed it was an injury. Turns out it was almost certainly a panic attack. Seems odd for that to happen to the most experience and battle-tested athlete in the whole race.

...Both Let's Run and Versus overlooked Angela Bizzari in pre-race analysis, instead focusing on Barringer and Susan Kuijken. Yet when it was all over, an NCAA title in a 6k race went to the reigning NCAA 5k champ. Why was this surprising to anyone? Maybe because she wasn't an XC title contender at any time in the past and hadn't made her breakthrough until track season. Or maybe because she didn't win the Big Ten championship. But any reasonable analysis should have put her as the only athlete with a chance at beating Barringer.

...Two of the guys I went with are a pair of grizzled old men who put on a decent-sized high school cross country meet (3000+ runners). They came away most impressed not by the athletes but by the facility.One of them grumbled about how Terre Haute's facility wouldn't be acceptable to the OHSAA for their state championships, what with all the people running around the course and having fun and loving cross country.

...Barringer is virtually the only Jennifer I've ever heard of not born between 1970 and 1972.

...For several years we've seen a resurgence of Americans in the men's race at the NCAA championships. Then this year a Kenyan dominated with a Brit second. Derrick and Fernandez are on the horizon but not yet in the foreground.

...Speaking of Fernandez, what's the deal? 97th? It sounds like he battled injury all season, trying to help the team, and ran out of gas here. Had an NCAA title not been in the works, he likely would have redshirted. I'm sure many observers think he should have, but raising a championship trophy over your head is something many great runners have never been able to do. Fernandez likely chose OSU in part because he wanted to do that.

...Fantasy leagues are the greatest thing that's happened to sports since TV. Three of us did one for the two races, each picking two individuals and two teams in both the men's and women's races and totalling our best five results. I got shelled. One of my friends is a stats teacher and (of course) had a random number generator on his iPod Touch, so we used it to decide our draft order. It picked a number between 1 and 100; I went first and got 98 and yelled "Beat that, bitches!" J.J. stepped up next and got 99.

...I just saw the TV coverage. There's significant bitching about it at the T&FN message board, and while I've seen better I've also seen worse. Plusses: live, in HD. Minuses: Hello? McFly? It's called a steady cam!

...The usual knuckleheads, Larry Rawson and Lewis Johnson, did their usual poor announcing job. It was amusing that you could clearly hear the PA announcer during the meet, and was outclassing the Versus crew by a mile. I say next time leave those two at home and plug in to the public address system!

Your Morning Linktopia

I'll have my roundup of the weekend's NCAA championships later today--I went to two of the three.

RW Daily News has the main headlines, mostly NCAA XC championships. Flotrack has a lot of coverage.

Steve Hooker likes the new Diamond League, which will include three Bolt/Gay clashes. The Prefontaine Classic could do very well in the new DL format. Dwain Chambers won't be able to take part due to his past doping.

A dozen more athletes have signed up for USATF's super-doping-control program, while Narion Jones made hollow pronouncements about not making bad choices.

Germany finally reinstated Gretel Bergmann as a one-time national record holder.

Friday, November 20, 2009

From Weird Earl's

Weird Earl's is an archive of links to web "curiosities" on the Straight Dope home page. A recent link takes us to the Squished Penny Museum. I have to admit I collect these things...or rather it was decided I collected them. My wife came back from a business trip with a few of these and said "You collect these, right?" No. "Well, you do now."

I've got them from the Empire State Building, the Hemingway House, and the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad to name just a few. But I don't have this one:Huh. Didn't even know it existed.

Your Morning Linkpile

RW Daily News has the main headlines, including NCAA cross country championship previews.

Sports Illustrated's David Epstein weighs in on the latest in the Caster Semenya saga. He also weighs in on the latest in the Oscar Pistorius saga, and the Science of Sport guys look at it too.

Britain's Telegraph notes how Americans are running off the recession in a big way.

The IAAF cross country season starts tomorrow. Let's Run previews the women's race at Monday's NCAA championships, and the Runner's Tribe previews the men's race.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Your Morning World o' Links

RW Daily News has the main headlines.

The IAAF released a statement that they're not yet making a statement on the Caster Semenya case. But the South Africans just released one saying she's keeping her gold medal and prize money. This whole thing is not even close to being over.

The Science of Sport guys react to a new study on Oscar Pistorius' advantage. As usual, they take a long and thoughtful look at complex data.

Christian Cantwell talks about defending his world indoor title, and Carmelita Jeter is making noise about the 60 meter world record.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Your Morning Linkpedia

RW Daily News has all the headlines: USATF Hall of Fame inductees, the beginning of the IAAF cross country season, and the Boston Marathon is already filled up.

And then there's this one: Runner's World has gotten into a bit of a controversy over some fitness photos of Sarah Palin that ran on their website and subsequently went on the cover of Newsweek. Should RW have done things differently? Only in that they shouldn't have had anything to do with that woman. Dealing with her in any way brings unavoidable political theater, and if it's not what you want then steer well clear.

The IOC has finally stripped Rashid Ramzi of his Olympic gold medal.

Usain Bolt is now officially a sports superstar: he was in a "This is SportsCenter" commercial. In other news, he's throwing a big giant par-tay.

A proposed Comcast-Universal Sports merger may pave way for an Olympic channel.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interesting Read

Not often you find these in the snarkfest that is Let's Run's message board, but the one about training at 2 or 3 or 4 AM is worth a click.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Your Morning Linkstravaganza

RW Daily News has the main headlines.

WADA is celebrating its tenth birthday, and it's had a significant effect. And a big-time steroid dealer in Florida got busted.

Franklin Field, the home of the Penn Relays and one of the nation's great stadiums, has been given a serious update.

Follow track athletes on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Intersection in My Venn Diagram

Shannon Robury wrote a piece for Huffington Post. While it's for a left-wing political site, what she wrote could just as easily been part of a Get Motivated! seminar.

Your Morning Link Dump

RW Daily News has the main headlines.

USADA chief Travis Tygart says rogues are the main problem in doping, not institutions. And Sureyya Ayhan Kop's lifetime ban is upheld.

Sesame Street is turning 40, and the show's running-related highlights are noted. Missing: the Sesame Street News segment covering the tortoise v. hare race, a classic. There's more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Your Morning Link-o-Rama

RW Daily News has all the top headlines, including the finalists of IAAF Athlete of the Year.

The Kenyan cross country season got underway in Machakos.

The AIMS symposium looked at the successes and potential of charity running.

SPIKES mag profiles world decathlon champ Trey Hardee.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Internet Problems

Jeff MacGregor's column at ESPN's Page 2 tries the old Larry King People News & Views format this week. My favorite line:
… Some days the Internet is just a dump truck full of stupid careening through your rumpus room, isn't it? …
Oddly applicable, too. Today I got a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer on the other side of the country telling me some moron posted a nasty false comment on this blog about a track club coach. How do I know it's false? 'Cause the lawyer said so.

Anyway, at first I was pretty confused, until I figured out the text in question wasn't even written by me. I deleted it faster than Bill Curtis can connect to the internet. So comments are going to be moderated pretty closely from here out.

Your Morning Link-o-rama

RW Daily News has all the headlines...slow weekend, aside from high school cross country.

Martin Bingisser sent me this one: a review of The Throwing Pope, a Hungarian documentary on hammer guru Pal Nemeth. Better brush up on your Magyar, though; the only currently available edition doesn't even have English subtitles.

The European XC season got underway this weekend, with (surprise) two Ethiopians winning.

Scott Bush ponders.

RunZoom shows us what happens when sprinters attack.

The Sowetan says cheaters still prosper. But WADA is looking at a new EPO test.

Toronto will host the 2015 Pan-Am Games. I wonder if I can talk my wife into an extended trip to Toronto...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Paav Nurmi Biography in English

You'd think that the guy who was possibly the single greatest pre-WWII track & field athlete would have a biography in English. But according to Cam Bowie at the T&FN message board, there's only one and it's relatively new.
Paavo Nurmi was the greatest Olympic athlete of the first half of the twentieth century. Winner of nine gold medals, he dominated longdistance races at three Olympic Games and overshadowed a fourth, having been refused a chance to crown his career with victory in the marathon in Los Angeles 1932 in one of the greatest causes celèbres of the amateur era.One of the most famous sports personalities of his time, Nurmi filled stadiums all over Europe and coast to coast in America.
It's 27 Euros (about $40) and only available through the Sports Museum of Finland. Bowie suggests e-mailing Pia Arvo (pia.arvo@stadion.fi), as negotiating online shopping through a foreign country and in Finnish is beyond all but the most international of us.

This will go on my "I'll get it sooner or later" list.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

RW and Greatest Distance Runners Ever

I've not seen the article, but from Let's Run...
In the December 2009 issue, RW, in a heading "Best Male Distance Runner of All Time" lists Haile Gebrselassie as the greatest. The 4 on their honor roll are; Bekele, Roger Banister, Frank Shorter and...

Jim Ryun? one silver medal in 2 Olympics, ahead of such runners as;
Coe
Zatopek
Yifter
Keino
Nurmi
Viren
Bikila
Rono
El Guerrouj
Tergat

What are they smoking?
Thus follows four pages of arguments, some lucid, most not. Like I said, I didn't read the article, so I don't know the thought processes behind the choices. But I cannot come up with a situation in which I agree.

In terms of pure accomplishments, Ryun doesn't belong in the top ten. At his best--1966 and 1967--he was totally dominant. But if that's the criteria, the absence of Nurmi and Zatopek is curious. They were just as dominant, for a much longer time, and against better competition. Even among English-speaking milers with short-term domination, he's at least equaled by Herb Elliot.

The most commonly argued reason for including Ryun is cultural impact. (It's the only conceivable reason why Bannister is included.) Ryun (along with a bunch of others) inspired a generation of Americans to be runners. But again, he's beaten by several who were left out. The cultural impact of Abebe Bikila and Kip Keino on their respective nations literally cannot be overstated, and Hannes Kolehmainen may have single-handedly tipped a nascent Finnish independence movement into war.

Don't get me wrong. Ryun was a great runner. But the article in question simply can't have been done in more than five minutes.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Your Morning Link-o-Rama

RW Daily News runs down the major headlines -- including the sakcing of Athletics South Africa head Leonard Cheune over his lies in the Semenya affair.

Speaking of which, an South African athletes' meeting was halted due to the disruption of a number of drunk individuals.

Usain Bolt hasn't yet negotiated his Diamond League contract...and that's not good.

Apparently, Texas A&M's indoor facility wasn't built to code. It hosts the NCAA indoor championships. The Aggie AD responds.

I said I was done with this, but Brian Cazanueve's article on running nationality is very, very good.

A new book claims Juan Antonio Samaranch was a KGB agent. I wouldn't be surprised; he was a fascist under Franco.

Tyson Gay addresses US relay woes.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Discussion-Ender

The Is-Meb-Really-American crap has officially passed out of the realm of criticism and into the realm of ridicule.

Guess I'm A Sports Dufus

ESPN's Page 2 has a column listing the 20 things that make you look like a sports dufus.
Sooner or later, every last one of us ends up looking like a sports doofus -- casting sound social judgment overboard, setting sail with the tempestuous winds of passionate fandom, dropping anchor in the murky waters of athletic-related behavior that comes across as utterly ridiculous.
And I'm guilty of one of them.
11. Running in a rainstorm

Dubious behavior: Lacing up your $100-plus ergonomic distance shoes, throwing on a sweat-wicking top and going for a long run in the pouring rain.

Doofus factor: Moderate. On one hand, it's hard to fault the dedication of someone willing to exercise in inclement weather, particularly when physical fitness helps ease the burden on our overtaxed health care system; on the other hand, there was only one Steve Prefontaine, and you're not exactly reducing health costs when you're subsequently hospitalized with severe bronchitis.

Suggested solution: One word: treadmill. Two more: indoor track.

Mitigating circumstances: Your local television weatherman meteorologist got it wrong. Which basically excuses everyone.

Related behaviors: Golfing in a rainstorm, the way Tiger Woods did in that commercial.
And I know why I do this. Because, as explained in #10 Wearing baseball pants to play slo-pitch softball, I am "someone whose uncontrollable, indiscriminate competitive fire would be better suited on a driving and/or firing range."

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bizarre Meb Issues

So when I saw Meb Keflezighi pull away from Robert Cheruyiot on Sunday, I thought "This is exciting and something I've never seen." I got chills down my spine.

I never thought it would end up on the Rec List at Daily Kos.

I still don't think it's necessarily racist (although I wouldn't count it out), just ignorant.

One comment said "None of these so-called "American born" runners donned a USA singlet on Sunday, choosing instead to wear the colors of their corporate sponsors. Only Meb wore "USA" across his chest." I'd point out that Meb did, in fact, wear his corporate sponsor's colors: Nike provides official Team USA gear, and everything Meb wore on Sunday, right down to his hat and gloves, had a swoosh on it. But still, the USA was larger than the logo.

Your Morning Link-o-Rama

RW Daily News has all your Meb Keflezihi headlines.

The NY Times examines the "Meb isn't American" crap. Amazing how a few trolls can get into the pages of the old grey lady.

He's American enough to do Letterman's Top Ten list, though--Top Ten things that go through your mind when running the NYC Marathon. An above-average series of jokes, too.

Boston might be next for Meb. Reality check: the odds are against him winning, because any single athlete is always a long shot.

Usain Bolt is sponsoring an abandoned cheetah cub.

Today's sign of the apocalypse: The PGA has a doping positive. Speaking of doping, Shawn Crawford is now training with John Smith & the HSI group.

Non-track news, but couldn't pass it up: Colbert Nation is now the major sponsor of the US speedskating team, as announced on the Sport Report (pronouced "spore repore"). Seriously.

Monday, November 02, 2009

It Had To Happen

Some yahoo at CNBC.com named Darren Rovell, who writes their Sports Biz blog, put up a short post titled "Marathon’s headline win is empty". Noting that Meb was not born in the USA,
Keflezighi’s country of origin is Eritrea, a small country in Africa. He is an American citizen thanks to taking a test and living in our country.

Nothing against Keflezighi, but he’s like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.
As someone at Let's Run pointed out, this is jingoistic, not racist. It's also ill-informed. Track fans know that Meb emigrated at the age of 12, hardly a ringer, and had all the "benefits" of US society.

I'm willing to bet the house that Rovell didn't know the previous American (male) NYC champ, Alberto Salazar, was also not born in the USA and is a naturalized citizen. Heck, for that matter the last American male Olympic marathon medalist before Meb, Frank Shorter, wasn't born in the USA.

And the American medalist prior to Shorter? Johnny Hayes in 1908. Born in New York City...to Irish immigrants. Dirty foreigners!

Your Morning Link-o-Rama

RW Daily News covers the NYC Marathon and conference cross-country weekend.

More NYC marathon stuff: inspiration for a new crop of US runners, Meb's win bodes well for the future, Let's Run's post-race analysis, The Science of Sport's analysis.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Scary Headline of the Day

"Spice Girls may re-form to help open 2012 London Olympics"

I'll have to miss that.

Meb! Meb! Meb!

As no doubt you already know, Meb Keflezighi won the NYC Marathon this morning. I did not see it live--I was directing a small open cross-country race at the time--but I did see the NBC tape-delay coverage this afternoon (which was, by the way, really good).

There are a lot of good things to take away from this. First of all, it was a great decision by USATF to make a major marathon its national championship, rather than some B-level race. It created incentive to bring all the best Americans into one race. Four different Americans had legitimate chances to win, and so only one of them had to run a really good one.

I hope Meb's win is a game-changer. It's likely to generate a decent amount of badly needed sports press. I think it's likely to make some other changes.

When I was young, I saw Rod Dixon chase down Geoff Smith in the 1983 NYC marathon. Quite often while running in my local city park in chilly weather, I imagine I'm Rod Dixon--much like children doing any sport imagine themselves in the roles of their heroes. I did it when I was 13, 23, and 33, and I still do it. Today I went out for a good 8 miles after watching the race, and this time I imagined I was Meb Keflezighi.

I can hear it now..."but you're not black." I'm not a Kiwi, either. Nor have I run 27:13, won four NCAA titles and an Olympic silver medal, or emigrated from a foreign country. While I am 5' 7", I am most certainly not 127 lbs. In other words, about the only thing Meb and I have in common is being runners and American citizens. And that's all I need, or any young runner who watched the race should.

The last time an American won the NYC marathon was two years into the Reagan administration. That was a turning point for America, both in politics and in distance running. Now we're one year into a new president's term, one that I hope will be just a much a transition from old to new...one where no one wonders why a WASPy type would say "Here's Meb Keflezighi winning the New York City Marathon!" as he's running down the road.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Your Morning Link-o-Rama

RW Daily News has all the NYC marathon headlines. Universal Sports has its NYC Marathon dashboard. Ryan Hall tell's USA Today's Dick Patrick he's confident.

Usain Bolt will run seven Diamond League events next year, and says it will take years for people to believe he's not doping.

Britain's Telegraph profiles Olympic/World sprint champ Shelly-Ann Fraser.

Tomorrow is Conference Championship Saturday! Let's Run previews the Big Ten, Pac 10, Big XII, Big East, ACC, and Heps.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Senator & Beer Mile

I've always like Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) better than most if not all Republicans in the Senate. He's no William Proxmire, but then again no one is.

Lugar is generally not a Dick. No surprise, then, that he'd play along...
Senator Lugar an Accidental Grand Marshal of 'Chug-and-Run'
...The rules are simple: Chug one beer before each of the four laps, and eat a hot dog between laps two and three. "The idea is to do something relatively short, relatively painless, and increase the likelihood that somebody would throw up"...

Your Morning Link-o-Rama

RW Daily News is all NYC Marathon stuff.

Let's Run previews the men's and women's races in New York.

Track & Field News has figured out how to use the internet! Two teasers: the table of contents for the current issue, and an interview with 70s steeple star Doug Brown.

The NY Times tells us the Chinese distance stars of the 90s were on drugs. And water is wet.

Tatyana Lebedeva is skipping the indoor season after further achilles surgery. Not a good sign, kind of like your lead singer doing a solo album. It means your best days are long behind you, and there might not even be any more good ones left.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Morning Link-o-Rama

RW Daily News has the main headlines, nearly all about Sunday's NYC Marathon. Biggie: Martin Lel is out.

Bigger news, from my perspective: VERSUS will carry the NCAA D-I cross country championships live! Yeah, baby!

USA Today's Dick Patrick profiles Meb Keflezighi, and Universal Sports' Joe Battaglia does so for Marilson dos Santos.

Deadspin.com reports on a high school XC DQ and files it under "Dumb Rules". Dumb doesn't even begin to describe it.

The NY Times looks back at young marathoners of the 70s.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Morning Link-o-Rama

RW Daily News has all the main headlines...mostly NYC marathon stuff.

Let's Run has its weekly wrapup.

The Science of Sport begins looking at science and coaching, and the good and bad of mixing them.

Asafa Powell will launch a charity aimed at assisting T&F development in Jamaica.

UCLA v Oregon dual meet renewed! Yes, it has been going for two years, but the contract was not re-upped until recently.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Green Man?

Who the heck is the Green Man?
And why is he running the Chicago Marathon?

ESPN explains.

Semenya Story Fleshed Out

Sydney's Daily Telegraph has the secret pre-Worlds report from South Africa's Dr. Harold Adams on Caster Semenya.
In his report, Dr Adams confirms his advice to [Athletics South Africa president Leonard] Chuene to stop Semenya racing on the world stage in a women-only event, saying: "I sincerely believe that Mr Chuene's decision to refuse that Ms Semenya be withdrawn was reckless, short-sighted and grossly irresponsible.''
Fairly damning stuff. Really good.

Sad News

Cordner Nelson, co-founder of Track & Field News, has died. Few details are yet known.

UPDATE: More from T&FN.

Morning Link-o-Rama

RW Daily News has all the main headlines, mostly about the upcoming New York City Marathon.

The Science of Sport takes another look at death risks in marathoning. As you'd suspect, not much in the big picture, but actually a bit higher than most runners might think.

Britain's Telegraph looks at past gender-identity issues in sports.

Trevor Graham tells the NY Times he's innocent.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

Many of which are related to track, many more are not.

1) As a young teen, I was home alone when a pair of deranged murderers on a three-state killing spree came through the neighborhood. No kidding.
2) I got the lead role of Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum when I was a high school freshman. The next year I quit acting for running.
3) My earliest memory was on a bus going to a track meet.
4) Every house I've lived in was built in the 1920s.
5) I studied music from age 5 to 18.
6) I've been west of the Mississippi River only three times, two of them for track meets.
7) I celebrated New Year's in Key West a while back by going to a drag show called Broadway Three-Way (A Musical Menage-a-trois) and then partying in front of the Bourbon Street Pub. And yest, I'm straight.
8) The coldest weather I've ever run in was -20, the hottest was 104.
9) I once drank a gallon of beer at a keg party on a dare.
10) After the first home cross country meet of my college career, I went back to the dorms and played tag football that degenerated into tackle. I was sore for ten days.
11) My first car was a Mercury Marquis. God, was it awful.
12) I graduated from college with the second-highest total milage in a season since Sid Sink had been keeping track at BGSU.
13) When my college roommate appeared on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, I was one of his lifelines. (He didn't get into the hot seat).
14) The very mention of my name can apparently set Toledo coach Kevin Hadsell into a fit of rage. No idea why.
15) I led my high school Quiz Bowl league in scoring my senior year.
16) One of my students was Olympic heavyweight boxer Devin Vargas.
17) I once walked eight miles home from a basketball game because I didn't want to impose on anyone by asking for a ride.
18) I was a National Merit Scholar in high school, then lived in a college dorm where nearly everyone was as well. Humbling.
19) I teach in the same school where my father did, which leads to a lot of needling by my brothers.
20) I saw the last Cleveland Knights of Columbus indoor track meet in 1995, which included an also-ran in the 3000 meters named Khalid Kannouchi.
21) I once beat Olympian Paul McMullen...he was out of shape and overweight and running five times his preferred distance.
22) I hosted a keg party when my parents were out of town one summer and they never found out about it...here's hoping they don't read my blog.
23) In the 7th grade I invented a college football computer-ranking system that was met with fascination at the Ohio Statistical Conference (where I also met Bill James).
24) I owned, and then lost, a Nolan Ryan rookie card.
25) My wife is waaaaaay smarteer than I am.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

April versus October

As I'm sitting here half-watching the Chicago Marathon, and reflecting on this morning's WorldHalf Marathon Championships bronze medal by Ritzenhein, I'm also reading Bill Simmons' latest column.
If you like sports, like television and actively look for reasons to waste time, your two favorite months are probably April and October. In a related story, those are my two favorite months. I love wasting time. I love nothing more than to waste time. I even created a career around wasting time while intermittently handing in columns and recording podcasts. So yes, I like April and October.

Here's what April brings to the table: Opening Day; the Final Four; the NFL draft; the start of the NHL and NBA playoffs; the Masters; Halter Top Day and the start of the outdoor exercise season (East Coast and Midwest only); serial network shows such as "Lost" and "24" setting up their season finales; spring weekend in college; Easter Sunday; and the first slew of weddings. That's a lot of wasted time.

October has the entire baseball playoffs; four football weekends (college and pro); football tailgates; the start of the NBA and NHL seasons; foliage; Halloween, trick-or-treating, Halloween decorations, replays of "Halloween," Halloween parties and girls wearing slutty Halloween costumes; Columbus Day; quality fall shows such as "Mad Men" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm"; fantasy football; the last slew of weddings; the height of the book release season; fantasy basketball drafts; and, again, girls wearing slutty Halloween costumes.
Simmons comes to the conclusion that he's an October guy. Me too, but from my perspective it's mid-October thru mid-November versus mid-May versus mid-June.

Here's what late spring brings to the table: decent weather, championship season for high school and college track, me getting to announce said meets and make everyone listen to what I have to say, the post-AP-test blow-off time in my advanced classes, turning in school keys and getting to do whatever the hell I want from 10 AM to about midnight, ground firm enough to start running on trails again, the advent of cookout weather, and my annual 39th birthday party. By comparison, the only thing April brings to the table is the Boston Marathon and spring break.

October has decent weather, fall foliage, jeans-and-sweatshirt temperatures, cross-country championship season for high school and college, tapering my team for said races which results in me getting home before 6:30 PM, homecoming, a sense of newness and opportunity for another school year, big-time marathons in Chicago and New York, my two favorite holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving), the advent of stew and roast weather, and an annual trip to Terre Haute to nominally see the NCAA XC championships but in reality to get piss-drunk with an old college buddy and then hammer 6 miles with him the next morning.

October wins.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Leftist Political Columnist? ESPN?

Apparently it is so.

I saw Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story last night and found it...feh. And I really like his stuff, but not this stuff. I agree with his basic idea, that lawlessness (economic or otherwise) allows the powerful to abuse the weak, and I didn't think it took 120 minutes to explain that one idea.

In one column, ESPN's Jeff MacGregor did a much better job of explaining how rich people have, through the power of their wealth, the capacity to be real assholes. A common man's leftist screed.

Track Movies

Today on NPR's Only A Game, host Bill Littlefield interviewed Ray Didinger about his Ultimate Book of Sports Movies. I haven't seen it yet, except for the table of contents, but it looks like he and coauthor Glen Macnow did their homework. The usual list of winners are here (Rocky, Hoosiers, Raging Bull) along with some cult classics (The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, Best In Show, Vision Quest).

There are only three track movies listed: two obvious choices (Chariots of Fire, Without Limits) and one not-so-well-known film, The Jericho Mile.

An issue brought up in the interview was the fact that pro athletes and coaches tended to list as their favorites movies that came from different sports. They said it was because they were too critical of the details in their sport that weren't right in a film, whereas they lacked that level of knowledge for other sports. I'd say this is definitely true for me with track films; for example, I can't bear to watch Mariel Hemingway in Personal Best (well, with her clothes on at least).

I've written before that I think Chariots of Fire is a very good film. What else would I rate near the top? In the non-documentary category...

1. Chariots of Fire
The best film made about track & field, and the action was very realistic as well. Bears repeated viewing, but not heavily.

2. College
This is a relatively short (66 minutes) silent film from 1927 starring Buster Keaton. He's a nerd who tries out for every sport in college, with hilariously awful results. Keaton's physical comedy and "Great Stone Face" is on fine display. The people who filmed this knew track & field.

3. On The Edge
Bruce Dern, a pretty darn good runner off-screen, plays an aging man trying to regain some semblance of his former glory in the only place where he could realistically outdo his past self: the Dipsea race. It has the most realistic running scenes I've yet seen.

4. Run, Fat Boy, Run
Maybe even funnier than College.

5. The Jericho Mile
The film is decent at best, the action scenes barely passable. but the backstory on how they made it is amazing. It was filmed at Folsom Prison (of Blues fame) and the three main prison gangs--Aryan Nation, Black Muslims, and Latin Kings--agreed to a truce during filming. They were extras and helped build the track in the film, which still exists some 30 years later.

Honorable Mention: Running Brave, Without Limits, Meatballs, The Four Minute Mile
Dreck: Prefontaine, Personal Best, The Long Run
Worst Track Movie Ever: Saint Ralph (good movie, unwatchable running)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Sadly, No Chicago

Inevitably, there has been quite a bit of postmortem about Chicago's losing Olympic bid. I think Obama put it best when he said sometimes you play your best game and still lose. While the USOC's state of affairs can be pointed to, I don't think there was a much Chicago could have done. To stretch a metaphor, they were Tyson Gay running against Usain Bolt.

This escaped my notice until just now. CNN's Jack Cafferty, one of the few coarse no-bullshit liberals on television, said "Rio has naked people dancing, Chicago has chubby people eating. Which do you want to see on TV?" When you put it that way it appears inevitable.