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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

The Diamond League works. Not necessarily to bring the best athletes together--although it most certainly did that in the traditionally ignored field events and some of the running events, such as the men's 800. It works in that it gets lots of press. We're three months away from the peak of the season, and in a faraway corner of the globe, and it was in the sports press at least as much as the old Golden League meets were. And there are 14 of these meets instead of six.

Asafa Powell is up to his old tricks. He ran a wind-aided 9.75 in the heats at the Doha Diamond League meet and then ran significantly slower in the final. He set a world record that way three years ago. He always runs fastest when it doesn't really matter.

Tyson Gay is ready to run well. He ran in the Manchester Great City Games today, a weird street-racing festival held the afternoon after the Great Manchester Run 10k. This was where Usain Bolt ran a straightaway 150 last May. Always looking for something new, the organizers brought in Gay and gave him a shot at Tommie Smith's old 200m straightaway record of 19.5 seconds, which dates from 1965. Gay ran 19.41 into a slight headwind (0.4 m/s). I'm going to say it's worth about 19.75 around a turn in still air. So he's well behind Bolt right now, but still easily the second-best in the world.

Whitman College appears to be a very cool place. It's a small and exclusive college in Walla Walla, Washington, which may have a unique tradition in all of America: an officially-sanctioned Beer Mile. The ever-popular four-lap / four-brew contest is pretty much a highly illegal activity at every track owned by a college or school--which means every track open to the public. Not here. Cheers!

The World Cup Walks were this weekend. Did you know this? I did. Do you care? Probably not. There are walk fans who read this blog, so I'll be nice. I actually pay some attention to the walks and have gone to see a few competitions. Summary: the Russians couldn't reproduce the great performances they've put up at home and the Chinese whupped ass.

Geb is in the twilight of his career. He won today's Great Manchester Run 10k, but in a pedestrian 28:04. He's deliberately avoided other high-level runners over the last few years for a reason: he can't beat them anymore.

Rabbit Season! Looking through the Doha Diamond League results, I was kind of surprised to see the name "Patrick Langat" in third in the steeplechase. It was not a name I knew. It turns out he was the rabbit, and tried to pull a Tom Byers: nobody is following you, so you don't drop out and try to steal the win.

Duck Season! The Pac-10 men's championship was supposed to be close, but Oregon blew away Southern Cal. The OU women broke the meet scoring record long before the meet was even over. With the NCAA held at Hayward Field this year, I think the Ducks might be able to pull off a double win. Certainly the women's team looks like the best in the country, and the men's team had the best performance of any this weekend as Texas A&M only took third at the Big 12 and Florida is still struggling to come out ahead at the SEC.

I'm going to try my hand at TV. Seriously. This week's eulogy for Ernie Harwell in Sports Illustrated got me thinking. What Harwell and his ilk did so well was to communicate their love for the game of baseball. I do stadium announcing and everyone tells me I'm the best they've heard this side of the Rockies. I merely love track, do my homework, and want the athletes to feel like a million bucks and the fans to know what they're seeing. I'm no Ernie Harwell, that's for sure, but I feel like I have something to contribute to track & field. And I've been on camera before; I can tell you it's far easier to talk to a camera than to talk to two dozen hostile teenagers (which I do six times a day, 180 days a year).

How am I going to get on TV? It's easier than you might think. Toledo is unusual in that our cable TV provider is locally-owned, rather than by Time Warner or Comcast. It has a local sports channel which covers, among many other things, high school track. Their announcers are not track people and don't know how to tell the viewers what they're seeing. So I'm going to submit a demo tape to this local sports channel, and if that works out I'll use them to submit demos to the Big Ten Network and Fox Sports Net.

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