The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

Usain Bolt is getting the celebrity treatment.  For two years he's gotten the star athlete treatment, but now he's getting the bona fide celebrity treatment.  That means his every move, his every thought is documented by the press as something fascinating.  His thoughts on the World Cup were headlines, even though about a billion other people had opinions too.  Essence just listed him as one of the "hottest males under 30".  Such is the way the press works. 

The biggest news for him this week wasn't he relatively easy win over Asafa Powell but his tax issues in Britain and that they'll keep him out of the London Diamond League meet.  The current law requires athletes who compete in the UK to pay taxes not on how much money was made in the country, but on a pro-rated portion of all income.  So someone like Bolt, who competes little in comparison to a footballer or cricketer, and makes most of his money in endorsements rather than in salary or appearance fees or prize money, would end up paying more in taxes than he'd earn for his day's work in London.  Note that both parties are doing their best.  Britain's government is having major revenue issues, with British Petroleum problems on the horizon to make it worse, and were looking for every tax they could that would not overly impact the middle and lower classes.  For his part, Bolt does not shirk his tax responsibilities; it was recently reported that many Jamaican sports stars don't pay their taxes but Bolt does.

Puma has marketing genius.  Recently Bolt and Puma rolled out a line of apparel, the kind targeted towards young black males and the accompanying hordes of white posers.  OK, smart enough.  But what really was smart was getting it into the news.  In the days leading up to the Paris meet on Friday, Puma advertised that Bolt would unveil a brand-new jersey in the race.  While the IAAF regulates the size of any sponsor name or logo, other than that you can wear pretty much whatever you want.  The jersey, being similar in style to much of the new clothing, was one big advertisement that was played on TV screens all over the world, but didn't exceed any regulations.  Smart.

In retrospect, the whole "tune in to see what he's wearing" shtick shouldn't be brand-new.  Nike, adidas, Reebok, Asics, New Balance and all the rest have never connected stylish clothing and the athletes they sponsor.  They've rarely tried to actively promote their athletes as celebrities--the lone exception being a guy who's been dead for 35 years.  Nike should be making Lopez Lomong into a household name.

Celebrity Shot Putting is real.  No, it's not a new reality TV series.  It's part of the "shot put spectacular" held in downtown Stockholm's Kungsträdgården the day before the main Diamond League meet on August 6.  There are professional competitions for men and women, youth competitions, and the IAAF promo promised a celebrities shot put as well.

George Steinbrenner was important to track and field.  The Yankees owner died this week, leading to retrospectives that told us more than how he liked to hire and fire managers.  The onetime Williams College hurdler served as a USOC vice-president and had a large and positive impact on the organization.  He quietly funded many Olympians; Seilala Sua's story is just one.

ESPN: Good, bad.  ESPN Rise did four World Juniors previews for the US teams this week, one each in men's and women's track and field.  They also did the ESPYs, which more than makes up for any good they do.  I've always wondered what exactly the criteria for best track and field athlete are--for what season?  USA only or the whole world?  This year, it didn't really matter, as Usain Bolt wins under any circumstances and that's who they chose.  But it still reminds me of something John Madden once said when unveiling his All-Madden team: "We don't use big words like 'criteria'.  Or 'mayonnaise'."

Reality TV goes to the track.  Once, at least.  The second season of the ABC series "Shaq Vs."  will show a race between Tyson Gay and a relay team made up of Dwight Howard, Chris Johnson, Desean Jackson and the Big Aristotle himself.  It was rumored that this had been taped at Occidental College in July and now it's confirmed.  Air date will be sometime in early August, and you can bet I'll let you know when it will be on.

No comments: