The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

Apparently newspapers think “shot putting” ahead of “professional wrestling”. Jim Neidhart was arrested on drug charges this week and his hometown paper identified him first as a former local shot putter. A onetime California high school recordholder, he continued on for a year at UCLA and then on his own, making the TFN US Rankings in 1975 at #10. Only later in the story did they identify him as I first knew him, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, half of the former WWE tag-team champion “Hart Foundation” with Brett “Hitman” Hart. Pro wrestling is interesting kabuki theater which has always told you a lot about the American culture, but it sounds like a horrible way to make a living. Niedhart was arrested for painkillers.

No one likes domestic TV track coverage once they’ve seen the BBC’s. Last Tuesday on Twitter, former steeplechaser Ann Gaffigan berated Universal Sports for failing to show the women’s steeple on their Continental Cup coverage. She’d watched the Universal Sports webcasts and then compared it to the Universal Sports TV coverage and found the latter severely lacking. Surprisingly, they actually responded to her concerns.

I’ve never seen it, as my cable provider doesn’t carry Universal Sports, but I can hazard a guess as to the difference: talking heads, metric-phobia, interviews and commercials. The webcasts, which are direct rebroadcasts of BBC TV, have none of these. Commercials eat up 16 minutes of every hour, of course, but I have no idea why the others are found necessary for American TV. No matter how good Ato Boldon is, he’s not why I watch a track meet because he’s not competing.

So unless Universal Sports breaks the mold in terms of broadcasting a track meet, Gaffigan and I will always be disappointed. No-metric field event coverage means crappy-graphics field event coverage. Famous-person face time is non-track and field time—and time is at a premium when your broadcast is only 75% as long as the foreign counterpart.

Kibwe Johnson is moving up. In late July, the hammerer threw in some little-known meets at Ohio’s Ashland College and put up a personal record (77.07m). Then on Saturday he threw at the DecaNation meet in France and topped a decent field which included #7 Nicola Vizzoni and #8 Markus Esser. If he continues to improve, and the rest of the world remains stagnant at its current 80-meters-is-very-rare level, he could have a shot at an Olympic medal in two years. (Hat tip to Martin Bingisser)

The “wierdest road race prize ever” title has changed hands. Yesterday at the Daniel Defense 5k in Pooling GA, the winner took home a semi-automatic rifle. Yes, the race was on September 11.

Tracksters have a fundamentally different level of freedom than athletes in professional team sports. Australian quartermiler John Steffenson has had a bit of a row with his governing body, Athletics Australia. He has badmouthed AA, and apparently not without good reason. This is not terribly unusual in track, as NGBs are often self-righteous and foolish if not outright corrupt. What is unusual here is that AA fought back; Steffenson may be charged with “bringing the sport into disrepute”, whatever that means, and I’m not even sure if there’s any other penalty that comes with it.

Compare this to those in the NFL, NBA or MLB who openly criticize the league. They’re fined and often heavily. Outspoken critics of leadership like Butch Reynolds during his whole false-positive dustup or Carl Lewis always was get nothing except maybe a bit of trouble when relays are being selected.


pjm said...

To clarify, the live video streams from the Diamond League weren't BBC - they're "world" feeds produced by the host broadcasters in cooperation with the Diamond League. (The major marathons use the same model.) National broadcasters have the latitude to use the world feed unchanged, or dub in their own announcers, or even splice in ancillary footage such as mixed-zone interviews.

For several meets, notably Brussels and Zurich, my tweet-stream included complaints about BBC announcers and track-side interviews just like those I regularly see about USA broadcasts. The "world feed" usually has Tim Hutchings and someone else - often Steve Cram - as announcers. The Beeb was using Jonathan Edwards in Zurich, among others.

The Track & Field Superfan said...

Thanks for educating me (and my one or two readers).