Month: February 2012

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

    As the Arizona and Michigan presidential primaries arrive, the final four Republican candidates continue their slash-and-burn tactics as they vie to take on President Obama in the fall. With former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum rising as the dominant conservative alternative to ex-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, there is a growing angst within the corridors of Republican power that the current crop of candidates may be sealing the eventual nominee’s fate by the negative onslaught they have waged against one another in the endless debates process. As such, the hope for a white knight to come riding to the rescue before the political landscape resembles Mad Max territory has surfaced more fervently than ever.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has categorically declared that he has no intention of offering his services if the convention in Tampa becomes either brokered or disputed. He’s not even sure he’d be considered a Republican anymore, so far has the party drifted to the right.  And ex-Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential contender Mike Huckabee recently lamented to Israeli TV that the toxic atmosphere of this year’s nomination process has soured any desire he might have had to consider stepping into the white knight’s role, as well.

The one name, however, that looms largest in Repub circles as the party’s potential savior is New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was the selection of 32% of the party faithful in a recent Quinnipiac poll asking who would be the best alternative to the current lineup of Romney, Santorum, Gingrich or Paul in a brokered convention. `08 Veep candidate Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, tied for second choice at 20% with Jeb Bush.

But despite Governor Christie’s evident charisma and charm – and likability across party lines – what is equaly evident is his sheer bulk. The elephant in the room is the elephant that Christie has allowed himself to become. At what must be 300 pounds-plus, Governor Christie is morbidly obese. And since the USA is already seen on the world stage as an indulgent, overly consumptive nation, how exactly would a Christie nomination – whether for the top spot or as a possible Romney VP choice – look? After all, what is the job of the vice-president except to be ready in case the president is incapacitated? His number one job is to be ready and fit for office. Mr. Christie isn’t fit enough to walk up the stairs to the east portico. (more…)

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SAME AS IT EVER WAS

     As we approach this weekend’s USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, once again we find the advance stories focusing as much on the politics of the sport as on the competition itself.  The wedge issue currently roiling the sport – as it has since the USATF annual convention in St. Louis last December – is over the number of sponsorship logos athletes can display on their competition singlets, the size of those logos, and at which competitions those regulations will be fully enforced by USATF, the sport’s governing body.

According to stated USATF rules, which follow international IAAF regulations, an athlete can only display two commercial logos or one club logo and one commercial logo.  But as reported today on LetsRun.com, in a nod to athlete demands, USATF has agreed to allow athletes with a club logo to have two commercial logos on display, as well. For their part, athletes want the right to display one club and three commercial logos.

Regardless, while USATF and the athletes go back and forth over number, size, and where the uniform rules will be enforced, the USATF Board’s legal counsel Larry James wrote a memo to the Board stating his concern that any deviation from the stated rules might be seen by Nike – sponsor for the USATF Indoor and Outdoor National Championships  – as reducing the value of its own contract with USATF, and thereby, under the terms of that contract, would allow Nike to pay a lesser amount to USATF for its own visibility.  And since more athlete logos appearing on athletes’ singlets might thus be interpreted as a reduction in value by Nike, USATF is forced to implement its uniform restrictions, irrespective of the gentleman’s agreement they came to in St. Louis with athlete legal counsel David Greifinger to hold off on the implementation at domestic events.

You can read the whole account on LetsRun.com, but the bottom line according to David Greifinger (the former legal counsel to USATF, by the way) is, as currently worded Nike can argue anything reduces the value of its contract. “Taken to its logical extreme, Nike would have veto power over the composition of USATF’s Board and committees, USATF’s Bylaws, Regulations, and Competition Rules, and all matters pertaining to competitions and athletes’ rights.”

That a kerfuffle like this is still taking place 34 years after the institution of USATF as governing body for track & field, road racing, youth running, masters running, trail running, race walking is evidence enough of the limitations of the institution.  However, history, too, may be instructive for the current situation. (more…)

WHY POLS SHOULD RUN?

     A piece for Sunday.  In a 2004 Vanity Fair article James Walcott wrote:  “Mass culture secretes condescension and borderline contempt for any quest for artistic expression that requires discipline, difficulty, sacrifice, and a devotion to traditions larger than oneself.”  It is an apt description of the darker side of the self-oriented, ADHD, individually rewarded society.

Thus, the same society which allowed lenders to separate risk from mortgage approval – after extracting profits – by bundling and selling the risk downstream until all connection to the original transaction had been completely severed (net effect:  a society-wide housing collapse) is the same society which, to date, has held no one individually responsible (except the sodden fools lured into the quagmire).  Instead the putative powers-that-be saw fit to bail out the culprits, because the culprits continue to control the reins of power through their brib — campaign contributions.  And we wonder why faith in the underlying system has eroded, and abject cynicism is so rampant.

Absent Ron Paul, politicians on both sides of the aisle cynically tell us what they think we want to hear.  Then, when out of recording range continue to go along to get along as the rewards are all in the running rather than the governing.  Yet the path to achievement in the sport of running, itself, is grounded on individual responsibility and dedication to a process of tension and release in an orderly fashion over an extended period. That is the lesson the sport teaches, no secrets, no shortcuts, no easy ways up. (more…)

THE CULTURE OF RUNNING IN EAST AFRICA

     Take away that they have grown up at an altitude higher than the New York Yankees salary cap, and cut the air like six-inch stilettos, one reason the Kenyans and Ethiopians kick everyone’s butt in distance running is, well, what are their options?

Go to any East African village famous for producing championship runners and you’re not likely to find many arbitrageurs, or Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi schemers. And that just might be the corollary to why America has only intermittently produced world-class distance runners. We produce world-class most everything else. Something’s gotta give.

A post-industrial society is not distance running’s ideal seed bed. Here running is better suited to individual achievement and general fitness, while in an agrarian society, especially one formed at high altitude, running finds its most fecund soil.

You spend a few hours a day tending the animals and crops, walking high-country dirt roads for transportation, eating fresh, unpolluted food, and dreaming big dreams in the black night air of winning thousands of life-transforming dollars at races in far flung capitals – like every fourth fellow in the village seems to have done – and maybe running tops your to-do list tomorrow, too. By the same token, find yourself with an underwater mortgage working part-time on stuffed-crust pizzas, maybe your chances of fleetness have deteriorated a tad.

“Anything is Possible”

A mural on the side of a building in downtown Addis Ababa shows Haile Gebrselassie in full stride.  Ethiopia’s iconic runner and one of, if not the best ever has his motto alongside, “Anything is possible”, writ large in Amharic, one of the principle languages of the country. (more…)

BOSTON VS LONDON MARATHONS 2012

    Again in 2012, the two springtime World Marathon Majors, Boston and London, will be staged six days apart.  Boston’s 116th annual sets off from Hopkinton on Monday April 16th  for Copley Square, while London’s 32nd annual begins in Blackheath headed for The Mall along St. James Park the following Sunday April 22nd.

Today, 27-year Boston Marathon sponsor John Hancock Financial Services announced the professional field for the annual Patriot’s Day race, while London’s race director Dave Bedford released his women’s field back in early December before travelling to Iten, Kenya to announce his men’s field on January 20th.

Both events are loaded, as the crème of Kenyan and Ethiopian running look to make one last impression on their Olympic selectors before final Olympic squads are chosen for the return to London in August for the Games.

Boston’s field features defending champions Geoffrey Mutai (2:03:02, CR, WB) and Caroline Kilel (2:22:36) of Kenya.  London parries with defending Kenyan champions Emmanuel Mutai (2:04:40, CR) and Mary Keitany (2:19:19).  Boston will line up five sub-2:06 men (see below), London counters with ten.

London also has the edge in terms of depth on the women’s side with ten sub-2:23 women to Boston’s five, yet Boston brings together five champions from 2011: Kilel (Boston) and Georgina Rono (Eindhoven) of Kenya, Firehiwot Dado (New York), Aselefech Mergia (Dubai 2012), and Mamitu Daska (Frankfurt) of Ethiopia. London may have fewer current champions, but is Kenyan top heavy with defender Mary Keitany going up against 2011 Berlin champion Florence Kiplagat, and her 2011 World Champion namesake (though unrelated) Edna Kiplagat. (more…)

‘BRING BACK THE MILE’ Expands Website

     After a successful splash  launch, bringbackthemile.com has expanded its website with a State Federation Petition requesting that the Mile be brought back to the State Championship  level around the nation.  The expanded website also allows for anyone to share  photographs, videos or their written stories through the I Am the Mile sub-campaign. The website also features an ever expanding database of Mile news, history, trivia and athlete bios.

The initial launch on January 19 not only created “buzz” on the web and  beyond, but generated almost 14,000 YouTube views of the Bring Back the Mile trailer and extended video as well as 1,000-plus Facebook fans  and a Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd” feature.

“We are heartened by the response that we have received since our launch,” said Ryan Lamppa, Bring Back the Mile Founder. “People have a love and a passion for the  Mile, and our website bringbackthemile.com will be the Mile home on-line. Our front page feature is the high school state federation  petition drive to replace the 1600-meters with the Mile at State  Championships.

“In addition, a special thank you to the Bring Back the Mile Support Team including Olympians and Milers Jim Ryun, Marty Liquori, Carrie  Tollefson and Leo Manzano and our Partners who have offered their  support and feedback to get this national campaign launched,” Lamppa  added.

The Mile holds a special place in track & field and beyond because no  running distance, or field event for that matter, has the history, the  appeal, the “magic” of the Mile. The first sub-4 minute mile by Great  Britain’s Roger Bannister in 1954 is regarded as the greatest individual athletic achievement of  the 20th century, and no other event has produced an equivalent of the  sub-4 minute Mile standard in the sport, in the media and in the  public’s mind.

Unfortunately, the Mile has lost some of its luster over the past decade, and the Bring Back the Mile mission is: To return the Mile to prominence on the American sports and cultural  landscape by elevating and celebrating the Mile to create a national  movement.

Visit www.bringbackthemile.com or contact media@bringbackthemile.com for more information.
The Bring Back the Mile Support Team media@bringbackthemile.com