Month: August 2015

TRACK COMES TO U.S. NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO

FullSizeRender(48)San Diego, CA. — Even as the world celebrates the pinnacle of the art form in Beijing at the 15th IAAF World Track & Field Championships, we are reminded that each and every one of the athletes representing their nation’s colors in China began their journey on an anonymous oval where the top prize arrived upon the smile of Mom or a “Well done” from Dad, and where personal goals created podiums of pride long before the world at large ever took notice.

Last night those smiles, “well dones” and personal satisfactions returned to the old U.S. Navy Base San Diego track for the first time in more than a generation as USATF San Diego long distance chairman Paul Greer and his merry band of tracksters organized the first competitive track and field meeting in 35 years at the home port of the Pacific Fleet. (more…)

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I WANT A NEW DRUG – CHICAGO DROPS PACERS

Bannister on his way to history's first sub-4:00 mile
Bannister on his way to history’s first sub-4:00 mile

After a decade long assault, the sport of athletics hit the sweet spot with its dopamine release on 6 May 1954 at Iffley Road track in Oxford, England. It was on that steel gray day that Roger Bannister broke the 4:00 barrier in the mile. Paced by Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, Bannister’s Everestian effort hooked the sport on sweet time, and it has been dependent on its pace suppliers ever since.

At each IAAF Diamond League meeting, every event over 400 meters is a paced affair as time is the primary goal. Yet come the World Championships or Olympics, where pacing is removed and rounds are conducted to earn a place in the medal round, we tend to see wildly imbalanced racing efforts.  In part, because the pressure is different. It isn’t can or can’t you, rather what and when you.  No just raw horsepower, but tactical control of that power. We all know how to run.  But we have to learn how to race.

Today, we learn that the B.A. Chicago Marathon has decided to end its dependence on pacers, joining Boston and New York City among the Abbott World Marathon Majors in the non-paced category.

Carey Pinkowski, Chicago Marathon
Carey Pinkowski, Chicago Marathon

“The thing with this is we try to set up a world record every year,” said long-time race director Carey Pinkowski, “but we never get close. It (pacing) is like a prop. So get rid of the prop. It’s a race. So if they go out at six minute pace, so what?” (more…)

TIME FOR A NEW DRUG PRESCRIPTION?

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Falmouth, Ma.- Given that there’s any wider interest remaining in athletics (track & field in the USA) now that an IAAF whistle blower has shown the sport to be deeply corrupted and filled with line erasers and out right cheats, the question is how best to contour its future as the IAAF World Championships harken in Bejing, China and the governing body votes in a new president?

“Football, for some reason, when you get popped for drugs you get a couple games penalty,” said Hawi Keflezighi, brother/agent of Meb, the 2014 Boston Marathon champion. “But it doesn’t change anyone’s endorsement deals. It’s like in running the same rules don’t apply.”

I was speaking with Hawi at the NB Falmouth Road Race press conference, as Meb will compete Sunday in the  43rd edition of the great American road race. Representatives like Hawi have to go into the market to champion their athletes where the biggest difficulty, he says, is the public perception that everyone is dirty. (more…)

DEFLATED IN COURT?

DeflateGateThough the Symmonds Matter has managed to leak into the public sphere, let there be no doubt as to which sport’s legal case the population is riveted.  Deflate-Gate hit federal court today in Manhattan where the long unraveling of each side’s case began before Judge Richard M. Berman.

The judge had requested that the NFL and NFL Player’s Association meet prior to today’s hearing to discuss or even come to a settlement.  That didn’t happen. So Judge Berman conducted an open court hearing followed by a closed-door session in an attempt to get the two sides closer to doing for themselves what he will eventually do for them if they can’t work it out for themselves. (more…)

THE TRUMP CONUNDRUM

The Man
                 Certaindude

The whole Donald Trump political phenomenon, culminating (so far) in last Thursday night’s Fox News GOP presidential debate, has the American political class in a tizzy and his opponents in a quandary. For that alone we ought to thank him. No matter the hair, the harangues, or the heresy, none of it seems to matter as Trump’s standing in the polls continues to defy accepted political gravity.

While the media keeps insisting that this is only the “Silly Season”, and The Coiffed One will tumble eventually, even his debate take down of Fox News darling Megyn Kelley last Thursday hasn’t taken the pink from his political cheeks. And previous barrages against Mexicans and John McCain he now wears like political battle ribbons. Everyone keeps wondering how the Big Bluster can remain atop the heap of what is considered the best class of GOP candidates in recent memory.

On Monday, Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin asked, ‘if it’s such a strong field, and he’s so weak, why isn’t it any Republican overtaking him?”

Might it be suggested that the issue/problem isn’t the Trumpster, as such, isn’t the great field of candidates, isn’t the political mainstream’s dislike. The Trump ascendancy — like that of his Democratic counterpart Bernie Sanders — has risen out of the disaffections in America circa 2015.  That alone should give us pause. For when the usual complement of political assets: experience, likability, collegiality, well-modulated argument, get Trumped by bluster and bullying, what we have is a political reflection of a nation on the defensive, one putting on its bark as it senses the loss of its bite.

People have become more sensitive, rubbed raw, feeling pressed. They are keeping a closer inspection of perceived slights.  Comics don’t do colleges anymore, too PC.  But how much longer do we keeping spouting ‘everyone is a winner’, where grade inflation and social advancement are seen as educationally worthy, and celebrity lacquers the culture in a shiny, vacuous veneer? Who was it that said, “people get the government they deserve?” (more…)

THE SYMMONDS DILEMMA

Nick Symmonds heading to Beijing? Credit: Micah Drew, Boise
Will Nick Symmonds be Smiling in Beijing?   Photo credit: Micah Drew, Boise Weekly

Here’s the problem. When an endemic sponsor — in this case Nike — is signed to a generation long contract as the footwear and apparel sponsor of your national athletics federation, there will be unintended consequences that fail to serve the best interest of one constituency or another over that period. That is the situation that currently confronts 2013 800 meter World Championships silver medalist Nick Symmonds who had until noon today to sign the USATF “Statement of Conditions” contract that attends his Team USA berth on the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China later this month.

Symmonds, formerly a Nike athlete, is now sponsored by Brooks.  But under USATF by-laws, athletes competing at the world championships or Olympics (or other Team USA selected competitions) are prohibited from wearing non-USATF sponsored gear during “official team functions”.

As to what constitutes “official team functions” is the wording Symmonds contends is both vaguely written and in violation of his personal contract with Brooks.  USATF CEO Max Siegel has told Mr. Symmonds that if he doesn’t sign he will be replaced on the team.  And so it goes. And so we wait. (Late on August 9 Mr. Symmonds was informed he has been dropped from the team for Beijing for failure his to sign the contract.)

But with USATF signing Nike to a reported 23-year, $500 million extension as exclusive shoe and apparel sponsor for Team USA in April 2014, every athlete signed by any other shoe company finds him / herself in opposition to his/her own best interests since they will not benefit financially from the USATF deal with Nike — other than to elevate their future marketability by performing well on the stage provided. The situation is similar to the IOC generating $6 billion in sponsorship and TV rights from the Olympic Games, none of which is distributed directly to the athletes who make those Games possible and profitable.

But we must also look at the issue from the national federation’s standpoint, recalling the state of USA Track & Field over the last generation, and the job confronting Mr. Siegel when he took the CEO job three years ago. (more…)