Now most of you are too young to remember, but at one time America flew a man to the moon and back safely – actually, we flew three men to the moon on Apollo 11, but Michael Collins only purchased the Super Saver, middle seat ticket, so he only got a fly-by while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin got to go down and hit balls on the Sea of Tranquility moon-base driving range.
But since we now live in conspiratorial times, let’s give a nod to the outside possibility that America, a well known David Blaine apologist, perpetrated an elaborate hoax in lieu of an actual moon shot, which might have been an even harder trick, come to think of it, what with all the mirrors, sleights of hand, and Cronkite duping that such an elaborate ruse would’ve required.
Whatever the case, because we had accomplished such a seemingly impossible goal, the standard refrain when anything earth-bound and banal was not achieved in an appropriate manner – like taking the trash out on time – was, “if they can put a man on the moon, why can’t you do X?”
It was a simple equivalence on par with parents asking children, “If Johnny jumps off the Grand Canyon, does that mean you have to, too?” Of course, if parents remembered anything about childhood friendships and double-dares, in fact, it did mean you had to make the leap or forever live in upper-arm-punching ridicule.
But since 1969 we have not been able to plant a dude on the moon – though Elon Musk is taking a Tesla and a crash-test dummy all the way to the sun, though I’m sure we could all nominate a more worthy passenger. Notwithstanding, everything possible today has been reduced by a quarter million miles across the board.
So maybe we shouldn’t be that confounded that we can’t seem to govern ourselves or keep the Russians from choosing our leaders for us. With all the technology that we have at hand, you’d think we could keep track of who had won, even if it’s by one vote. But, evidently, we are a hanging chad or two away from such competence.
Bringing matters into the world of running, we have seen these kinds of problems all the time in NCAA cross country.
The NCAA D1 Cross Country Championships always seem to produce compelling competitions and high drama. But that drama is immeasurably enhanced every few years by the interminable wait for team results. Most famously in 2012, there were all kinds of errors that had officials declaring Oregon as the women’s champs, then Providence, and finally the Ducks one more time after the technology failed to account for several finishers. The grass at the Lavern Gibson XC Course had measurably grown in the interim.
So, what is it with technology that can be so impressive in almost every regard – men to the moon and back without Boingo wifi!? – but it can’t count several hundred runners going 10 mph over an open grass field, or figure out how to protect an election process?
With that in mind, let’s take the outrage down a notch or two and give the kids in Washington a break. I think a few hours of cable-TV news viewing shows fairly clearly that the phrase “Best and Brightest” is hardly applicable to either end of Pennsylvania Avenue these days.
But when you realize that the USATF Board of Directors can place its president, Vin Lananna, on administrative leave amidst a federal investigation, makes you wonder why can’t we do something similar with our own bossman in D.C. as special counsel Robert Mueller tries to pin down Putin‘s prerogatives. “Out to pasture” or “To the moon!” both have a nice ring to them, don’t you think?