OLD NEW IDEAS FOR ATHLETICS

Perhaps one of the ways forward for the sport of athletics in this new decade might be found right in the old Olympic motto itself: Citius, Altius, Fortius. The directive is quite straight forward: Faster, Higher, Stronger. There are no modifiers like “but only by using this or that particular technique”.  

For instance, in today’s world of precision measurements, why is it still necessary to require long and triple jumpers to hit a specific mark as the starting point of their leaps?  The technology exists to determine the exact landing point of a spacecraft on a distant planet. Perhaps it would be possible to figure an athlete’s precise launch point on an earthbound runway?

How many stories, whether apocryphal or not, have we heard about Carl Lewis having jumped 30-feet but in a fouled jump that was never measured? 

The point of the activity isn’t to identify the athlete with the best board-precision skills, it’s to see who can jump the farthest. Even if just as an exhibition, free them up and see how far they can go.

In the high jump, why was it decided that an athlete could only use a one-footed take off? Was it a safety issue?  Altius means altius. It doesn’t say, “but only using a one-footed take off.”  

In fact, as it’s currently staged, the high jump identifies the athletes who can jump highest using a self-selected, difficult to master technique, rather than who is the highest jumper. They are not always the same.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee flat-lining the flop (Mike Powell / Getty Images)

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is among the greatest women athletes in history. She told me one time that her husband/coach Bobby Kersee used to chastise her for “having to jump six feet in order to get over the bar at 5’8” because my flop technique was so poor.”

In the shot put, hammer throw, and discus, why contain all that bulk within a tiny circle? Doesn’t that, in fact, restrict fortius?

If the pole vault can go from ash to bamboo to aluminum to fiberglass to today’s exotic compounds, and today’s shoes are in the process of re-writing the distance record books, and tracks have gone from turf to dirt to cinders to mondo, why can’t the wraps be taken off these other events as well?

If the whole purpose of the game is to entertain – and the numbers suggest that fewer people are perceiving the current presentation of athletics as being entertaining – and with so many of the current records being holdovers from a tainted time of drug use, why not institute a 21st century version of these ages-old events? Or at least stage exhibitions to entertain the audience?

Who can jump the highest? Simple question. We don’t care how you do it other than by only using your own power. If you want to use a running one-footed flop technique, have at it. But if you want to try to get over the same height using a series of gymnastic round-offs with a concluding two-footed backflip take-off, good luck with that, too.

As one friend suggested, “getting over the bar the best way you can should be the goal. (Baltimore Ravens QB) Lamar Jackson is not a conventional pocket passer, but he still gets himself and the team across the goal line his way and it still counts.👍👀

Since taking over as World Athletics president, Sebastian Coe has been engaged in a widespread attempt to clean up then relaunch the sport that brought him fame and fortune more than a generation ago. Throughout that generational time, many other sports have altered previous rules of the road in order to maintain or increase public interest.  The XFL just relaunched while introducing some innovative rules changes to further entertain the audience while at the same time protect its players.

Professional sports are in the entertainment business. They are not a Vatican conclave of red-robed Cardinals looking to maintain 4th century traditions.  

(Hell, even they changed at Vatican II. When I was a kid, we couldn’t eat anything after midnight Saturday if we wanted to take communion at Sunday morning mass.)

At this moment in time for athletics there are no wrong answers other than the rigidity of standing pat. As one innovative shoe company keeps telling us, Just Do It!

END

2 thoughts on “OLD NEW IDEAS FOR ATHLETICS

  1. As an exhibition, yes, love it. But as a red-robed long time fan of T & F, I prefer ‘tradition’ if you will. It doesn’t mean I’m against modernizing the sport, but am against changing the rules midstream. Track remains one of the last bastions of tradition (leaving the flag in…. phooey!), lets keep it that way.

Leave a Reply to Kevin McDermott Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.