OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

It’s said you can tell what a society values by ts skylines. Through much of history, the steeple of the local church pricked the sky high above any other edifice, giving testament to the role of faith in the lives of the people. So, too, did the imposing castles of kings and their feudal lords speak power to the peasants who toiled in their service.  Then, with the arrival of the American experiment in self-rule we began to see the majestic state capitals rising as cathedrals of civic pride. And with the coming of the industrial age and its vast commercial fortunes, towers of brick, then glass and steel sprang up in urban centers, bearing witness to the rank that commerce now held in modern society. To witness the order in one place, visit Salt Lake City, Utah where the sacred, the secular, and the governmental stand in close ordered ranks beside one another.

Today, it’s cathedrals of sport that burst with devotion, even as the teams are comprised of free agents selling their talents to the highest bidder.

While the Coliseum in Rome still stands some 2000 years after its erection, modern-day stadia seem to come and go like castles of sand. Remember the Astrodome in Houston, dubbed the eighth wonder of the world? Construction began in 1962, and it officially opened in 1965, home to the Houston Astros until 1999, and to the NFL Houston Oilers from 1968 until 1996.  But by the 1990s, the Astrodome was considered past its prime.  Today, NRG Stadium is the major stadium in Houston while the Astrodome was mothballed onto the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. The same out with the relatively old, in with the brand spanking new can be seen with ballparks in Atlanta, Dallas, St. Louis, San Francisco, and San Diego among others.

These days up to $2 billion is spent to erect houses for games, even as the infrastructure of our cities – roads, bridges, schools, tunnels, and airports – continues to crumble because of lack of funding. We have indeed become a society with its priorities turned upside down. Continue reading

EUGENE OUR PARALLEL UNIVERSE

     Eugene, Oregon is a secluded, untroubled place.  Home of the University of Oregon, last week this college town two hours south of Portland hosted the 2011 USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships at historic Hayward Field. With its vast student population having migrated, the town settled back into its quiet summer slumber, its trees arcing beneath the weight of their season’s green dress, the air warm and radiant, even though ambient with pollen.  If you didn’t check the Weather Channel for the rest of the year, you’d think you died and gone to heaven, so accommodating was the university, the town, and the climate to the sport of track and field.  For the 40,000+ track fans who flew in, drove to, then strolled through the turnstiles under warm, mostly sunny conditions, it was like walking into some track and field inspired Field of Dreams.

But Tracktown USA, as it’s been dubbed, might just as well be our version of Potterville to George Bailey’s Bedford Falls in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, an alternate reality where the characters are generally the same, but their personalities and likes have fundamentally changed.  For in the wake of the 2008 Olympic Trials, last week’s four-day USATF Nationals, and in preparation for next summer’s Olympic Trials, we have seen what might have been had track and field managed to join other American sports and escape its restricting, cradle-to-grave amateur past and evolve into a, if not untainted, at least decidedly less insular professional future. Continue reading

USATF NATIONALS BEGIN

     Eugene, Oregon – USATF Nationals began today at historic Hayward Field in a dry run for next year’s Olympic Trials. Accordingly, Tracktown USA is packed with the rabid and transfixed fanatics who make up the faithful in this sport, the people who keep the flame alive even as the powers-that-be continue to search for a new CEO as well as an effective marketing and promotional approach on a scale which track both deserves and once experienced.

Skies were thick and temps low throughout the day until the sun broke out and winds fell to a lull for the evening finals.  Ideal conditions prevailed for the women’s and men’s 10,000 meters, and weren’t that bad for the finals in the women’s shot put and discus, men’s triple jump and discus.

Shalane Flanagan dominated the women’s 10,000 meters, dipping under 31:00 for the fourth time in her career.  Kara Goucher rode the pace work of Jen Rhines till moving past in the final stages to grab second place, leading the consistent Ms. Rhines, Desi Davila, and Magda Lewy Boulet under 32:00, which, from stats man extraordinaire Ken Nakamura, is the highest number of American women ever to crack the 32:00 barrier in a single race.  Flanagan, Goucher, and Rhines will reprise their 2008 Olympic 5000-meter teaming to this year’s 10,000-meter World Championships squad in Daegu, South Korea in late August.  Continue reading