Saturday, October 20, 2007

Best/Most Talented/Fastest American Field Ever?

It is inevitable that there will be (and has been already) a great deal of opposition to this "greatest field ever" label that has floated around the trials. Quite frankly, it's easy to see it from the old guys' point of view.

I mean, I know when I was in college, my team used to train harder, party harder,
run faster, and eat more. And, despite the same training, faster times, and same dorm cafeterias that the current team has now, that stuff is still true.

One thing I hate: People who think it was sweeter than it is now and feel the need to always tell you about it.

That said, in the early 80's there was indeed a strikingly deep field of American marathoners. There were a LOT of guys between 2:12 and 2:17. There were not, however, as many under 2:09.

Meb kinda sorta almost cancels out Frank Shorter. But, there are a couple of guys who have run very close to or faster than Frank ever did which makes this field faster and deeper up front than any ever. As for a more general idea of depth, it's tough to say if we're looking at the best ever.

Here's the thing: This trials is the best we've seen in a long time. It's easy to think this field is the best ever when a short time ago we were struggling to get people under the Olympic 'A' standard. There are a LOT more 2:12 to 2:17 guys than there were in the last twenty years, but not quite as many as the early '80's.

Which one makes a better field, the depth of quality up front or the depth of 2:12 to 2:17ers? That's a personal decision I guess. "Fans" probably care more about the former while guys who are running or have run close to 2:17 in the past probably care more about the latter.

The discussions are entertaining, though, and good for the sport. I always imagine an exchange with Joe Old Guy gesticulating, throwing out his back and breaking his hip, trying to convince Billy Young Gun that Beardsley was a man and Ritzenhein a mouse.

Face it: Old people are lame and have romantic, cloudy memories. Young people are brash, selfish and have a limited sense of history. Ryan Hall may be the new Frank Shorter which makes Frank Shorter the old Frank Shorter and, let's face it, no one wants the older model of something.

Look at the time in the picture of Ryan Hall. LOOK AT IT! This is American distance running. Things matter in this order:
1. Olympic Medals
2. Times
3. How many beers you drink
4. Your place at New York/Chicago/Boston/London

I have not answered any questions here. I realize that. I have, however, decided the question is unanswerable, like a lot of life's questions. I look forward to the message board scuffles regardless.

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