A recap of the evening, after the jump.
(Hi-res version of the interview over at our blip page. Music by Holtz.)
TV alert, from Alison Wade over at EliteRunning.com:
A feature on Macharia Yuot (who also got some love from the NY Times) airs tonight on ESPN. And NOVA is airing programming looking at a few members of the, shall we say, "less elite" contingent at Boston.
And speaking of visual coverage, check back right here, to this very site, this very evening for our exclusive interview with the man they call Fam.
True story: I went to see The Darjeeling Limited last night (very average, and I'm generally a big Wes Anderson fan), at the AMC theater just west of Times Square. Walking through Times Square (also known as Satan's Asshole), the streets were packed (nothing new) and everyone was standing stock-still and staring up at the buildings (unfortunately, also nothing new). What struck me, though, was that everyone was standing there staring in the same direction: they were watching a giant monitor broadcasting some sort of live classical music performance. OMG! Times Square! They have TELEVISION there! That's right: everyone was standing around watching TV.
Meanwhile, the buzz/outrage has been quite fervent over at Letsrun. While I suppose some of the complaints about the planning/marketing of the Trials are semi-well-founded, I think it's a little early to get our knickers all in a twist. Yes, 7:30 is an EARLY start. Yes, it makes it impossible for West Coasters to tune in at a natural waking hour. And folks in NJ and Connecticut have a heck of a commute on their hands. But I think it is a little lazy of critics to simply assume the NYRR, as experienced a race-management organization as you can find, picked that start time via a late-night game of Yahtzee while in a collective haze of Jack Daniels and mai thais.
You have to stop and think: why 7:30? Find out just that, after the jump.
7:30am. There has to be SOME reason, and it ain't avoiding the heat. Well, there are two obvious ones: to get on The Today Show, and to be able to run through Midtown, including Times Square. Is it worth it to have the entire event so early just for that? Well, at face value, those five minutes, that one pre-Central Park mile probably make it seem like it a middling plan, at best. But I think it's worth a closer look.
So here's what you'll have:
-- The 5 Million people who normally tune into Today but would not otherwise watch the Trials on TV will be watching the start and early portion of the race. Yes, 5 million.
-- The first mile of the route will be passing some of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, with tourists lining the barricades throughout.
What sort of message does this send to those 5 million viewers, even if only for five minutes? That this is a huge event. That distance running in America is (can be?) a marquee sporting event. A spectacle. Slap the word "Olympic" on the event, to boot, and I think you will make quite an impression on those viewers. Then you cross your fingers and pray that some of those folks will bounce over to NBCsports.com to watch the stream because they were intrigued. And if the availability of the stream isn't mentioned on The Today Show that morning, and during the early coverage, I would be absolutely shocked. (FWIW, I do think, this is where things break down, because you're asking the viewer to make a special effort AND to do something they might not be used to doing - watching a TV show streamed online)
So no, 7:30 is not conducive to the quote-unquote "casual fan of elite running" to attend the marathon. But: have we ever established that such a person even exists? Would New Yorkers be coming out of the woodwork to watch a small number of elite marathons compete, if it were 10am? 1pm? Would casual fans be tuning in? There is really no precedent to show that such would be is the case. You have diehard fans, you have runners, and you have everybody else, and the early start time, believe it or not, is squarely aimed at notching the biggest possible viewership from the "everybody else."
After being carried by tourists over the first mile, once in the park, you will have the die-hards out in force. However, the numbers here remain to be seen. After one crit-loop is done we're looking at about about 8:15am. Maybe a volume of Sunday marathoners begin to trickle out for their shake-out run. Another loop, 8:40. Friendship Run participants start showing up. Another loop, 9:05. Tourists have begun to show up in Central Park at this hour, not to mention plenty of walkers/joggers who, again, should, in theory, be disposed to stop and watch. Thus begins the final loop.
In that little breakdown - diehards, runners, hoi polloi - there lies the real question mark in all of this: are all those folks who are in town to run NYC on Sunday going to attend the Trials on Saturday? This is, I believe, what the NYRR is banking on. They have scheduled the International Friendship run for 9am that morning -- I imagine, in an effort to get a few thousand people into Central Park: people of a demographic we all imagine should be predisposed to watch a marathon, if anyone is. Whether this tack succeeds or fails depends on how many people will be willing to curtail their sleep two nights before their own marathon to get up at 7am and watch the Trials. A dicey proposition at best, if you ask me. Personally, I expect we won't see significant numbers straggling over to the course until 8:30 or 9. But this is where the whole project, as a spectator event, will succeed or fail.
If things break right, if the weather is as beautiful as it can be in New York at this time of year and people want to be outdoors, this could be a spectacular event. Still, I'm not so naive to expect that it will be -- there are a couple of MAJOR "ifs" in there, between the number of diehards in NYC (I think this number has probably been vastly overestimated by the NYRR) or who are willing to travel to NYC , and the number of Sunday marathoners who will turn up. But if the planners' plans come to fruition, the start will come off like a NYC-sized spectacle... and the finish of the race will be viewed by a crowd that has steadily grown into an impressive mob.
Treu: it might not play out that way. But I just don't see a way that a better scenario could be guaranteed.
A really nice look at Macharia Yuot in the New York Times as the paper looks ahead to this weekend's Olympic Trials. Like Lopez Lomong, Yuot is one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, and the article deals with his time as a refugee crossing Africa on foot:
Really, that more or less sounds like a typical day commuting to Manhattan for me. After making it stateside, Yuot would become a DIII National Champ at Widener in Philadelphia (many times over) and has adapted to American culture to the point where he carries a BlackBerry. He'll bring a PR of 2:21 to the Trials on Saturday.
“I saw a hippo come out of the river and break a man in two,” he said. “Even before that, wild animals killed many people. But some local soldiers with guns protected us.”
-- Out in the Heartland, Colorado won the Big XII meet. Again. Snooze.
-- MAACs: do we even need to type who won? Evan Garber, you failed!
-- And apparently they also went ahead with Heps in the rain, too. Princeton over Cornell.
The rest of the weekend starts today. Or something like that. I'm still really hungover.
Since we've been discussing advertising... I happened to notice while riding a Long Island Railroad train last week, a poster for the Knicks upcoming season. For the past two years they've been running an "Experience" campaign - here's the gem they turned out for Isiah Thomas:And what a vision we have experienced. Well, the one on the train for, I believe, Jamal Crawford, read "Experience the Ride." I immediately began hoping that I'd soon see the following around the city:
There's a lot going on this weekend. So to help you sift through the raft of conference meets that are coming up in a few short days, we've put together a little guide to the juiciest conference meets on tap. After the jump: getting to know each D1 conference like you know your favorite recording artists. HEPS: Radiohead –– Man, they take themselves seriously, don’t they? And maybe they’re a little too smart for their own good, got a little too plugged into the whole sociopolitical-consciousness thing, what with this “pay what you wish for our album” business, which could only have been hatched by some sort of granola-making neo-hippie agro-commune. But they’ve got talent. Dammit, they’ve got talent. BIG 10: Paris Hilton –– What’s that you say? Not a recording artist? Ha! Like the Big 10, this girl is just fantastic at pretty much everything she tries. Being a socialite. Reality TV star. Movie star. Internet star. And, of course, pop star. Of course the nay-sayers claim she’s just getting by on reputation. But they’re just jealous. BIG 12: Michael Bolton –– Powerful vocals. Surprisingly handsome looks. The ability to overcome a history of bad hair and parlay his affection for ping pong into a relationship with one of the Desperate Housewives. You take cheap-shots at him, and never, never, never admit to liking his music, but “Said I Loved You But I Lied”? “How Can We Be Lovers (If We Can’t Be Friends)”? There’s just no denying what a good couple of cuts those are. PATRIOT LEAGUE: Iron & Wine –– Mellow and easy on the ears. Throw in a wicked beard and you’ve got the kind of conference you want to listen to while kicking back and chiefing on a giant joint of medicinal hemp. CONFERENCE USA: Destiny’s Child –– Marquette and MAC: Steve Winwood –– Can’t say nothing bad about Steve Winwood. He’s blue collar, he’s sorta old school (he played with Eric Clapton for chrissakes!), the college kids like his stuff from the 80’s. Some real nice hits once upon a time. But he’s a dying breed. Steve Winwood just likes his football too much. BIG WEST: The Polk Street Elementary Sixth Grade Mixed Choir –– I guess they’re fairly talented but it’s just a bunch of kids from the same neighborhood, so their concerts are only supported by their parents, grandparents and very begrudging siblings. Not the national following they could, and, probably should have. I mean, afterall: did you hear that arrangement of “Only the Good Die Young”? Tabitha James absolutely sold the solo in the second verse. BIG You like the Pac-10.
It's hard to keep up on each of the many conferences that will be competing this weekend, so we compare each of the major conferences to their natural cognate in the music world. Read on to better familiarize yourself:
ATLANTIC 10: Oasis –– The greatest rock band since the Beatles. Or, maybe more accurately, washed up and self-important. By the way: Wonderwall wasn’t even that great of a song to begin with.
HEPS: Radiohead –– Man, they take themselves seriously, don’t they? And maybe they’re a little too smart for their own good, got a little too plugged into the whole sociopolitical-consciousness thing, what with this “pay what you wish for our album” business, which could only have been hatched by some sort of granola-making neo-hippie agro-commune. But they’ve got talent. Dammit, they’ve got talent.
BIG 10: Paris Hilton –– What’s that you say? Not a recording artist? Ha! Like the Big 10, this girl is just fantastic at pretty much everything she tries. Being a socialite. Reality TV star. Movie star. Internet star. And, of course, pop star. Of course the nay-sayers claim she’s just getting by on reputation. But they’re just jealous.
BIG 12: Michael Bolton –– Powerful vocals. Surprisingly handsome looks. The ability to overcome a history of bad hair and parlay his affection for ping pong into a relationship with one of the Desperate Housewives. You take cheap-shots at him, and never, never, never admit to liking his music, but “Said I Loved You But I Lied”? “How Can We Be Lovers (If We Can’t Be Friends)”? There’s just no denying what a good couple of cuts those are.
PATRIOT LEAGUE: Iron & Wine –– Mellow and easy on the ears. Throw in a wicked beard and you’ve got the kind of conference you want to listen to while kicking back and chiefing on a giant joint of medicinal hemp.
CONFERENCE USA: Destiny’s Child –– Marquette and
MAC: Steve Winwood –– Can’t say nothing bad about Steve Winwood. He’s blue collar, he’s sorta old school (he played with Eric Clapton for chrissakes!), the college kids like his stuff from the 80’s. Some real nice hits once upon a time. But he’s a dying breed. Steve Winwood just likes his football too much.
BIG WEST: The Polk Street Elementary Sixth Grade Mixed Choir –– I guess they’re fairly talented but it’s just a bunch of kids from the same neighborhood, so their concerts are only supported by their parents, grandparents and very begrudging siblings. Not the national following they could, and, probably should have. I mean, afterall: did you hear that arrangement of “Only the Good Die Young”? Tabitha James absolutely sold the solo in the second verse.
You like the Pac-10.
Public: Can some random person please make an obvious, worn out point about what should change in American distance running to make it more popular?
ME: Ok, I will.
I love these people who think they need to tell the world via internet how things would be better for all distance runners if they were running the show. They are simple-minded egomaniacs who need to realize that "American distance running" is not some lumbering beast blindly wandering around, just waiting for someone to point him in the right direction.
What is wrong, after the jump.
Seriously, here is what is wrong with American distance running:
This ad is hanging up around NYC. Subways, buses, the usual. It is lame as hell. I can see my Grandma designing this ad. Nana loves Lady Liberty. Unfortunately, Nana is not who we want to get excited about the trials.
Leading up to the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which was in NY, there were posters in the same spots with pictures of Roddick, Federer, Serena, Sharapova, and the other big stars looking all young and hip. Commuters had some young, good looking individuals to look at while waiting for their train and, in the process, learned that the U.S. Open was going on and if they wanted to be hip, they should check it out.
No one in New York is going to be attracted to a picture of the statue of liberty, unless they just got here from 19th century Poland.
I am convinced that the trials deserves a similar marketing technique. Instead of using some no name Runner's World model, put up a picture of Ryan Hall crossing the line in Houston, Meb with his silver medal, or Abdi licking a sneaker. Maybe even put their names and some information about them underneath their pictures. Then, some people might actually know some names of the guys running in the race on Saturday, which is usually a prerequisite to cheering for them.
Of course, simply creating a different print ad is not going to make drastic changes, but this principle can very easily be extended to other ways usatf and big events like the NYC marathon can promote the sport. The USTA, the association that puts on the the aforementioned U.S. Open, is a remarkably conservative and unhip organization, but they successfully market their events and players as the opposite, which is to say young, exciting, and fashionable.
One of the first things that can be done to generate excitement is to promote the individuals and give them a personality or, rather, to give them a chance to let their personalities shine through. Well, there are some cases where we should probably just give them one (Anday Rownbay).
Either way, give people a chance to learn the differences between runners and then let them choose sides. Whether they love or hate how cocky one runner is or how humble another runner is, they at least have some sort of preference to the outcome of the race. Every type of contest is more exciting if you care who wins or loses.
For instance, I only like watching soccer during the World Cup because I want the U.S. to do well. Other times, the sport is rather dull. I also only like watching fights when I want someone to get beat on real bad. This is the principle that needs to be used to market the sport. We have to get some runners to be hated and others loved. (by the way, I was just making that one part up to make a point...I really like to watch all fights, especially in public places.)
I realize that I have slowly rolled away from my original point about the ad. Basically, distance running is an individual sport. The individuals need to be at least recognized before anyone cares if they do well or not. A print ad hanging up all around the city would be a significant step in that direction.
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
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.
Lots of new faces in the new national poll (w. Pre-Nats finish):
t8. Cal (3b)
17. Tulsa (6b)
26. BYU (11b)
30. Florida (14w)
Other big jumps:
2. NAU (1b d. Iona, prev. 15th)
3. UTEP (1w d. Buffs, prev. 20th)
11. Virginia (4b, prev. 29th)
And over in the regional polls, Florida State is our only sandwich team, making a strong case to be The Honorary #31. Sure, why not. And, finally, in case you didn't notice, they have Colorado needing an at-large bid to get to Nationals behind NAU and UTEP. Hahahahaha.
[photo from Trackshark]
Yeah you've probably already seen the pictures, but I thought I'd weigh in: big thumbs up on the suits in lieu of tuxes. Thumbs up on the fit of the suit on Willis. Meh on the boutonnieres, which are borderline out-of-hand in size. Meh on the brown with the red - a nice harvest pink* would have worked better with the chocolate dress, but since the red was probably picked first, may we suggest something lighter, say summer oak* instead?
More importantly, the results from Willis' wedding don't tell the whole story - did you see how easy he looked doing it? He just looked so relaxed and so strong late, that you have to figure that's worth a couple more years on their married lives, at least. The numbers might not have been as good as maybe someone else's wedding, but that shouldn't discount how effortless Willis looked.
* colors may or may not have been made up
We live in a self-absorbed world. This isn't news to anyone, I'm sure. Everyone seems to think they are the proverbial "bee's knees". They think they deserve their own space on the web. Some even think they are interesting enough to write something people would want to read on a "blog" (ugh). Enough people even think someone named Tila Tequila deserves a television show chronicling her bisexual (yaawwwnnn, that's not sensational enough for me) love tribulations. Because of this whirlwind of entitlement swirling around us, it is nice to know that there will always be times in life where a large amount of people can be brought back to reality.
The point: Pre-nationals is a reality check for all college runners who think they are anything. It is the closest you can come to plugging yourself in to that hypothetical, yet somehow very real, list of runners from best to worst. And that list is pretty depressing to the large majority of us.
Example: Say some joker thinks he is a halfway decent NCAA division one distance runner. maybe he is having a really good senior year. He goes to pre-nationals, sees the clock over the finish line and has run a huge PR (yes, PRs in Terre Haute are just about as worthy of remembering as track PRs bcause everyone runs there) and sits in the chute with a smile on his face, knowing he ran under 25 minutes. He thinks that is a pretty good time. He thinks he can finally consider indulging in some type of self-respect.
He later finds out he finished 111th, in the Blue race. 218th after combining the races. 232nd with the open race. Then he figures there are at least 50 (at least!) NCAA D1 runners out there who ran at Penn St. or Arkansas who are better. And don't even get our poor runner started on all the Division 2 and 3 and NAIA guys (who, by the way, run purely for the love of the sport unlike Mr. moneybags 111th over here) that could have beat him in Terre Haute.
Therefore, our confident hero has gone from a shit-eating grin in the chute to a blank stare on the van drive home after a few short math equations. He proceeds to erase his myspace page and any further thoughts about that absurd slef-respect thing. He has, after all, broken through the top 500 of college runners in America...or thereabouts.
Way to go!
If Pack/Cards > HoyasRight?
and Hoyas > Tribe
then Pack/Cards >> Tribe.