Friday, August 22, 2008


Maybe you missed the memo, but US track and field is scheduled to be disbanded sometime in the next day or two. After drops in the 4 x 100m, it's all doom and gloom, from all sides. But basically, what it comes down to is this: the big-name American favorites who were getting their balls fondled by the USATF, NBC and domestic media, didn't produce. If the shot-putters go 1-2-3 (or probably, even 1-2 or 1-3), and if Tyson Gay doesn't get hurt and gets two silvers behind WR times... are we wailing and gnashing our teeth? Bear in mind, that's a royal "we" because ben and I certainly are doing neither of the above. At least not for track-related reasons.

Let's review:
-- sweep in the Men's 400H
-- sweep in the Men's 400
-- 2-3 in Men's 110H, behind the WR holder
-- gold in the Women's 110H (nearly 1-2)
-- surprise gold in the Women's Discus
-- bronze in Women's 10,000, behind the (essentially) #1 and #2 10k performances, all-time
-- 3-4-5 in the Men's 200 (essentially), behind the WR holder
-- silver in the Women's pole vault, behind the WR holder
But OH GOD! We lost to a freak of nature in the 100 & 200 with our best runner coming back from injury! We didn't win the 4 x 100s! Well, here's a little truth-bomb that I'm borrowing from ben's caché: the US men haven't won the 4 x 100m in consecutive Olympics since 1976, and the women haven't won it period since 1996. So it's not exactly like we've had a stranglehold on the event. Should we win the 4 x 100 most years? With our depth, Yes. Absolutely. Does losing it this year perhaps bespeak some laziness or a lack of preparation, especially when it feels like we always blow it in the Olympics? Sure.

But choking in the 4 x 1 hardly indicates that our athletes are no longer top notch, since that particular gold medal has never been a given, even in our best years. To wit: in 2004 we were talking about Athens being our most dominating showing in athletics, ever, despite getting beaten by Britain (men) and -- gasp! -- Jamaica (women) in the 400m relay. This time around, a couple key athletes falter individually -- while other unknowns step-up, mind you -- and we lose THE SAME RELAYS WE LOST IN GREECE and suddenly we're in the shitter. Right.

We've got women medaling in distance races. In the short stuff, we were beaten by world record holders in Bolt and Robles. If ANYTHING should be a cause for concern, its that we got totally housed in the Women's 100m, and had no one in the 800 or 1500 finals, on the men's side. But the latter is a product of a brutal Trials system which saw top talent in each event (Webb and Khadevis) get left at home. And the former, well, shit. Sometimes it just happens. Since 1992, US Women have won exactly FOUR of a possible 15 medals in the 100m, just two of them gold. Not like we've been laying waste to the rest of the world.

Why the sudden consternation? Because, after great showings at Worlds, Tyson Gay and Allyson Felix and Reese Hoffa and Jeremy Wariner have been getting pimped around for months now, and in Beijing they have 3 medals between them, none gold. (Felix & Wariner should each pick one up yet, in the 4 x 400s.) Statistically, this has been a pretty darn good showing, overall, for the American team, so don't blame the athletes. It just feels like a let-down. And for that, blame the marketing people at NBC, at the USATF, at Visa, at Nike, at adidas.

Guess what: surprises are what makes the Olympics the Olympics. One shot. Sometimes it doesn't work out.

1 comment:

bryan said...

Wow, I was mulling over a post on this topic, but I think I'll just link to yours. I totally agree with you. The sky is not falling. Just a couple batons.

Well written, fellas.