Friday, June 3, 2011

Anti-Media Rant #1

Alan Abrahamson is a T&F blogger for NBC Sports, and he recently penned a diatribe entitled: Track and Field, going nowhere fast in the United States...
It's hard for me to take any professional critic seriously when all they do is comment on the alleged shortcomings of others while not pitching in to help the cause themselves. It's oh so easy to say what's wrong without being responsible for actually fixing the problem.

Much of Abramson's agita seems like it's concentrated on his belief that Eugene/Nike/USATF don't do enough to cater to the media!!! He says that we need more cameras on the infield to see the athletes up close. I don't know; I saw cameras literally 2 feet from the pole vaulters at the Pre, right in their faces. Hard to concentrate on clearing the bar when the cameraman won't give you any space.

Abramson also mentioned that he couldn't get a newspaper job in Eugene or Oregon when he left college. Is his entire premise based on sour grapes?

Now he wants a reality show based on sprinters all trying to make the team while living under the same roof? No, no, no. Part of the reason our country has lost stature is that we've become 'way too much sizzle and not enough steak.' I don't want the Kardashians on my track!!!

Then he says we should capture athletes talking smack to each other like in basketball and football. Two reason why I disagree completely:

 #1 see previous paragraph, that's just more of the dumbing down of America.

#2 Shawn Crawford already tried it and got blasted. In the Athens 100m semis, he and Justin Gatlin were side by side and blowing away the field by 60 meters. Shawn turns to Justin and starts talking smack in the middle of the race. Ok, fine. No put downs, no belittling of opponents, just two friends celebrating their success. I loved it. But who didn't love it? The NBC announcer on the telecast who said it was a classless act. That's the same NBC that employs Alan Abrahamson, the writer of the article.

Abrahamson complains about parking in Eugene. Dude, it's a college town. Park at the football stadium and take the (free) shuttle like the rest of the fans. Or bring a bike like I do, and ride to the track from South Eugene High. And is it really that big a deal to bring your own ethernet cable?
No, it's not the Super Bowl in Dallas, where the media complains about the weather because they can't play as much golf as they want. The New York/LA media didn't send anyone to the Pre? Darn. They're too busy watching the NFL and NBA self-immolate; billionaires and millionaires fighting about a couple percentage points. Good riddance.
Yes, USATF has its issues like any large organization. They looked outside the sport when they hired  Doug Logan. So how does USATF deserve derision for lacking 'out of the box thinking?' To have an outsider say that USATF is cursed with myopia and won't try anything new makes no sense.

Track/Eugene/Nike has always been about the athlete, not the media. According to Kenny Moore, Bowerman was on the infield during the '72 Trials when he heard the TV producer over a walkie-talkie telling the cameraman to get on the track and take shots of each 200 m runner so the network could run a commercial. Bowerman stood on the camera cord so the guy couldn't move, and ordered the race to start on schedule.

When we're comparing track to other major sports, consider this: USATF and Major League Baseball were invited to appear before Congress to discuss doping policies. Craig Masback, USATF CEO, arrived with a binder 4" thick, complete with testing protocols, verification requirements, adherence policies, etc...

The baseball lawyer had a 2 page memo.

So, which sport cares more about the sport itself, and which sport cares only about its image? If major league baseball and football had track's drug testing requirements, there would be no major league baseball and football.

And let's talk 'All Star' teams. Baseball, football pick their all-stars via popularity contest. It's not uncommon for players on the disabled list to get selected! USATF picks its Olympic and World Championship teams in a very democratic and straightforward manner: show up and place 1,2, or 3. No ifs, ands, or buts. It's put up or shut up, and 'reputation' or 'experience' don't count. It's who gets to the finish line first. Very clear criteria.

Now that I've got my blood pressure up....

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