Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Asterisk*

Track and Field has started. Unless you live under a rock, I’m sure you are aware of that. You are also probably keenly aware of the huge cloud of skepticism that covers the sports these days. You are not able to watch a race, read an article, or listen to coverage without hearing a reference to performance enhancing, doping, steroids, or something in that category. Everything has an asterisk. What has happened in our sport over the last few years has been extremely detrimental and it is no more evident than here at the Games, usually the one place where Track and Field is able to shine. But now a huge cloud of suspicion subdues that shine.

And perhaps it is all justified. Everything that has gone on and been uncovered makes it hard to see the purity anymore. You can’t look at an excellent performance and see only that—your mind immediately deems it improbable of someone being able to accomplish a great feat clean. And if your mind hasn’t begun that process yet, the media will make sure it has by the end of these Olympics. I’m sure of it. At first I wasn’t so sure of the media’s effect on the changing perception of our athletes and track in general. I knew that as athletes and people in the “know” about our sport and what types of things seem plausible and what sorts of behaviors are believable, we would probably have a different opinion on things then perhaps the general public would. It’s like the family down the street with the white picket fence that still has two parents, 2.5 kids, and a dog named Benji. Well…maybe not. We really haven’t been the perfect poster child but we like to keep our dirty laundry under wraps as much as possible. There is still a lot of good in our sport as well as a lot of amazing athletes. If people don’t believe in that, they lose interest. There is a reason we saw swimming “LIVE” during prime time and Track and Field on a time delay so by the time you actually saw the races you’ve already encountered a myriad of headlines screaming the results. We’ve lost our luster and people just aren’t as interested in a sport full of drug cheats.

But it is still a great sport with many, many fantastic athletes capable of extraordinary things. And the problem now is that the general public just isn’t that discerning. All they know is phenomenal more than likely equals performance enhancing. Most of our recent exceptional stars have seemed to be phonies and this is the problem you encounter with a sport that has chosen such few faces to represent it. So now the whole sport will suffer. Perhaps rightly so in some ways, I don’t really know. I have my own cynicisms and have become a huge skeptic as of late myself but I still choose to not let it get out of hand as much as possible. I know that there are people out there capable of remarkable things and I still want to be able to appreciate that. And I want the general public to be able to do the same.

Today as I was eating lunch I overheard the next table over talking about the Olympics and specifically about what has happened on the track the last couple of days. There have been some FAST races, in case you have been occupied with other things. And the first thing they mentioned was that so and so must be “juiced.” They don’t know much about the sport I’m sure, but they do know that fast people can’t be fast without help these days supposedly. It was a bit depressing to overhear that because I know that many people share that sentiment these days. But people can still be fast. Really fast. I don’t have the ability to vouch for anybody or tell you who to believe in for sure (except me of course), but there are still many amazing athletes out there and they need and appreciate the support.

18 comments:

eclectik said...

Outside of my Beef with the 48 hour a day Phelps coverage...AND the skimpin out on the track and field coverage (Damn can I atleast get a intro for each runner? Can I SEE the Long jump? The Hep?)

Those are fine tuned atheletes (and we know I'm lookin)
They are in unbelievable shape and they sacrifice TONS to do what they do and be where they are...I couldn't imagine

My defualt people that cannot do what extrordinary people can do; hate.

The latest thing that's pissin me off is allovduhsuddin Bolt is being Disrespectful and stuff for how he acted during the race...cannot stand the talking heads.

Anyway...

What were you eating for lunch? :)

e.


Only Asterik that should be on the games is: * Bri wasn't there.
Those bitches wuz goin down.

Andre Rafik said...

First of all, i hate being one of those black people whos quick to play the race card every chance he can but i think it has less to do with drugs or an athletes performance and more to do with a story "america" can embrace. Track has no 41 year old mom whos defying the odds to win a medal, or somebody whos trying to win the most gold medals in one olympics. Misty May and Kerri Walsh are not stars of these olympic games. It all seems contrived. There's an interest where the media wants interest. They want people on TV that they can have on their Today show in the morning and usain bolt isnt it. They showed the marathon live, they showed the 10,000 live. They'll show the "black" events because they have to, but on a delay. I think drugs is part of it but then again not really.
NBC is not broadcasting coloreds.

anonymousnupe said...

Whoa, Eclectik! "Bitches"?! That must have been a slip, 'cause I always thought you were much higher-minded and more enlightened than that.

At any rate, Bri, I don't think it's so much a matter of people who are fast being suspect, but more a matter of one somebody (Bolt) coming out of "nowhere" (at least in the 100) to make the rest of the field look like they belong in the Special Olympics (no disrespect intended), ala Ben Johnson. Being fast and winning by hundredths of a second is one thing. Running backwards with one arm tied behind your back and blindfolded and still beating world-class competitors like they're your little cousin Moochie who's always tryna hang with the big boys, is another thing entirely. (I exaggerate, of course, to make the point of how insignificant and desperate Usain made the other sprinters, including his own countryman, appear.)

Shannon said...

A lot of the track events are held in the evening/night in Beijing. Because they are 15 hours ahead (of California) that would make "LIVE" at around 10am. Not too many people can watch it then. The swimming events mostly took place early in the day which which was evening for us here. I am sure this is a huge part of the reason track events are delayed. The gymnastics has been delayed as well.

I am a huge track fan and typically I don't really care about swimming, but the United States track atheletes (with some exceptions) haven't been able to deliver like the swimmers have so far.

Anonymous said...

thanks for letting me know that track started. i live under a rock and was hoping someone would say something.

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Brianna said...

@e...of course phelps mania has gotten to be out of control. the Today show would rather interview his mother than a gold medallist in another sport. but hey...the country loves him so it is what it is. it's sad though because you have the medal ceremony for a relay he was in and you almost forget that there is 3 other people who swam on it because you don't even see their faces for one second!!! but at least nbc is pretty even with only introducing who they want...it bothers me more in track because i know everybody so if i don't know the swimmers in the race it's not a big deal, but how do you not introduce a whole olympic final field??? that is silly.

@andre...i think it's both. the stories of phelps and dara torres are definitely amazing stories and they deserve coverage but i think they have latched on even more because it also lets them focus on stories that won't be ruined later down the road by some unfortunate circumstance...a la marion jones. (hopefully). and yes, because they are white has something to do with it, i'm sure. but it is also the olympics so them not focusing on usain bolt is not so astonishing since he is not american AND has an accent, which is like a double whammy.

@nupe...if someone had done what usain bolt did BEFORE all this balco, everyone's on drugs saga, then it wouldn't have been so shocking and suspect, it would have been more appreciated. yes, people don't know bolt, especially as a 100 meter runner. but the guy IS an amazing athlete and it's because of what's happened that his credibility goes out the window immediately. the thing is though, every time i read anything about this 100 meter race, it always included the fact that the majority of all the other "fastest man ever" are dirty, thus...

@shannon...nbc had them CHANGE the schedule of swimming and some of the olympic events (likw gymnastics all around) specifically for the purpose of being able to show them live in the United States. I guess they have that type of pull. They DID NOT want to have the track events changed. In past Olympics, track was the biggest draw at the games and now obviously it is not. If it was a case of Marion going for five golds then they would have made track during the morning as well I'm sure. But they don't feel comfortable "creating" another Marion right now so they just let us kind of fall by the wayside. And yes...we are not really holding up our end of the bargain on the track this year either it seems.

Jasmine said...

yes, but at least YOU'RE in US Weekly.
you're way flippin' cooler than i'll ever be.
143

anonymousnupe said...

But Ben Johnson was way before Balco. I think he's the one who ruined the ruse for all the sprinters to follow.

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kiemie said...

I am beyond frustrated with the games. I can't tell if I'm more bias to my sport or to my country. Did you see the womens 100m final? Highway robbery!

Brianna said...

@nupe...not entirely true. after ben johnson maybe people were a little more aware but after that everybody knew and cared about michael johnson...maurice greene...marion jones...

@kiemie...yea, the women's 100 was a doozy.

Anonymous said...

The entire coverage sucks! My god, how many more volleyball games will they force me to watch! Do, I really care about water polo? No! Where is the high jump? Where is the long jump? Must I really have to watch another interview of Phelps or the whiny gymnastic girls! Why can't I see more than 1 race of track at a time and then they follow it up with 3 hours of rowing. The entire coverage sucks! You blew it NBC!

Medo

Christy said...

You're in US Weekly? Is it the Budweiser ad or something new???

Los Angelista said...

US Weekly? Do tell!

Gosh, track and field used to be the thing to watch at the Olympics and now it's so relegated to second-class citizenship. Bolt made an amazing world record but it's an afterthought. I am so disappointed in the assumption that he's is only winning because he's using something, but Michael Phelps doesn't get those same insinuations. Whatever happened till innocent till proven guilty? Neither should have to deal with such suggestions. Both are amazing athletes and should be recognized as such.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Track and field is not getting more attention! I try to avoid looking at headlines and searching the internet to see the final results of track and field. I hate it when its 8pm and Bob from NBC says, "....And up next we will have the women's 100m" and they don't actually show the 100m until 11:30pm! My father and I are really considering writing NBC to express our displeasure with Olympic coverage.

Wendell

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Bri,

I just have to mention one name regarding the entire 2008 Olympics . . . DAVID OLIVER! Track and Field did not receive the coverage I expected, but David represented and looked good doing it!

Oliver's sincere fan,
Reality from the ATL :)