Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now


Archive for the ‘Track & Field’


Track and Field: Keep it Pure and Simple 6

Posted on May 25, 2010 by Rojo Grande

The common kitchen match.

It’s been around for nearly two centuries, essentially unchanged. Today’s high-tech geniuses have not come up with a cheaper, safer, more portable source of fire.

John Browning’s Colt .45 auto-loading pistol.

In an age where a missile can be guided through a knothole from outer space, Browning’s 1911 design is still without peer in regard to efficiency and reliability.

The Great White shark.

No frills. No attractive lures. It sees what it wants and gets it. Over millennia, it has not changed or evolved. The perfect killing machine has no need to adapt.

The beauty is in the simplicity.

Since man first became aware of his own existence, he followed a pattern observed in his fellow four-legged creatures: a playful pre-enactment of more serious matters to come.

Just as young pups and adolescent colts feigned fighting as practice for future survival, humans engaged in games, mimicking the skills necessary for hunting and warfare.

Running, jumping, throwing.  Strength, agility, speed. An inborn competitive spirit drove man to seek the fastest, the strongest, the most enduring.

And such was the genesis of what we now call Track and Field.

The basic elements of my favorite sport have not changed over the centuries. It still comes down to a single individual, sometimes with a single implement, striving against an opponent to determine how fast, how high, or how far.

No frills, no protective gear, rain or shine, clothed in only the essentials. Competition in it’s most raw and fundamental form.This is why the sport appeals to me.

The beauty is in the simplicity.

Lately my sport has lost some of it’s popularity. Some blame drugs. Some blame a lack of media attention. Others say not enough blood and violence.

The drugs have been prevalent in almost every sport. Track and Field now has one of the most stringent testing regimens in sport, to the point of even banning some substances which have no performance enhancing properties at all. The modern athlete is subject to an ever-invasive presence few of us are even aware of.

Since the “Golden Age of Track and Field” (1960s and 70s), yes, media attention has been diverted to other sports, more by default than public demand.

When one considers the two Track and Field powers of that day (USSR and USA), perhaps the two misguided Olympic boycotts in 1980 and 1984 did more harm to the sport than good for the world. Ponder the timing.

Blood and violence? Society, with it’s onslaught of non-stop multimedia and virtual reality has become de-sensitized, and clamors for more and more stimulus. Is the sight of Usain Bolt twice demolishing two world records not stimulus enough?

The temptation by those in power, to right the sport’s ship, may tend toward the way of the world: more glitz and gimmicks. I appeal to those in power to not go down that road. It will surely lead to the dilution of one of history’s purest sports.

The appeal is in the raw purity of the sport

IAAF’s inaugural Diamond League Series, featuring the world’s top talent, teeters precariously in that direction. The format eliminates many of the traditional events at each venue to satisfy the time constraints of television and a perceived “microwave” society.

While the basic concept is good in that it does guarantee the most elite athletes will appear at 14 venues across the globe, the series needs some tinkering. What is not guaranteed is that the best of the best will consistently meet head-to-head throughout the season.

A thrill-seeking public will quickly tire of yet another predictable outcome when superstar meets “also-rans”.

Given Track and Field’s steady popularity over the decades, perhaps a look back would be more prudent in searching for answers.

The current down cycle in the sport is but a blip in the grand scheme of things.

Track and Field has endured the Fall of Rome, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, the Inquisition, the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars and the Beatles. Through it all, it has maintained its purity, simplicity and integrity.

Society is not the constant in this equation. Our sport is.

Society will eventually sicken itself as its tolerance level for more stimulus is finally achieved. It will come full circle and again long for the pure and simple. Hopefully our beloved sport will be there waiting, unchanged, for a new generation of fans.

The beauty will be in the simplicity.

Team Hoyt Dusts Off An Old Friend As They Prepare For Boston 7

Posted on April 03, 2010 by Todd Civin

Team Hoyt running Marine Corp Marathon in 1987 with their "old friend".

Team Hoyt running Marine Corp Marathon in 1987 with their "old friend".

By Kathy Boyer/Todd Civin

True friends are like running chairs. They are always there when you need them and ready to get dusted off and asked to travel 26.2 miles with you at a moments notice.

Or something like that.

Dick and Rick (Team Hoyt) have been having a lot of trouble the last few years with their running chair.  The chair that carried them through the most recent portion of their thousand, plus running events.

According to the calendar, Dick, like all of us, is getting older as he will be turning 70 on June 1. Rick is not only getting older (48), but is also, like all of us, putting on a bit of weight. Rick tips the scales at 148 pounds right now, while he was only 115 pounds as recently as two years ago. Rick is also having trouble with his back, the result of sitting in the running chair for long periods of time over the years, while Dick is having trouble with his breathing when running, coupled with some pain in his quads and legs.

While sitting in the running chair that Rick has been using for many years, his feet are tucked under him as he sits during race events.  He has been quite uncomfortable for over a year now and Dick has been talking with engineers and others trying to get a new chair built for Rick. To this point they have not had much luck. Read the rest of this entry →

The Greatest Track Meet of All-Time: 1962, USA vs. USSR 9

Posted on February 10, 2010 by Rojo Grande

Annihilation.

Such fatalism and finality we associate with that word.

Yet in the early 1960s, that is exactly what the planet faced as the two world powers of that time postured behind their immense nuclear arsenals. Never before or since had the world been so close to self-destruction.

In the midst of those tense times, perhaps as a subliminal human survival instinct, the two powers somehow continued to participate in a popular athletic rivalry: the USA vs USSR Track and Field dual meet series.

Obviously, Earth survived.

Historians would eventually credit diplomacy, through glasnost and perestroika, with the ending of that Cold War. But at the moment when fingers in high places crept closest to that mythical red button, the 1962 USA/USSR dual track meet may have just provided the distraction which caused both sides to blink.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had already spewed his famous “We will bury you!” tirade. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba had President John F. Kennedy reeling on the defensive.

Only days before the meet, Soviet experts were secretly whisked to Cuba to oversee the installation of nuclear missile sites—targeting American cities. Fallout shelters and routine survival drills by school children were the order of the day. US pilot Gary Powers had recently been shot down and captured by the Soviets in the famous spy plane incident.

As if confrontation on terrestrial levels were not enough, the so-called “space race” added to the contentious spirit of the times. Read the rest of this entry →

The Millrose Games: Producing Track & Field Legends For Over a Century 10

Posted on January 26, 2010 by Rojo Grande
The Millrose Games have been a New York Tradition for 103 years.

The Millrose Games have been a New York Tradition for 103 years.

Only astute track and field fans or sports historians (or really old geezers) would recognize these names: Paavo Nurmi, Cornelius Warmerdam, Glenn Cunningham…

A few more casual track fans might perk up at these names: Mary Decker, Marty Liquori, Jackie Joyner-Kersee…

And is there a self-respecting sports enthusiast who has not heard of Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis or Yelena Isinbayeva…?

All these legends of track and field—and more…many, many more—have left their blood, sweat and tears upon the fabled boards at the Millrose Games.

Yet the greatest legend of them all may be The Games themselves.

This Friday, January 29, New York’s Madison Square Garden will host the 103rd edition of the prestigious Millrose Games—arguably the most famous, and certainly the oldest indoor track and field meet in the world. The Millrose will welcome top athletes from high school, collegiate and professional levels in a kickoff of the USA Track and Field Visa Championship Series.

Consider these milestones:

Friday will be the 96th time the Millrose Games has been hosted by Madison Square Garden, making it the oldest continuous sporting event held there. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Hall of Famer Tony Oliva
      July 17, 2022 | 2:15 pm
      Tony Oliva

      After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

      Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

      Read more »

    • RSSArchive for Vintage Athlete of the Month »
  • Follow Us Online

  • Current Poll

    Who is the Best Quarterback from the 2020 Rookie Class?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...
  • Post Categories



↑ Top