Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now



Track and Field: Keep it Pure and Simple 5

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.

Joe West and The Real Disgrace of Baseball 2

Posted on April 09, 2010 by Don Spieles

So, the Yankees as Red Sox are playing a three game set. You find yourself in the very lucky position of having enough disposable income to afford tickets for one of these games (some outfield seats go for $200 plus.)  You layout close to a grand to take the wife and kids to Yankee Stadium, you spend a bit more on gas and parking.  You drop another $200 bucks on $5 hot dogs, $10 beers, and over priced game programs and souvenirs for the kiddies.   Given this layout of cash, which of the following options do you choose:

A) A 2 hour, 20 minute lightning-round game, barely longer than a $9 movie.

B) A 4 hour baseball clinic with full counts run up by two of the best lineups in baseball, complete with base runners, full counts, and a couple of lead changes to boot.

"Cowboy Joe" West

Some more obvious observation:  Joe West is a blow-hard attention seeker who hasn’t the first clue what is important to baseball fans.

Joe West, Major League umpire, had this to say about the Yankees and Red Sox recent series at Fenway:

“They’re the two clubs that don’t try to pick up the pace. They’re two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest? It’s pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play.’’

Why is it that an umpire who’s been in the league for the years that West has doesn’t realize the the very fact that these are the two best teams in baseball is the exact reason why their games go so long.  As Curt Schilling pointed out recently, two great line-ups, taking lots of pitches, giving up no at-bats, makes for long games.   Read the rest of this entry →

Outrage at Olney’s Pujols/Howard Story Misguided 0

Posted on March 16, 2010 by Don Spieles

Yesterday, Buster Olney of ESPN became the story when he posted an article stating that a “sources” had informed him that there had been internal discussion within the Phillies organization about trading Ryan Howard to get Albert Pujols. Since then, lesser media outlets and the blogosphere has erupted with everything from “professional” condemnations to personal insults and attacks leveled at Olney.

So, we have journalists, both amateur and quasi-professional, accusing Olney of being unprofessional by casting insults at him?  That’s the kind of  irony that inspires Alanis Morissette songs!

The reaction over an utterly reasonable article seems to be prompted more by the fact that Olney is a nationally read writer for ESPN, the network that is the undisputed king of sports news.  The story, in and of itself, lends nothing incredible and is, in fact, much more professional than many of the rebuttals.

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols breaks record

While evidently not likely, a trade of Pujols for Howard is not without it's logic, regardless of which side of the table one looks from.

Some points to be clear on:

  • Olney did not say there was discussion between the Cardinals and Phillies.

“It’s not fully clear whether the Phillies actually have approached the Cardinals with the idea”

  • Olney immediately contacted Ruben Amaro, Jr., the Phillies GM and included his denial in the article.

“Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro flatly denied that the internal discussions have taken place. “Lies,” he said. “That’s a lie. I don’t know who you’re talking to, but that’s a lie.”" Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Paul Warfield: The Perfect Receiver
      December 10, 2018 | 3:36 pm

      Warfield-DolphinsThe Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was perfection personified as a wide receiver during his NFL career.

      Known for his fluid movement, grace and jumping ability during his 13 year NFL career, Paul Warfield was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and key performer for the Miami Dolphins during their 17-0 campaign in 1972.

      Because the role of the wide receiver has changed so much and today’s star receivers get the ball thrown to them so many more times than in the pre-1978 era, Warfield is often overlooked when discussing all-time greats.

      But, think about this. Warfield averaged 20.1 yards per catch for his career (427 receptions, 8,565 yards) and 19.9% of his receptions went for touchdowns (85). By comparison, Julio Jones has averaged 15.5 yards per catch for his career and a touchdown in 6.9% of his receptions (46 TDs in 669 catches). Antonio Brown averages 13.4 ypc and a TD in 8.7% (70 of 804) of his receptions. Terrell Owens averaged 14.8 ypc and a TD in 14.2% of his receptions. Even Jerry Rice, considered the greatest receiver of all-time, averaged only 14.8 ypc and a TD in 12.7% of his catches.

      Read more »

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