Time for some more awards chronicling the year in our sport. This time, we’re examining the biggest messes of the year in track and field and road running.
The nominees, in chronological order…
USATF disses the new Millrose Games. Way back in February, the Millrose Games were held at Manhattan’s Armory Track and Field Center. It was the first time the meet was held outside of Madison Square Garden since before World War I. This move came as a bit of a shock to some at USATF, and it at least appeared that some bigwigs were none too happy about it.
Millrose was no longer part of USATF’s televised VISA Championship Series. It got the cold shoulder from USATF’s news service, getting next to no mention at all in the month leading up to the meet. On the day after the meet, USATF barely mentioned Bernard Lagat’s tremendous American Record run, or anything else in the meet.
I noticed this, wrote it up, and said that regardless of the intentions it sure looked like USATF had it in for Millrose’s new management. Runner’s World picked up the story and ran with it.
Olympic Trials Women’s 100 meter tie. Reams have been written about this fiasco, in which Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh tied for the 3rd and final place on the Olympic team. Many have faulted USATF for not having a tie-breaking procedure in place, but most if not all of those are sportswriters and other pundits who only take a passing interest in track; it was so highly unlikely as to be thought nearly impossible, so no fault to the organizers for not anticipating such an outcome. Nor should there be second-guessing of the official who called it a tie—he had to make a reading that he could defend in court, and given what was at stake, legal proceedings were a distinct possibility.
The reason this event gets a nomination for cluterf**k of the year because of the mishandling of the aftermath. No one seemed in charge of the situation, possibly because no one was. The agents and coaches appeared to be calling all the shots. Worst of all, Tarmoh, who felt pushed around and taken advantage of, pulled out of the runoff, a race that would have been the most-watched hour of domestic track and field in decades.
Lolo Jones. Jones gets an outsized amount of attention for someone who hasn’t ever won an Olympic medal. This is due partly to her very public failure in 2008, partly to her pretty face and fit body, and partly to her winning personality and sharp wit.
Mostly, though, it’s because she knows how to work the system to her benefit. She was lining up magazine covers long before the 2012 track season began and was already a Twitter juggernaut when the social media service was still in its nascent stage. Her entertaining, unpredictable interviews are reminiscent of Nuke Laloosh before he learned his clichés.
Yet Jones was not ready when fame turned on her, as it often does to celebrities. A lazy journalist compared her to Anna Kournikova, her Olympic hurdle teammates gave her a chilly reception (and that’s putting it midly), and suddenly everybody’s All-American was being attacked on multiple fronts.
Paul Ryan’s marathon boast. The vice-presidential candidate made an off-hand remark about running a “two-fifty-something” marathon in a radio interview. Then an online nit-picker spread it around, the hordes of marathoners found it fishy, and the real time of 4:01 eventually surfaced. It’s generally not considered a good idea to tell a verifiable lie in the midst of a presidential campaign.
Many observers wondered why he would tell a fib that was so easily disproven. My thought was that since the biggest lie he’s uttered–that his famous Ryan Budget would decrease the deficit—was met with lavish praise by DC’s Very Serious People, he just thought that you can say anything and political reporters and pundits don’t check on it. He’s right—they don’t—but sportswriters and rank-and-file citizens (people with a knack for facts and truth) outed him on this one. For good measure, they also showed that his body fat percentage is nowhere near as low as he claims it is.
Voters understand that stretching the truth is part of the job for those seeking office. Candidates run into trouble when lying wanders past “job requirement” and into the realm of “hobby” or “personality trait”.
New York Marathon cancellation. We don’t really know if Mayor Michael Bloomberg should get the blame for still trying to run the marathon in the face of massive devastation from Superstorm Sandy, or if that fault should go to NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg. Some blame could be spread around to Rupert Murdoch and The New York Post, for whipping up anti-marathon folks into frenzy (a faction that has always been present, if subdued for quite some time).
You can hardly fault race organizers for wanting to still have the race yet eventually realizing that it wasn’t really possible. You can fault them for making the decision at the worst possible moment, on Friday evening. By that time, nearly all people traveling to New York had already arrived, and for nothing.
And the winner is…
It’s a dead heat between Olympic Trials Women’s 100 meter tie and New York City Marathon cancelation. No, we’re not going to look at the finish photo.