>Just a few hours ago on Twitter, Martin Bingisser wondered why the track community wasn’t talking about Brooks Johnson’s blog about Doug Logan. In it, Johnson discussed the man with agent Mark Block and talked about arrogance, mistreatment of athletes, and the same Project 30 Task Force that still remains part of the discussion two years later. I said my response couldn’t fit in the allotted 140 characters.
Before I get into this, I want to say two things. First off, I don’t want to go into endless post-mortem on the Logan issue. If I ever bring it up again, it will be in regards to future occurrences. Secondly, I’m a track fan. I like watching track, analyzing it, and suggesting ideas for its improvement. I don’t like looking behind the scenes with the agents and the meet promoters and the officials doing their work. It’s seeing how the sausage is made and I like to keep that to a minimum.
The mistake most people make when reading this stuff (or pretty much anything news-oriented) is to only consider the words on the page. They don’t see things in a broader context. You must always look at the perspective of a writer and his intended audience. Even if there is no overt agenda and the author is attempting to be unbiased, some will still creep in because all writers have different experiences. I alluded to this in my latest Sunday night post. Phil Hersh is an Olympic writer and he’s used to seeing all kinds of ineffective national and international governing bodies, and USATF sticks out to him as being especially so. On the other hand, Larry Eder is a track insider and is always talking to agents and managers and meet directors and others, so it should be hardly surprising that his writing about Logan’s firing was oriented towards their concerns.
More important is to recognize that USATF is primarily a political organization. People are not selected to positions of power by merit but by election. The previous name of USATF was The Athletics Congress for that very reason. And, by the way USATF is set up, it’s not direct democracy either. Any elected official’s words should be looked at critically in terms of how it targets a particular constituency.
On to Brooks Johnson. I cannot speak for the sprint, hurdle, jumps, or throws community, but in the distance running community Johnson is seen as mostly a joke. Ohio State head coach Robert Gary, while speaking at a 2005 USATF coaching seminar in Las Vegas, called him “crazy ass” to his face. Joetta Clark Diggs, the 4-time Olympian, 2000 team captain, and daughter of tolerate-no-fools “Crazy” Joe Clark of Lean on Me fame, was willing to come out publicly against him. There are no shortage of examples of Johnson behaving badly, treating athletes poorly, and screwing up relays. Read here and here. To many, anything he says simply lacks credibility in any form.
Thus I take what he says about Logan with a double grain of salt. One of the first things Logan did once selected for leadership was to get rid of Johnson. Brooks’ baby, the National Relay Program, was a huge expenditure with literally nothing to show for it–dropped batons plagued the US team at both the 2008 and 2009 Worlds. So Logan convinced people to get rid of it. Johnson resigned.
The US team’s overall performance at the 2008 Olympics was widely panned by sources as mainstream as USA Today and Sports Illustrated, yet Johnson now wonders if such criticism from Logan was warranted. And he digs up various other political issues of the time and talks about those as well. I see that there may be particular gripes, and I also see someone who just might to be trying to get himself elected or appointed back into USATF. Remember, Johnson (or anyone else) has been a politician more than a coach once he entered into the organization’s leadership, and as such his statements should be interpreted in the context of influencing people who may elect or appoint him. And his talk of needing an insider…well, Phil Hersh worried that Stephanie Hightower may be aiming for the CEO job, and he knows his stuff.
So here’s the thing…is it possible that both Logan is egocentric and incompetent (as Johnson, et al, claim) and that USATF’s board of directors is little more than a collection of 15 clowns (as Logan claims)? Yes. What a fine kettle of fish.