Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Olympic Trials

I don't watch track and field nearly as much as I used to.

So many of the top track and field athletes have failed drug tests--or been sent to prison-- that it's largely killed my love of the sport. Still, though, when the Olympic Trials come around, I wind up watching.

After watching the trials two weekends ago, though, I came to a surprising conclusion: I'm glad I wasn't great at track and field.

The thought of training almost every day for ten or fifteen years, going to the Olympic trials, then missing qualifying for the Olympics by an inch or thousandth of a second, is excruciatingly painful. There was a hurdler who was in the clear to finish third in the finals, then he stumbled after jumping the last hurdle cleanly. It was like watching a disaster film unfold in less than a second as he lost his balance and you saw him start to fall.

I know. There are world championships and regional meets and all kinds of other events, but in track and field, it's still the Olympics that matter most. That guy is going to think about that moment every day for the rest of his life.

I would've loved to have been a great athlete, of course (and for thirty minutes in fourth grade, my Olympic future seemed assured), but the thought of being in a sport where your entire life comes down to a thousandth of a second is painful to even think about.

It's funny, but this didn't even cross my mind when I was younger, because I really had no concept of loss. Now, though, I do, and watching decades of practice go ultimately unfulfilled--by inches--makes me feel a deep kind of sadness.

If you didn't see any of the Trials and you're wondering about the quality of the coverage, it was absolutely butcherific. NBCs entire strategy when it comes to events like this is to provide maximum entertainment for people who know nothing about the event. If a race lasted longer than four minutes, you wouldn't see all of it. The 5,000 meter race, which was won in a little over thirteen minutes, had two commercial breaks, and they skipped two minutes forward compared to real-time!

It was incredibly poor, and the field events were worse. If you liked the high jump, you got to watch about ninety seconds of coverage. Pole vault? Same.

I'm hoping that with NBCs one million hours of Olympic coverage, they'll dedicate one channel to track and field. Five people will watch, including me, but we'll get to see everything instead of the equivalent of a music video package.

Site Meter