Thursday, October 10, 2013

Vol. 3 No. 57 Handicap races and big business taking over road racing

A slow news week.  Here are a few articles and events that came across the desk recently.  The first is a youtube  video covering a 120 yard handicap race held in Australia.  Admittedly the lads down under have some different takes on sport including Australian rules football.  American colleges are now recruiting some of their kickers  to boot their field goals.  We also include an article from the New York Times on the takeover of some of the big road races by investment companies and their realization that they don't have to pay elite runners to show up, because the mobs of amateurs don't care a bit who is up front in their races.  The $$$ rolling in from entry fees and corporate sponsors has usurped the need to pay the top athletes any money to show up.  So now the career of an elite athlete is moving toward solely support from equipment manufacturers and a few other products.  Maybe they will end up endorsing cigarettes like the pros did back in the 1950's.  Cash earning life of an elite is not very long.  Maybe three or four years.  And the rewards are small compared to a cyclist, NFL player, baseball or basketball player at the top of the heap.  One good year can set up a Kenyan for life back home, and take care of most of his or her extended family.  That's a big reason they train so hard.  

If 15,000 marathon runners show up for Boston or New York or Chicago.  During the year they each may have consumed four pair of shoes at $100 a pop  ($400 x 15,000= $6,000,000), consumed a few dozen Power Bars or the equivalent 15,000x $25=$375,000), bought some socks, windbreaker, tech shirt, pants, gloves, tech winter shirt, sunglasses, headgear, a garmin watch, ($900x15,000=$9,500,000), bought plane ticket and three nights in a hotel in NYC, and a $200 entry fee,( $1,500x15,000=$15,075,000).   Hey we haven't even gotten to the sponsorship money.  No wonder the vultures are descending.  This is just one race.  It used to be fun as a race director to bring in the elites just to be able to hobnob a bit with the them.  I bet these directors who are losing power are really pissed. 

here's the site for the handicap race.

After looking it over ,  Bill Schnier , former U. of Cincinnati track and field coach had some comments.  We also got going on NFL head injuries.  Sorry to you track affecianados for this drift.
I'm wondering if the sport of rugby has similar problems with long term effects of playing the game.
Our runners probably suffer from a bit of oxygen deprivation from the years of interval training.

Knowing just a little bit about the Australian psyche, I would expect that there was a lot of betting in the stands and even with legal bookmakers at the track.    How bout you take the top ranked sprinter performers for the year in any event in a race like this ,  get some sponsorship money and see if people would pay to watch and wager? 

This is just fun.  We have strayed too far from having fun.  When I took our T-M (high school) teams to Sauble Beach, Ontario the week always culminated with the Sauble Beach Relays which was a 4 x 2-mile shuttle relay with even teams.  We all discussed who should be 1st, 2nd, 3rd, . . . 18th, etc. the night before.  Then we assigned teams to make them even.  Each time a person who was ranked last or nearly last erupted with a fabulous race, demonstrating a lack of effort all week long.  We also found out that many people ran best from the front whereas others ran best from the back.  A few times it was simply a handicap race much like this 100 M. in Australia.  In any case it is lots of fun to project or predict results, then to actually see if you were right all along.  The handicapping was perfect in Australia.     Bill

Did you see Frontline last night on the saga of NFL head injuries and the league's long and ongoing attempt to deny, then agree to payoff some considerable $,    760 million to about 4000 former players?  But they still contend there is no well grounded scientific evidence that long term head injuries are directly related to the game?

The NFL is absolutely sure there is a relationship between head injuries and repercussions later in life, otherwise they would not pay out these sums now.  They are paying now so they won't have to pay more later.  The bottom line for the NFL and the public in general is the game must be preserved at all costs.  Harry Edwards said in the 1980s that sports are the slavery of the present day with the owners being the slave masters and the athletes being the slaves, even though the modern slaves are handsomly paid.  In Dr. Edward's case he was primarily talking about the black athletes.  At the time I was so energized by sports and would have loved to have been such a slave that it didn't make any sense, but looking at the owners in their luxury boxes, living to an old age while watching players whose life expentency would be 53 years, often ending up with dementia and steroid-related problems makes me realize that he was right.  The NFL of today is the modern counterpart of the Christians versus the Lions of yesteryear.  
   Nevertheless it is still entertaining.  I don't especially watch the games but when the Bengals are doing well I occasionally tune them in.  The emphasis now is on head injuries since that follows the payout money.  However, that leaves the players more vulnerable to lower body injuries since you have to tackle a person somewhere, either high or low.  The players in general would rather have their legs protected than their heads since leg injuries tend to be career ending whereas head injuries don't show major problems until years later.  Jim Brown once had a concussion during the first half, continued to play after a few sets of downs off, then played the entire second half.  He mentioned that he did not remember the first half at all.  This would be a classic example of "suck it up."  None of this is easy to understand because for every point there is a counterpoint, but in the end the money for everyone has backed everyone up against a wall, preserving the game for the owners, the players and the fans.

   With all of that in mind, is your team the Browns, Bengals or Seahawks?  Have a wonderful day in the Great Northwest, or should I say the Great Southwest?       Bill

From another reader

First, I have been advocating the outlawing of football in high school and College for a while now.  I think that the brain problems are a lot more prevalent than we know.  Two of my friends just were diagnosed with football induced brain damage.  One was a runner who only played in high school as a youth.  The other is only in his mid 40s and never played as a pro.  The NFL owners should be jailed and better still should have to pay all medical expenses.  Like everything today, it is all about money and the richest 1% of us seem to have it.

Now the fun news.    I have spent the morning reading about Alice Munro,of Huron County, who is in a class by herself as the first Canadian and, the first writer of mainly short fiction to win the Nobel Prize.
Now I must get back to the running message boards.  Boy, is our sport messed up.  Dumbing down is only one of our problems.  A medal means nothing now.  Again It is all money and drugs.   We were so lucky to run when we did although there were problems then too.  When I started there were no women in road races or on the roads,  Now, I see more women than men running and jogging on my walk most mornings.
Please, keep writing,

Doing a websearch I found this discussion on a Track and Field forum page.  GB

scratch and handicap races

Id like to get some information on the history of the handicapped race. I can imagine that it was useful for country/county fair races where there was a need to have a competitive race with few participants. But we find even high level competitive races organized with handicaps right into the 20th century and persisting even to this day in Australia. First question was the handicap always given as an advantage (shortening of) distance to the weaker runner, or would the handicap be against the stronger runner with the weaker running the named distance.


As far as I am aware, the longest distance run was always the nominal race distance with slower runners running less than the full distance. In many races no runner ran the full distance (ie from scratch) because none were considered fast enough. This is not to say overdistance handicaps never happened but I have not read anything about this alternate approach.

There were certainly instances where the handicapping was on time and all athletes ran the full distance, however, this is much more difficult to administer, especially with shorter distances.

In Scotland handicap races have been popular in both amateur and professional versions of the sport before 1992 and have remained popular in the open era since 1992. In all cases the maximum distance run has been that of the published distance, e.g. in a 100m race no-one runs more than 100m. The 'scratch' athlete always runs the full distance and everybody else runs the same or less.

In some Australian results I've seen from the turn of the century, the usual handicaps are given eg:

* Smith (3y) = running 97y in a 100y race

but I've also seen in the same races

* Jones (owes 2y) where Jones would be the notional favourite.

So I've assumed this meant Jones might have been running 102y.

In Australian races, a false start means a penalty of additional distance so the scratch runner can potentially go back behind the scratch mark.

Be interested if anyone else has further clarification of how these rules changed through the years.

So,  Ernie,  would you rather in a mile race against Burleson,  run the full mile with a 4 second head start, or start the race 30 yards ahead, or make him start 30 yards behind and run the mile plus 30 yards? Oh yes, and let's add a $5,000.00 first prize and a set of steak knives for 2nd prize.

Here is the article on elite runners being squeezed out of their appearance money.
 Admittedly some of this is too much finance gibberish for me to comprehend.  I'm from an era when you could get in a race for a couple of dollars and get a mimeographed result a week or two later in the mail.    If you put your mind to it you could personally know every marathoner in America, because there were only three marathons,  Boston , Yonkers, and Culver City, and they didn't have big fields.   GB


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