Let's face it guys, all this incessant talk about records, wind, poles, altitude, even drugs, in comparing marks, all time lists, etc., .... is just something to keep all us wonks wound up with something to talk about !
All that really counts and can be measured is HEAD TO HEAD COMPETion and HONORS WON. All the rest is just fun talk for Track Nuts.
Head to head competition (difficult to compare across eras) and honors won are certainly the biggies, but not everything. Records are important too, because they're important to the athletes, to the fans, and to us nuts. For an athlete to set a world record is a big deal -- achieving a level of performance no one has achieved previously. So we must take records seriously into consideration when evaluating an athlete's career, or making speculations about all-time greats. Records are one of the really exciting things about our sport!
Records are neat, but at least in so many endurance events that is all that seems to matter. In fact, promoters go out of their way to set up time trials for one person to run a record. It does diminish the enjoyment to some extent since it is racing against a time and not against competition.
While I agree that witnessing a world record is an electrifying moment, it is also what has led to the demise of track and field as a "popular" spectator sport. The entertainment value is in the competition, not the resulting times, heights, and distances. No other sport relies so much on statistics to determine whether the contest was good. (Who ever heard someone describe a baseball game by the number of records or near-record performances that took place during that game?) Head-to-head competition, regardless of the era (and often regardless of the level of competitors), still reigns supreme. Want to see a crowd get excited? Watch a come-from-behind relay or two runners struggle down the homestretch -- at the high school, small college, or world-class level. The emphasis on statistics makes great conversation, but in the end, I'm afraid that the sport suffers because the only column inches provided in most local newspapers involves a world record . . . or a postitive drug test because some lamebrain bought into the idea that records were the only thing that mattered. Go back in the archives (start with the 1920s and 1930s) and you'll read some incredible descriptions of races. Other that T&F News, you won't find anything like that written today. Want excitement? How about the national duals between the US-USSR?
I've been privileged to witness several world records along with incredible performances. But nothing tops something like the Olympic Trials where third place is as good as first place. I'll never forget the anticipation I've felt in a head-to-head contest or the disappointment in two or three "equally good" runners who avoid each other. The sport needs to focus much more on the competition, and the athletes need to embrace it. Imagine NASCAR if drivers got to pick and choose their races and competition. Kudos to the NCAA for introducing the super-regionals concept. We need a lot more of it at all levels of the sport.
No,no,no. Records and times add an extremely important dimension to our sport. I agree totally with Oldvaulter on this one. How can we be sure that the athletes competing in the W.C's and O.G's are of a higher caliber than those in the N.C.A.A. Because we can measure the results. Is Beamon remembered for beating Boston at Mexico City or because of THE JUMP? Is Dumas remembered for beating Chilla Porter at Melbourne or for jumping 7ft? Why is Tim Montgomery world famous?
How many gold medals does he have?
I grant you that the Bannister/Landy race in Vancouver was probably the most anticipated athletics event in the last 50 years but Bannister is still more famous for what he did at Iffley Road 49 years ago to-day.