'The U.S. Doesn't Deserve To Be No. 1'Some provocative words on the state of the domestic sport from a British TV commentator:
<<”The United States doesn’t deserve its position as the No. 1 power in world track & field.”...
Writing in Athletics Today after his trip to the national championships, he continued, “It remains one of the great mysteries of sport that most of the stars of track & field live in a country which couldn’t care less about running, jumping or throwing—unless there’s a ball involved.
It’s like having the world’s greatest cricket team based in Albania!”…
“Sadly, instead of fighting against the indifference, the national governing body seems to have given up. It’s qualify of leadership makes the British administration look positively dynamic…
“Basically, the top American athletes feel they are being undersold in their own country and can’t wait to get on the first plane to Europe. At least when they’re over here their efforts are understood by the media and followed avidly by the public—and the pay is a lot better of course.
“That the Americans remain major medal winners in spite of all these problems is a great tribute to the determination of the athletes themselves.
“Sure, they have a lot going for them—an excellent college system and a superb climate, for example—but it must take enormous willpower to pursue a career in track when the rewards of America’s more popular sports are so much greater.”
And now for a major disclaimer: we cheated a little bit on those quotes. They're from the November 1989 edition of T&FN, in the wake of perhaps the worst Nationals ever, made by Alan Parry of ITV.
The "national governing body" being slammed was TAC, not USATF. In the intervening years, the good news is that the federation has done wonders in reinventing itself, and continues to do so.
The bad news is that the American public's view of the importance of our sport hasn't changed. But the athletes keep fighting the good fight, and for that we salute them. They're keeping our wonderful sport alive.