Monday, April 23, 2012

Track & Field Primetime - SC vs. UCLA, Drake & Penn Relays

The last week in April is always special in the world of track & field. It is the week of big relay meets - in the midwest, the Drake Relays and on the east coast, the Penn Relays. For track fans in Des Moines and Philadelphia, these meets are without equal. However, as a native southern Californian, I relate more to the other "big meet" of the week - the great dual meet between my alma mater, USC and their arch rival, UCLA.

Track historian and announcer, Rich Perelman has a special article this week on the awesome performances of the great Gail Devers in the dual meet when she was at UCLA. (Thanks to Track and Field News for the link) One look at the article reveals not only how awesome Devers was but also the unique nature of the rivalry and the dual meet format. Athletes compete in four or five or in Devers case, seven events! In today's era of one event specialization, the dual meet is like the no huddle offense in football - athletes move from one event to another.

My Dad was a high school football and track coach at Hart High School in southern California. Growing up in Los Angeles, track for Dad was the Coliseum Relays and the SC-UCLA meet. In 1969, when UCLA built Drake Stadium for its home track meets, the Holden family were season ticket holders. Great performances and memories followed. I vividly remember greats like Wayne Collett, Dwight Stones, Edesel Garrison, Donald Quarrie and Randy Williams. (I never got to see the Gail Dever or Jackie Joyner-Kersee performances because in the early 80's, I was across town at USC busy with spring football practice)

I am looking forward to this Sunday's edition of SC-UCLA - great performances to be sure but the current generation of Bruins and Trojans will have to push to equal the marks of great performers of the 70's and 80's, names like Quarrie, Stones, Foster, Williams, Devers and Joyner.

Monday, April 9, 2012

NFL, football and violence in sports - where is the line?

ESPN and editor / writer / creator Bill Simmons has a thoughtful and candid article on the current NFL's actions against the New Orleans Saints and its coaches / players. Simmons includes links to organizations doing research on the effects of violent impacts on young and adult athletes. The challenge faced by youth, college and professional sports is where to draw the line. The impacts given and taken by athletes in sports like football and hockey are parts of each sports appeal. Yet, the damage caused by the sports to athletes appears to only becoming more severe. So where is the line where the hits are part of the game and when they cross the line and are not? Simmons rightly observes that line is far from clear.