WOSTER: Winners and losers both need to take it in strideAfter watching way too much of the 2012 Olympic Games, I’m wondering when South Dakota high school and junior high kids will begin to roll on the track and curl into the fetal position after finishing second or third in an event at a conference or state track meet.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
After watching way too much of the 2012 Olympic Games, I’m wondering when South Dakota high school and junior high kids will begin to roll on the track and curl into the fetal position after finishing second or third in an event at a conference or state track meet.
If the grown-ups do it, it won’t be long before kids do it. And this year at the London Games, it seems to me more grown-ups than ever before are being incredible sore, demonstratively sore, losers. It is a trend that can have no good end.
Before long, meet officials will spend half their time sweeping second-place finishers off the tracks after races.
Now, for the past several Olympics, the winners have gotten more outlandish in their victory poses, mugging for the cameras and flexing muscles and all that. I like winners who take it — wait for it — in stride.
I never liked the Dallas Cowboys much, but I loved coach Tom Landry’s admonition to his players who celebrated a touchdown. “Act like you’ve been there before,” he said.
The saying is attributed to many other coaches, but it sounds like Landry — or maybe Bud Grant of the real Minnesota Vikings.
Tom T. Hall sang, “I love winners when they cry, losers when they try.”
This Olympics, the losers (and what’s totally losing about being second-best in the world at an event, you tell me) seem to have those lyrics backwards. Disappointment is fine, but take it off the track after a couple of seconds, maybe — because at some point, the college folks will be doing it, and pretty soon a bunch of high school and junior high kids will be rolling on the track after not winning a race. They just do what the big people do.
It must be terrible to train four years for something and then not win. Sometimes, though, if a person isn’t the fastest runner in the race, the odds are pretty good that person will finish somewhere other than first.
Now and then, that happens to an athlete who, right up to the finals of a certain Olympic event, has dominated the world in that event. World domination doesn’t make any difference if, on the day of the Olympic finals, the dominator isn’t the fastest on the track.
That’s something I do like about running and throwing and jumping events. There are few subjective calls to be made.
If every runner in the field starts the race exactly 400 meters from the finish line, then the first one to cross the line is the winner, no matter which athlete brought the most press clippings and longest list of accomplishments to the starting line.
There’s no throwing out the high and low scores, wondering if the Russian judge will low-ball the gymnast or diver from the western bloc, things like that. There’s a start and a finish. There’s a bar and the athlete is over it or not. There’s a shot or disc or javelin and it goes farther than anyone else’s toss or it doesn’t.
So, track and field is kind of a simple sport. The winner you think you see on the track is usually the one on the medal stand.
Otis Davis of the United States and Carl Kaufmann of Germany finished in a near photo-finish in the 1960 400 meters in Rome and afterward you couldn’t have told from their demeanor who won and who didn’t. Kaufmann was favored, but Davis won, running 44.9 second, a marvelous time half a century ago.
Kaufmann sprawled on the track that day, but only because he lunged so hard at the tape that he fell flat on his face. He didn’t stay there the rest of the afternoon to show how sad he was at not winning.
Finally, as I’ve noted before, every athlete could learn something about the meaning of competition from John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania, the last-place finisher in the Olympic marathon in 1968.
He could have sprawled on the track. He could have quit. He finished, with dignity. Do an online search of the name. It’s the kind of stuff that makes the Internet worth having and sports worth watching.