h&f 0033 Dropped Batons and an Ode to Technology

Baton Blues

Baton Blues

We go beyond nationalism when we say that this is a disappointment.

Any true fan of sport, competition, and yes, the human spirit, should also be disappointed with the baton drops and disqualifications that have eliminated the US men’s and women’s 400m relay teams along with Great Britain (dq), Italy (dq), Nigeria (dnf), Poland (dnf), South Africa (dnf).

The sum shock of this is akin (but not nearly equal) to the sum shock of Usain Bolt’s thunderous rounds.

This turn of events seems a revealing metaphor for our infatuation with technology.  Jamaican runners are showing the fruit of long hard work with less facilities but with equal or better technology than the rest of the world.

We tend to confuse facilities and gadgets with technology in the American cultural context.  Technological progress and innovation is not a matter of the instrument as much as the process and purposes that we create around a given instrument.  The Jamaican sprinters literally benefit from world class technology in the way they use what they have to produce top global sprinters.

Aside:  I call on this concept as a way to confront race in America.  Racism is going nowhere and will evolve and become as sophisticated as any present-day phenomenon.  However, we have books.  Before, books were illegal for certain folks to own.  If I read, I am led to write.  Writing is action that inspires other action.  It takes more than books and reading but I’m saying that there are tons of tools around that we can use to lever high achievement.  Race in America is perhaps the only battle fought in which the opponent is bound by the constitution to provide those he discriminates against with the tools to defeat his big idea.  Performance demands an answer.  A kid in a rotten school but with straight A’s commands the attention of people who can help make up the deficit.

Anyway… stop preaching.

Remember when the rest of the world clamored for the obvious – for Usain to run the 100?  Seems stupid now, but it was a serious question only a couple of weeks ago.  Coach Glen Mills seemed not to respond to the cry but rather to his athlete and his knowledge of the mental and physical cost of getting through both the 100m and 200m heats to win gold in both.  He waited.

Jumping on the advice of crowds reminds me of how we often go armchair quarterback on major brands… “Man, Burger King should make some sneakers and call ’em Burger Kicks.  Everybody would love that.”  [might buy ’em myself]  Maybe they’d sell.  No matter.  Long before they decided to make burgerkicks, they would spend a good while in thought weighing the pros and cons of beefy feet.

For Bolt to run the 100 was not in fact an obvious case, especially since the only question that remained was the biggest one – How would he handle lining up in the final?  Would butterflies in the stomach morph into vultures swirling around each footstep.  Mills waited – then he made the call.  That’s technology.

Stephen Francis, who’s three runners Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, and Asafa Powell will now, with Usain Bolt, challenge for another record in the 4×100 relay, has brought the MVP track team to the pedestal not starting with the kids who won all of their races, but rather by some who were “left behind” in Jamaica and/or chose not to pursue scholarships in US universities.  Frater and Carter continue to make solid gains.  The whole MVP club lifts weights on an old set that fits in less than 300 square feet, 10 athletes at a time going through drills.  It nearly looked odd to see Sherrone Simpson, a bona fide track star, lifting weights in that little box.   But that’s where the technology is.  Every step is scientifically planned and forecasts are made based on the athlete, the available equipment and the goals.  If you follow the plan, you are guaranteed a predictable range of achievement.   I look for MVP to have athletes showing up podium-style beyond just sprints.  That’s technology.

We were hungry for a while in this country and came up swinging in all sports.  There are many out there who are still hungry.  I passed a couple of kids in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, NY long after their basketball tournament was over, shooting at 12am, but not just shooting around, actually working out.  That’s hunger.

I believe Tyson Gay and Allyson Felix are hungry.

What is missing is a generalized culture of that type of drive as we have been lulled to sleep by technology without recognizing that, in fact, WE are the technology.  The tools serve our will, not the other way around.

A fitting coincidence for this concept… Usain Bolt is a student at the University of Technology in Kingston and that the campus is also where the MVP Track Club trains.


~ by ericjhenderson on August 21, 2008.

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