For three years now, at my brothers’ thoughtful suggestion, I have spent one hour a day, 355 days a year (I take off ten), and write about the sport that I not only love, but also, as luck would have it, from which, I have been fortunate enough to make a living. I do not take it lightly, as a magazine publisher, nor do I take it lightly as a blogger. At the end of the day, I try, my hardest to be a responsible journalist.
Yesterday, I wrote a column on Kara Goucher, her race and her place in the sport’s firmament. In my mind’s eye, I believe I said that she has transcended sport, that she is a great example for young women, that her relationship with Adam is touching and honest and that Nike, a corporation, a seventeen billion dollar one at that, can not overestimate the presence this young women runner has. I used the phrase, ” Nike does not appreciate..”
Well, Kara transcended running today. Kara was interviewed by Women’s Wear Daily, Seventeen, Self.com, Fitness, Fitsugar.com, Stack.com, among others. My contact at Nike public relations, who called me in the middle of the day, very concerned, noted that Kara Goucher is the all American girl, and that she transcended the running vertical market. I think that is great. I also received a phone call from the Nike office asking me what I meant by my column yesterday.
I felt that I was pretty clear. Most of the comments today from readers liked the column and felt that Kara is a great role model. I note that Kara Goucher is on many billboards, on web ads, in running articles, and her performance in Boston only made her resonate more with this new generation of women runners and women athletes.
Since her bronze medal in Osaka, Japan, Kara has been growing in leaps and bounds. Do I know that John Capriotti, Nike’s director of athletics gambled when he signed her to a contract and that she was injured at the time? Yes. Do I know that her coach, Alberto Salazar, invited her and her husband, Adam, to train in Oregon and get the benefit of his experience? Yes. Do I know that, when she moved to Oregon, Adam Goucher was the bigger name and that her growth has been phenomenal? Yes. That all ads to the fascinating story around Kara’s rise to athletic stardom.
So what gives? As an observer of Nike for the past thirty years, running continues to battle to be a respected part of the pie in the Nike business. Mark Parker, the CEO, has made a huge point of the noting how important running is the past three years, and has made it a point of speaking to members of the media at various events-that is a big deal. Think that Parker showing up all day at Nike nationals last year was not a big deal? All of those things are concrete examples of corporate at Nike trying to give the sports business world, but also their own Nike team, that Nike was a) founded by runners, and b) needs to remember that each and every day. On Sunday, April 19, at a Nike Media event, Leslie Lane, VP Global of Nike running, and Phil McCartney, Nike global running product director, put the Nike running heritage in perspective with the new product launch. I was informed later that Parker had wanted to be involved in the lauch, but had to bow out, due to prior engagement. Parker had nothing to worry about as Lane and McCartney gave Nike running its due.
As a journalist, it is my responsibility to give the most complete story that I can. If something changes down the road, I will rewrite, update, write a correction, whatever is needed, to keep the trust between you, my reader, and myself. That is, in my mind, a sacred trust. Just because I can blog, twitter, do video, JOTT, or email does not change my responsibility as a writer–those are just evolutions in communication. Social networks are nothing new-they have been around since the invention of the special interest magazine. Readers of Vanity Fair are a community and social network as much as readers of American Track & Field, my second title ( the real old timers still call ATF, “American Athletics).
In retrospect, a better, more focused commentary might have been, ” Nike can not underestimate the influence that Kara Goucher is having on this new generation of women runners. ”
So, take that and give me my final deep thoughts for today:
On appreciating Kara Goucher
Right after her race, my friend, Mark Bossardet called me, very excited. He said that Kara Goucher is the first women athlete to possess the toughness of Alberto Salazar. He also noted that Kara, he believes, is influencing a whole new generation of women runners.
I concur. I will go one step further.
Runners like Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall in the U.S. and like Haile Gebrselassie around the world, transcend our sport. Running is something nearly every human in the world has done at one time. Running, jumping, throwing.
What to me is fascinating, is how the majority of running companies see the use of their athletes through very small windows. Either they are core runners, serious runners, fitness runners, active runners, sport runners–there seems to be a new name each and every day.
As most Americans have seen ESPN Sports Center, my belief is that anyone who can appreciate Steve Nash or LeBron James playing professional basketball, or cheer on a small college team in the NCAA Final Four tournament, can appreciate three women marathoners, after 25.4 miles, running themselves off their legs to try and win the Boston marathon. My belief is that Ryan Hall charging back at a very tough Daniel Rono and amazingly resilient Deriba Merga can appreciated as well as Merga wins his first Boston. If the fans knew that Merga won in 2009, after having had to walk the last few miles only three years ago, that makes it a real sports story. Our sport, media and the businesses involved, underestimate the value of our sport and our sport heroes. That was the point I was trying to make yesterday. Perhaps, it is clearer today.
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