The dead heat controversy has almost over shadowed the excellence of the 2012 Olympic Trials. Here is, in my opinion what all can learn from the Dead Heat controversy. Not all is bad…
I have to admit. I loved the 2012
U.S. Olympic Trials. However, as soon as I saw some of the media that I
most respected getting red over the delays with 100 meter dead heat
protocol or lack of it, I felt uneasy.
Actually, on such occasions, I feel a bit uneasy, much like I am going to be sick. In the end, I realized, that, in this situation, that no matter what the good intentions, the perfect storm was about to happen. And, it did.
Bob Podkaminer, a man I have respected for three decades over ruled Roger
Jennings, a man who has made his living at reading finish line photos. Bob Podkaminer was concerned about the finish line photo coming up for review, or
perhaps more and could not support, in good conscience, Roger Jenning’s
findings, and over ruled Mr. Jennings. Roger Jennings noted to Tim Layden of
SI that he would have ruled the same on that photo if he had to see it
another 100 times. My personal opinion is that Roger Jennings decision should have been supported.
When Jeneba Tarmoh was told yes, she was third, and then, no she wasn’t, all hell broke loose. With no procedure in place, and then deadline for decision, after deadline was extended, USATF looked like they had no clue what to do.
Tim Layden, among others, saw this, as USATF not being prepared. Jill
Geer, probably getting advice from everyone, came off frazzled, and not
her relaxed self. Stephanie Hightower, who has made a huge point of
telling media that the board supports Max Siegel, stayed out of it, and
Max Siegel, new to the sport, wanted his person, Jill Geer, to do her
job, and speak for USATF. The perfect storm, the perfect cluster, you ad
the final four letter word. I am pretty sure that neither Jill Geer,
Stephanie Hightower or Max Siegel were trying to confuse the situation.
They just did not see their actions from other’s viewpoints.
Layden has experienced being bs at the highest order as he has covered the
sport. He has seen the good, the bad, and the plain stupid. He has an ingrained BS meter. It turned on high in this situation.
Tim Layden admitted that in his writing on the dead heats, he, as a media person, was part of the issue. He accepted that fact. Layden took his lumps and admitted
that as part of the media, he was part of the blame. Jill Geer, quite
frankly, was caught like a deer in the headlights, no win, just minimize
damage. And by the time Stephanie Hightower and Max Siegel spoke, it
was way too late.
Several things to learn from this: USATF does need to have a procedure
here. Podkaminer, while well meaning, over ruled a man who has the
respect of the sport and the industry. Tarmoh was named third and then
it was recanted. The young women, a new star, must have been exhausted
from the media scrutiny. Allyson Felix, the pro, at 26, runs, focuses,
runs, deals with media, it is all part of the job.
In the vacuum created by no comments from Max Siegel and Stephanie
HIghtower, the Olympic Trials were no longer the focus. The tremendous
ten days of the Trials, with performances that made us cheer, laugh,
cry, scream, are part of a process that picks the best track & field
team in the world. With no new CEO speaking, Max only appearance to the
press was at the TAFWA conference, criticism came out loud and clear.
That USATF did not see that issue before is just an indication, like
many organizations of not having someone outside who can tell them when
the Emperor has not clothes.
What do we learn from this?
1. We need to see and hear from Max Siegel more often, it takes the
stench, not of Mike McNees, but of the three years of strangeness that
preceded the appointment of a new CEO, who, I believe, has the tools to
make USATF change and grow.
2. The idea of match races excited the country, we need to do them.
3. Track & Field’s great attraction in the Olympic year, has been
proven, once and again, that it can be exciting in the years in between.
4. We must pursue a World Champs in the US, and with Vin Lananna supporting it, I believe we finally have a chance.
5. As media, we constantly have to determine if we are being cynical or
critical. The world needs critical observers, no matter how cynical the
In the end, Jeneba Tarmoh was hurt, and that concerns me. In the end,
USATF looks like an organization, no matter how well meaning, has to
watch out for its own feet. And in the end, we need to focus on how
amazing the Olympic Trials simply were.
Hopefully, nothing can tarnish the running, jumping and throwing of hundreds of the country’s elite athletes.
To read Tim Layden’s column in full, please click here: