The months have passed now since Doc Patton ran into Harry Double-A at the world track championships in Daegu. Doc crumpled immediately to the track, felled as if by Ray Lewis. No wonder. Britain’s Harry Aikines-Aryeetey is indeed built like an NFL linebacker.
Doc’s collarbone was separated in the collision. And the American men, once again, were out of the 4×100 relay. 2008 — out. 2009 — out. 2011 — out. Doc has been not just a part of each of those relays. He has arguably been the story in each of those relays.
Doc is better now, physically, his bone healed. His psyche, too. He is back home in Texas, training hard. And if there is redemption in this world, if there is justice — perhaps no one in the United States would be more deserving to stand atop the medal stand this summer in London than Darvis “Doc” Patton.
The man has been through his trials.
That has gained him perspective.
It has also given him, at age 34, wisdom.
“I’ve made that walk [off the track] three times,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better.”
To be clear: Doc has loads of talent. He made the 2008 Olympic 100 final. He won silver in the Paris 2003 world championships 200. In the 4×100 relay, he won silver in the Athens 2004 Games and gold in both the 2007 Osaka and Paris 2003 world championships.
In Daegu, the Americans — despite the fact that both Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake were running for the Jamaicans — seriously believed beforehand they could steal a win, Doc said.
“On paper you maybe had to give them the nod,” he acknowledged. “But in the relays, if we could put pressure on them, anything can happen. We lined up on the track thinking we were going to walk away with the gold.”
And then — as he wrote on his blog, “That just happened. Again.”
Doc — remember, he’s from Texas — went on to draw a parallel on his blog to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and the art of putting an interception behind you to focus on the possibility of a touchdown:
“… ‘The absolute beauty of sport is that it’s unscripted.’ You have to learn how to improvise, rehearse, come back for the next show and do it all over again and again. I’ve had time for my tears and my anger and my frustration. I’m done with that. Are you?”
Beyond which, Doc has since had way, way, way more to deal with. Doc and his wife, Crystal, are the proud parents of a little girl, Dakota. When Doc came home from South Korea, he was met by a big group of family and friends. Crystal was pregnant again.
Then, though, she miscarried. He has written about this, too, on his blog. He said in an interview that when they went to the doctor’s office and there was no heartbeat when there should have been one it was “the loudest silence I ever heard in my life.”
Doc is now training hard, and without fear. He and two-time world 200-meter bronze medalist Wallace Spearmon, among others, are part of a training group that runs the stadium at the University of Texas at Arlington each Monday — they call it “Butt Lock Monday” because that’s what happens to their backsides after they’re done, it’s that grueling. (Watch some of it here.)
Doc welcomes your comments, your criticisms, your ignorant belief — should you still subscribe to it — that he is somehow a jinx, a pox on the relay.
Yes, yes, yes. He dropped the stick in 2008 in Beijing, in a pass with Tyson Gay. The 2009 Berlin team was DQ’d after an improper pass, Doc to Shawn Crawford, just before the allowable zone instead of safely inside it. And then the 2011 crash.
Feel free to stand up and ask him, Doc, if you qualify for the 2012 team and they pick you, dude — are you, like, bad luck?
“I haven’t forgotten about Beijing and Berlin. I have messed up plenty of relays in my day. But I have put it behind me. If I make the team and I am in the [relay] pool,” he said, “I am ready to face that.
“I will normally do a little laugh. I will tell them the reason I am on the relay, the reason I have been chosen to be on the team — yes, I have had failures and I have had mistakes — but I deserve to be there. And they trust me to know I get the stick around.
“Mistakes happen. They happened on the biggest stage in track and field. But they are not going to stop me. I am going to go for the United States of America, and I intend to go.”