Track and field

Zero facts implicating Justin Gatlin -- that's a 'scandal'?

Zero facts implicating Justin Gatlin -- that's a 'scandal'?

In 1964, the United States Supreme Court decided a case called New York Times v. Sullivan. It established, in libel law matters, what is called the “actual malice” standard.

Before you start rolling your eyes and getting anxious about a bunch of legalese, relax. This is not complicated. Libel, at its core, involves a published statement that damages someone’s reputation. What the Supreme Court said is this: if you publish something about a public official or a public figure, it is “actual malice” if you do so knowing it is false or if you acted in what the court called a reckless disregard for the truth.

This brings us to the American sprinter Justin Gatlin, and the report published Monday in the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph. There is zero question Gatlin is a public figure. Can there be any question the lengthy story the Telegraph printed was aimed directly at Gatlin, and his reputation? 

A Hero's once and future story

A Hero's once and future story

It’s late August. NFL pre-season is underway. Major League Baseball is in full swing. Yet the No. 1 topic across American sports talk radio, just as it has been seemingly all summer, is the NBA, now whether the Lakers and Magic Johnson have nefariously been up to no-good in flirting with Paul George.

The NBA — and by extension, basketball, which is huge internationally — is doing a lot of things right. It has stars. It has personalities. A game is an experience. You go expecting buzz. There's music, lights, cheerleaders (Lawrence Tanter, Showtime, “Laker Girls …”), a kiss-cam and, if a team gets it right like the Chicago Bulls did, a super-cool mascot.

This brings us to track and field, the just-concluded IAAF world championships in London and Hero the Hedgehog.

'The Meet,' London July 2018: one night, two hours, nine events

'The Meet,' London July 2018: one night, two hours, nine events

In life, you have to capitalize on momentum and opportunity. Think of it like running a relay in track and field. It’s a lot easier to succeed when you have a running start.

Track and field is at such a moment, coming out of the 2017 IAAF world championships in London, which featured sell-out crowds at Olympic Stadium, breakthrough performances by the British relay teams and, as well, a U.S. team that won a record 30 medals, including a historic 1-2 finish in the women’s steeplechase that went viral on social media.

With that as backdrop, British Athletics and USA Track & Field on Wednesday announced a one-night, your team against my team throw-down next summer, back at Olympic Stadium.

Organizers are calling it “The Meet.”

The joyful essence of track and field -- more, please

The joyful essence of track and field -- more, please

LONDON — If you don’t know the rules of steeplechase, here’s a quick crash course, and crash is the word because spills are not uncommon. The runners run 3000 meters. That’s 1.8 miles. There are 28 barriers — that’s the precise word — and seven water jumps.

If you know who Horace Ashenfelter is, call the producers at Jeopardy. You can win a lot of money.

If you don’t, which means you’re not one of Mr. Ashenfelter’s relatives or, otherwise, an all-consumed track and field geek, this: in the biggest surprise of the 2017 IAAF track and field world championships, which wound to a close Sunday, bigger than Justin Gatlin winning, bigger than Usain Bolt and Mo Farah losing, an American, Emma Coburn, won the women’s steeplechase, immediately followed across the line by another American, Courtney Frerichs.

Such great stories -- how to reach would-be track fans?

Such great stories -- how to reach would-be track fans?

LONDON — Usain Bolt lost. Mo Farah lost. So what?

A mesmerizing show like Saturday’s is all that is great about track and field. Stars. Action galore. A roaring and appreciative crowd in a landmark venue.

Awesome. Truly awesome.

The sun comes up Sunday on a new day, and with it the close of these 2017 IAAF world championships. Bask if you want in the glow if you are given to sentimentality. The realist knows that when the party is over, it is over, and on the track the Bolt and Farah show is over.

Here's why track and field needs to change

Here's why track and field needs to change

LONDON — Coming into these 2017 IAAF world championships, the American Fred Kerley was the next big thing in the men’s 400.

More precisely, Fred Kerley of Texas A&M was the next big thing. He came to London having run 15 individual 400s in 2017. He had won 15.

It didn’t go Kerley’s way in the 400 final. He finished seventh, a result pre-figured in the semifinal, when he just barely qualified for the final on time. This is not to beat on Kerley. Just the opposite. It’s to pay him respect. He’s 22, and — counting the rounds and the final here — he ran 18 400s this year, plus a bunch of relays, plus some 200s to boot.

On Isaac Makwala: why let facts spoil righteous outrage?

On Isaac Makwala: why let facts spoil righteous outrage?

LONDON — So this is what it has come to: a television personality and three former athletes in high dudgeon interrogating a learned medical doctor on the BBC in a segment of car crash-style TV that encapsulates so much of what passes in 2017 for dialogue in the public arena. On the one hand, rational, even scientific, thought begging to be heard. On the other, know-it-all counterpoint rooted in grievance and conflict.

The flashpoint at these 2017 IAAF world championships: an apparent outbreak of norovirus. Public Health England issued a statement late Thursday saying it had “been made aware of approximately 40 people reporting illness,” three confirmed by lab testing as norovirus.

Appreciating genuine greatness when it -- she -- is right in front of us

Appreciating genuine greatness when it -- she -- is right in front of us

LONDON — It can be difficult sometimes, living as we do in the here and now, to appreciate the gift of genuine greatness when it — more accurately, she — is right in front of us.

There are so many demands on our attention, so many cries that so-and-so or such-and-such is the next big thing, the coming huge star. We whipsaw from this to that and back to this again, mesmerized, tantalized, titillated by the paparazzi-hounded, TMZ-stylized comings and goings of the larger-than-life, the outlandish, the can-you-top-this, the freak show at the club at 3 in the morning or maybe was it 4, dude, I forget.

When we say we want our kids to grow up and be someone like Allyson Felix.

The 2017 IAAF world championships disconnect

The 2017 IAAF world championships disconnect

LONDON — No matter if it’s sports or what journalists call hard news, all young reporters learn early on a truism. Whether it’s a big court case, a political race or a major sports event like these 2017 IAAF track and field world championships or an NFL Super Bowl, there are always — always — at least two storylines.

There’s the action itself.

And then there’s what’s happening around it.

With the 2017 worlds nearing the halfway mark, it’s entirely unclear whether they seem destined to be remembered for the track and field itself, which truly has been remarkable if not historic.

A lifetime ban for athletes for doping is a non-starter, and other cultural differences

A lifetime ban for athletes for doping is a non-starter, and other cultural differences

LONDON — The marathon course here at these 2017 IAAF world championships started and finished at Tower Bridge. Just a few steps away, of course, is Tower Hill, where the likes of Anne Boleyn met her fate.

It’s fascinating, those historical and cultural markers that, in turn, frame — consciously or otherwise — national identity.

In Britain, one might argue, right is right, wrong is wrong, rules are rules, black is black, white is white. When you make a mistake, it’s off with your head. You wonder why the Pilgrims wanted out? The United States, by definition, is a land of second chances. The American national narrative  — the founding national story, told over and again — is redemption.

To be clear: find fault all you want with these oversimplifications. Detail, if you please, the countless exceptions.