Monthly Archives: August 2012

Keeping Up With The Joneses- Leisure Time

Written by: Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  August 31, 2012

As most people amongst my social networks know, the Matrix Trilogy is one of my all-time favorite movie series.  In the Matrix Reloaded, there is a statement made by character called the Merovingian who questions the priorities of man in relation to necessity, willingness, and desire.  In a simple yet powerful inquiry he asks, “Who has time? Who has time?  But if we do not ever make time, how can we ever have time?”  I like this quote very much and find it instrumental to exploring the next topic of our blog:

Leisure Time:  Sports as Recreation, Amateurism in Sports, Professionalism in Sports

I am a track & field athlete.  I practice with my team 3 days a week and do a personalized workout promoting strength, endurance, technique, and posture every day.  Every once in a while a Curious George walks up to me asking my profession.  They either phrase this question as, “are you a professional athlete?” or, “What do you do [that allows you to be out here so often]?”

These questions may appear simplistic but they are drenched with historic value.  Their phrasing is interlaced with sociological, capitalistic, and political undertones.  (See previous blog for definition and usage of sociology, capitalism, and politics).  What they imply is that I am a person with time to spare- I have reached a socio-economic status through a high class profession that affords me the time to spend gallivanting around the track.

From a sociological perspective, what they are saying is that…

  1. I have leisure time
  2. I spend my leisure time doing sports
  3. They classify sports as leisure- a recreational activity

Recreational activities are, by definition, activities designed for entertainment purposes. Ergo, despite my panting, the uh…sweat dripping from my brow, the soreness, the excessive drills, wind sprints, and laps around the track, and a coach yelling across the field, “Knees up! Keep your arms in! Chin down!” they imply that I am engaging in the leisurely activity of sport for my personal entertainment.

(British accent) Yes, *ahem* a 2-mile warm up, 6×20 yard drills, 12x400m w/150 jog in between each, and 1-mile cool down is quite entertaining.  A great way to pass the time.  Indeed.  *looks away* Chip chip cherrio! And all that falderal!

This perspective presupposes that even professional athletes, while on the field, the gym, the court, or the track, are looked upon as individuals engaging in leisurely activities to entertain themselves and those leisurely viewing their performances.

Shocking?  Yes.

Outlandish?  Seemingly.

Accurate?  Sadly yes.

Again, we are dealing with history- old ideas, old perceptions, surviving the times.  The concept of leisure has deep historical roots dating back to the days when the lines between social classes were more rigid.  Ever hear of conspicuous leisure?  It’s a concept created by 19th century economist Thornstein Veblan.  Accordingly,

“Time is consumed non-productively…as an evidence of pecuniary ability to afford a life of idleness. But the whole of the life of the gentleman of leisure is not spent before the eyes of the spectators who are to be impressed with that spectacle of honorific leisure which in the ideal scheme makes up his life.”  Read on
Thorstein Veblen, (1899; Ch.3).

Sports according to him is a form of physical exertion and, “all physical exertion that did not lead to an economic end was waste. Therefore, sports were a way for people to display conspicuous leisure, while buying the equipment needed was conspicuous consumption,” (Wordiq.com, 2012).   Translation:  Sports is a waste of time and does not contribute to the advancement of society nor the economy.  Harsh no?  A tad out-dated economically, but still very much relevant sociologically.

Why are the thoughts of some old classical dude important?  Because it’s his thoughts and the ideologies of elitist during his time that laid the foundation of sports as leisure and influenced the creation of amateurism and in sports.  It’s these principles and more that conflict with the integration of capitalism in sports.

So who has time?  Who has time?  If we do not ever make time, how can we ever have time?

Veblan would say, time is given to the privileged.  But, in the grand scheme of things, privilege still applies to an elite few.  Many of today’s athletes (myself included) are not given or afforded time.  Most are making time to pursue a profession or fulfill the duties of their attained athletic profession.  So when you see an athlete on the track, they are at work not leisure.

To be continued…

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Amateurism vs. Professionalism: A Surfaced Debate

Written By:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  August 25, 2012

If you lived any length of time in this world of sports stars and legends, you’re more than likely aware of the never-ending debate between amateurism vs. professionalism.  Advocates of amateurism generally argue that money taints the purity of sport.  Whereas advocates of professionalism argue that without an income, athletic performance cannot be sustained. Consequently, if athletic performance is not sustained, athletes must abandon their sport and seek income elsewhere.  Result:  No athlete.  No sport.

Instead of determining who’s right, we should consider this question:  How has sociology, politics, and capitalism impacted sport, particularly track & field?

Why focus on sociology, politics, and capitalism?

  • Sociology = human behavior
  • Politics = human emotion
  • Capitalism = human survival and preservation

At the root of nearly every issue concerning sport, especially track, lies these three elements. If we dig deep enough, perhaps we’ll discover:

  • Why track & field is under-marketed
  • Why some athletes are underpaid or not paid at all
  • Why certain athletes get the spotlight while others do not
  • Why track is rarely televised
  • Why spectators fill the stands every four years rather than every weekend
  • Why so many restrictions are placed on athletes (i.e. rules affecting the use of social media during the Olympic games)
  • Why so many athletes, passionate about track & field, suddenly become disenchanted with the sport and quit to pursue other interests
  • Why some athletes use performance enhancing substances
  • Why the number of youth athletes in USATF far out-weigh the number of masters athletes when masters has more age divisions
  • Why so many people flock to road running events leaving track & field almost barren

Perhaps then we will begin to understand the direction track & field is headed and the prohibitions affecting its growth.  Finally, we will see how the debate between amateurism and professionalism is fundamentally tearing the sport apart.

Act I: Scene V: It Was Fun While It Lasted

Written by:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  August 21, 2012

Traditionally, once every four years, track & field opens its doors to the world and welcomes the masses to experience the splendor of athletics.  The world feverish with Olympic excitement waits anxiously for the unveiling of the world’s best.  Curiosity elevates.  Questions circulate.  Who’s competing?  Who will win?  Will records be broken?  Suddenly the theater lights dim and darkness falls to silence the crowd.  The curtain opens and the crowd bursts with great cheer and applause.   Nine spotlights illuminate a grand stage highlighting a track, long & triple jump runway and pit, pole vault, high jump, shot put, javelin, hammer throw, discus, and steeplechase barrier.  Seconds later athletes representing each skill step forth waving, acknowledging the crowd.  The excitement of the crowd intensifies.  Decibel levels rise to astronomical heights like thunder roaring among the skies.  As athletes perform their respective skills, the world watches in awe over this awesome display of skill and talent energizing the stage.  Through each act, athletes compete mercilessly to eliminate their opponents one by one.  Round after round they fight in a most epic drama filled with the tragedy of broken dreams and the romanticism of heroic feats achieved.  Until finally, a victor is decided.  Spectators sit nervously as they grab the edge of their seats to discover who crossed the finish line first, who threw the farthest, who jumped the longest and highest, and who vaulted the best.  An official raises his white flag.  Results pages fly across the field to reach the hands of an announcer.  Over a loudspeaker, a crier calls the first, second, and third place finishers of each event.  The stadium erupts with shouts of both triumph and uproar.  Though the audience reaction is mixed, somehow everyone in the theater still manages to rise in standing ovation.  For their valiant efforts, are brought center stage atop a podium to be awarded their medals of gold, silver, and bronze.  Wrapped in their nation’s flag, they wave at the crowd one last time to thank them for their support.  The spectators respond with sincerity and gratitude through applause as if to say, “No, athlete.  Thank you for allowing us to be part of this experience.”  The curtain closes and the theater lights are turned back on to usher out the crowd.  Once the final spectator leaves, track & field closes its doors.  As spectators look behind them hoping to catch a glimpse of an athlete possibly walking by, they see a poster mounted on the door.  It reads:  Will not open for another four years.  The spectator drops his head.  The world shrugs.  It was fun while it lasted.  Perhaps one day track & field will let us stay for good.  Football anyone?

Do You Know David Rudisha? Athletes hidden by Copyright

Written By: Katrina M. Smith, MBA

Do you recognize the athlete in the photo?  It’s David Rudisha of Kenya.  Rudisha, 23, just broke the world record for the 800m for the third time…this time at the 2012 London Olympic Games.  If you are unfamiliar with Rudisha, his accomplishments, his face, his story, consider this blog your first introduction to Rudisha and why you’ve never heard of him.

Before you read on, go to YouTube and see if you can find a clip of his latest world record performance.  Go on! Take your time.

Reader:  “I just found one clip.  It was posted by some user who seems to have used a camcorder to film the TV and then added background music to the video.  Very strange.”

Me:  “Yes reader, I found the same video.  I also ran into several additional videos over the past few days stating, ‘This video contains content from International Olympic Committee, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.'”

Reader:  “Copyright grounds?  So you mean to say, I don’t get to watch his performance on YouTube at all…and that video I found is actually violating copyright laws?”

Me:  “So it would seem.”

As one K-Trax Facebook fan speculated, the IOC made an agreement with NBC giving NBC exclusive rights to broadcasting the Olympic Games.  These rights are fine in blocking ABC, CBS, and other major stations from televising the Games; however, these copyrights have also affected broadcasts via the internet.  Users on sites such as YouTube have been restricted from posting their favorite performances for all to see and experience again and again.  Because of this, users are subjected to visit NBC’s site to view Olympic coverage on-demand.

Oooo on-demand. 

On-demand viewing isn’t so bad…neither is the NBC Olympic page with it’s live streaming and athlete profiles.  However, the NBC Olympic page will undoubtedly expire soon just like pages linked to canceled shows.  Sigh.  Once those pages expire, all of the content uploaded to that page will be inaccessible.

At least through social media, videos can theoretically remain accessible and shared throughout online communities worldwide.  Accessibility contributes to visibility- an attribute track & field desperately needs to strengthen to remain in the sight of potential markets.  With social media, fans from all over can witness over and over and over again the splendor Rudisha’s magnificent run at will.  Over time, his name, his style, and the image of him running could be imprinted in people’s memories.  Rudisha could become a household name like Danica Patrick, Travis Pastrana, Shaun White, Allen Iverson, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Michael Phelps, and Usain Bolt.  And, when Rudisha runs again, he will have more than just his family and countrymen routing for him.  He will have greater support in the stadiums by fans who have traveled from various nations just to see him compete.

I wish you could see his outstanding run from the Games.  For now, check out this news reel from itnnews.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhVO5woH98U

Enjoy!

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4x100m WR!!!

4x100m WR!!!

Yesterday, four US women joined forces and achieved the unimaginable…

They broke the 4x100m world record.  Their time: 40.82.

To give you a little perspective on how epic this performance is, consider this:

  • The former world record of 41.37 was set back in 1985- 27 years ago.  That’s almost three decades old.
  • Who set it?  The then East German team- Silkil Gladish, Sabine Rieger, Ingrid Auerswald, and Marlies Gohr.  If you are unfamiliar with these ladies, check them out on Wikipedia and YouTube.
  • This record of 27 years survived track & field giants Florence Griffith-Joyner, Gail Devers, Chryste Gaines, Ingrid Miller, Gwen Torrance, Evelyn Ashford, Debbie Ferguson, Veronica Campbell, Aleen Bailey, the enhanced Marion Jones, and more.  If you are familiar with these names, you are probably wondering, how is this possible?

The 4x100m (especially the Olympic 4x100m) is perhaps the riskiest event in track & field.  Unlike the jumps, throws, hurdles, vaults, and open runs, risk in the 4x100m heightens by the amount of energy concentrated on the track.  Four explosive athletes contained by a single lane must work together as one entity striving for the same goal- to bring the baton across the line first.  As the clock ticks, these athletes must put aside their differences, egos, nerves, fears, and apprehensions, and concentrate their power to execute a calculated run as one fluid team.  This effort, believe it or not, is an incredible challenge even for the world’s best.  The energy on the track is beyond intense and can only be stabilized by successful hand offs.  Figuratively, to achieve a successful hand off, energy must be channeled into a plastic or metallic baton and transferred from person to person without disrupting flow.  Each leg must be careful not to fumble or drop the baton. They must also be careful not to run over or leave their mate, run out of the zone, accept the baton before zone entry, and pull up prior to the pass.  How the baton is accepted, when, and where all affects flow.  Anything can happen in the 4x100m, hence why the risks to the finish are high.

In past Olympics, some of the greatest sprinters experienced firsthand the risks of the 4x100m; hence, why the former record stood so long.  As Carmelita noted in her after-run interview, the US has had problems in the past with getting the baton to the finish.

But this time, our women prevailed.  Safe hand-offs.  Great runs.  A memorable performance.

Congratulations to Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight, and Carmelita Jeter on their extraordinary achievement.

Going The Distance- Predictions

First off, congratulations to Gabby and the Fab 5.  What an amazing performance.  We, at K-Trax, are proud of you.

Secondly, the track & field portion of these Olympic Games have officially begun today.  Although preliminaries are underway, it’s not too late to file in your Olympic predictions.  Below are mine for the 800m.

800m-  David Rudisha
Without a doubt, Rudisha will be the reigning champion in the Men’s 800m.  With already two world records in the same event (at only 23 years of age), I think it’s safe to say Rudisha is King of the 800m.  Then again, we’ll see what happens at the finish line.  Other competitors to watch for are US competitor Nick Symmonds, Khadevis Robinson, Bernard Lagat, and Leonel Manzano.  Whew!  Too bad there’s no 4x800m in the Olympics.  The US has a powerful team.  We’ll see if Rudisha can hold these  guys off til the finish.

Women’s
800m- ??????????????????
The gold is up for grabs in this event.  The times are so close, that it’s difficult to determine who will win the 800m this year.  With that said, where’s the Myles-Clark family?????

Do you have any Olympic Predictions?  What are your predictions for the field events, sprints, mid-distances, and distances?  Who’s your favorite?  Leave a comment.