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Pre -pre Column 2023 – runblogrun

NIKE Waffle running shoes, owned the late Steve Prefontaine, at auction by Sotheby's

This is the Pre column that Elliott Denman did prior to the 2023 Nike Prefontaine Classic, the Diamond League championships for 2023.

Pre-pre column 2023..



I’ll remember the night of May 30, 1975, as clearly as I can September 11, 2023, which is this day I’m seated at my computer, commissioned to write a “pre-Pre story” and trying put all my recollections – emotions, too – in reasonably readable journalistic form.

But that is a tough assignment because “The Pre Story” – a look back at the so-suddenly-saddeningly-foreshortened life of Steve Roland Prefontaine – is so replete with the personalized remembrances of a man – me – trying to write a coulda-woulda-shoulda look-back at a young athlete who maybe-just-maybe had the ability to do it better and faster and more flamboyantly than anyone whoever graced our favorite sport.

But I’ll dig down and push forward and try to get this right – yes, as “Pre” might have dug down and pushed forward to get it all right, too.

That night – May 30, 1975 – saw me “in the slot” of the sports desk of the Asbury Park Press – a once purely locally-focused newspaper in Central New Jersey – that had  now seen the light that it had to deliver the news of events of an area well beyond its Matawan-to-Manahawkin, Long Branch-to-Toms River roots, if it was to have relevance to an increasingly wider audience now making this vicinity one of the fastest growing in the nation.

And it was the job of that “slot man” to determine which were the biggest stories of the day and which were not.

There was no doubt in my mind that the horrific events in Eugene, Oregon that fateful Thursday night, May 29, 1975, and earliest Friday, May 30, deserved full-frontal Sports Page One prominence.

So a large photo of “Pre” was selected, from the many now spewing from Associated Press tele-machines, for the top of the page, to be enclosed in a square band of mourner’s black, with the story, headlined “Olympian Loss,” positioned immediately below.

That page layout was – totally – the call of the “slot man” and I had no doubts it was the right one.

Until the following day, when some top brass – the names on the newspaper’s masthead – asked a few questions.

“Who is this guy Prefontaine?  Does anyone round here even know who he is? Or care? And what’s this ‘Olympian Loss’ thing – all he did was place fourth in his only…

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