Athletics News

FROM THE EDITOR — About WA’s Long Jump Proposal

FROM THE EDITOR — About WA’s Long Jump Proposal

THE TASK OF BLOWING hot air into this column space is easier when a topic serves itself up. It happens that as I reach for one this time, the WIC in Glasgow has just played out simultaneously with the hubbub around World Athletics’ plan to test out replacement of the long jump board’s foul line with a hard-to-miss launch zone and measurement from the point of takeoff to landing spot.

The concept is technically feasible at the elite level. WA hopes the elimination of anticlimactic fouls with the TV cameras rolling will at once heighten spectator interest and tighten up both presentation and the duration of competitions.

Long jump greats Carl Lewis, Tianna Madison, Dwight Phillips, Miltiádis Tentóglou and Ivana Španović all hate the idea. Replace their beloved baby with a new offspring that’s only kinda, sorta the same — can’t blame them.

“I have to plead guilty to being torn on whether I think it’s a good thing or bad,” Editor Emeritus Garry Hill confessed when the proposal leaped into our staff e-mail exchanges.

Same here, me too, me three, I mused, conflicting convictions shouting at each other across my cortex. History and tradition — obvious considerations. Flipside of the coin, recognition that this enchanting sport so often loses its way into dead pools of monotony where any hope for a hook on uninitiated sports fans floats off into the gloom.

So count me in the yes column. WA absolutely should try its LJ experiment. Last season Major League Baseball, another sport — which though hugely more popular on TV and in stadiums than track & field in this country — recognized the trend toward preference for faster pacing, more constant action.

If you follow the diamond sport at all, you know the actions taken: pitch clock, larger bases conducive to swift, dramatic steals, position-shift restrictions to increase batting average.

The changes mostly worked. Attendance climbed, average length of a 9-inning game dropped about 15%. Home runs, strikeouts and base steals all went up — more action in less time.

Memories viz meet presentation bubbled up through an e-mail thread I’m on with fellow track alums of my Div. III alma mater as the chatter turned to indoor track. Unusual since our old school, Pomona College (Pomona-Pitzer for sports purposes) is on the West Coast. But Pomona, as I write has three current runners readying for indoor nationals and a few older alums on the thread had raced indoors at Southern California…

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