Allow me to suggest that our sport could be improved for one and all (especially fandom) with some simple tweaking of the rulebook. And the tweaking I have in mind actually involves a fair amount of retro, back-to-the future thinking. Our forefathers may not have done so badly when they originally crafted the sport.
For a start, I’d modify the
false-start rule. No, I don’t mean rescinding the new no-falsies
stricture. I mean apply that rule only to the events started out of
blocks (and I’m not so sure the 400 should be included).
Errors at races longer than the 200
are few, and when they do happen, it’s not because somebody was trying
to steal the race. The rule was intended to speed up the meet, and
simply putting the runners back on the line, methinks, takes less time
than a formal DQ process.
I’d also get rid of 100th-second
timing for any event longer than the 400. I don’t mean get rid of
automatic timing, per se; I mean get rid of the display of long times
to such a fine tolerance. To represent 10,000 times to 2 decimal places
is the same as fine-tuning a 100 time to 4 places. You can still use
the 100ths (or even 1000ths) in your photofinish work; just don’t
confuse the public with more needless numbers.
In common parlance, athletes and fans
alike tend to knock a digit off the end anyway. Only a geek would refer
to somebody as a 10.23 sprinter instead of a 10.2 sprinter. Yes, we’re
all geeks here at T&FN, but being geeky doesn’t help sell the sport
to the general public.
There has been much to-do about the
IAAF’s tweaking of the wind rules for the multi-events this year, with
talk that they’ll go back to the old way. How about an even better way:
ignore wind altogether when talking about the decathlon and heptathlon.
Think about it; if there’s a wind strong enough to aid the sprints,
it’s a wind that’s going to take away a like amount of points in the
high jump and pole vault, and may well also influence the discus and
javelin one way or the other.
While we’re getting rid of wind
gauges, let’s stop worrying about “legality” in the straightaway
hurdles. There is almost no correlation between stronger tailwinds and
faster times, because the extra push can actually have a deleterious
effect, running the athlete into the hurdle. Moreover, not all athletes
in the race are affected equally, based on their body type, stride
length and clearance technique.
You may find this one nitpicky, but I
think USATF needs to break with the IAAF when it comes to measuring the
high jump and pole vault, going back to Imperial measure so that the
bar can progress in logical even inches. The manual indicator boards
that 99% of meets use can’t show fractions anyway, so a 7-2
and-a-fraction will show up as 7-2 or 7-3, depending on the whim of the
How about the NCAA men’s high jump
this year: think John Q. Public isn’t befuddled when the bar goes thus:
6-8¾, 6-10¾, 7-¼, 7-1½, 7-2½, 7-3¾, 7-5, 7-6? Wouldn’t you prefer to
see 6-9, 6-11, 7-1, 7-3, 7-5, 7-6? With the option always open, of
course, to go to a fraction and/or metric height when there’s a record
of some sort involved.
Those with good memories will be quick
to pounce on me, of course, for the concluding statement in my April
column, in which I said the sport needed to lose its 19th-Century
From The Editor: Time To Bring Back Old Rules?