bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Marathons and half-marathons are big business, but I don’t care

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Last November, I ran my first-ever race. After months of training, I participated in the Philadelphia Half Marathon, and I wrote about what a thrill it was. Today, ten months later, I ran my second race. I am not sure why I have never done a 5K…I seem to be attracted to the longer races. The event on this beautiful Sunday was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia 1/2 Marathon, formerly known as the Philadelphia Distance Run. It was a similar course to the PHM, but not exactly the same. As I ran, I found myself thinking about what a major industry this thing has become.

It was a magnificent day for running. Temps were in the high 50s at the start, with few clouds and a nice light breeze. Over 21,000 people lined up in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, intending to spend anywhere from one to four hours making their way through 13.1 miles of city streets, much of it along the glistening Schuylkill River through a section of Fairmount Park. I am no speed demon, but I did improve my time over last year by about ten minutes (I finished in 1:52:31 on Sunday). I will be running my first full marathon in Florida in January, and this race turned out to be scheduled at the perfect time for me to do it before kicking off my marathon training. My wife and son valiantly navigated packed and closed off city streets to find three different spots along the course where they could see me as I ran by. My finishing time was almost exactly what I thought it would be, and although I did not quite make my goal, I was pretty close. More importantly, the run was easy, I felt strong, and I knew when I crossed the finish line that I absolutely could have continued for a pretty good distance.

The organizers of this event and other races like it must be rolling in dough. Each one of those 21,000+ people paid somewhere between $60 and $110 to participate. There are plenty of organizers that are paid employees, I guess, and there is certainly some overhead, but it appeared that much of the food and drink provided before and after the race came from sponsors. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series, which runs events in 26 different U.S. cities and six more outside the country, seems particularly massive. It’s a pretty amazing thing, if you think about it. Every one of these people can go run thirteen miles for free any time he or she chooses. Hell, I do a 10-12 mile run every weekend. So why was I not only willing but anxious to fork over a bunch of money to do it in a giant pack of people, having to get up hours earlier than I normally would, and running on a harder surface than I normally traverse? It’s tough to say. I guess it just seems more official, in a way. Almost all of us out there have no shot of winning, of course, so there is no goal of prize money or fame. There is something very fulfilling about it, though. Sure, I got the same medal that everyone else got, and my time was nearly an hour slower than the guy who won, but I had a great time and look forward to doing it again. I am certain that the Competitor Group, who runs this series, has a very good understanding of why people do this, and why the money flows the way it does. I was a little annoyed when I discovered that the text message service that sends in-race updates to interested parties had a $2 fee that went with it, as that seemed just a little too petty and money-grubbing for my taste. It was a reasonably well-run event, though, and I certainly enjoyed myself.

On to Walt Disney World for the 26.2.

Bad sports:

1) A junior college linebacker in North Dakota was dismissed from his team because he is gay, according to the player. Jamie Kuntz, who played for the North Dakota College of Science, was removed from the roster after a recent incident that involved him kissing his boyfriend in the press box, where he was watching the team’s game due to an injury. If he was kicked off the team because he was gay, then the school was certainly wrong here. The only thing that should have bothered them was the fact that Kuntz’ boyfriend is 65, while Kuntz is 18. That’s just creepy.

2) Bo Pelini, the head coach of the University of Nebraska football team, was taken out of the school’s stadium by ambulance during a win over Arkansas State on Saturday. Whatever the problem was, it turned out to be not as serious as originally thought, as Pelini was expected to return to work on Sunday.

3) I know that the Miami Hurricanes football team has not yet returned to the glory of its teams from the eighties and nineties, but they have a coach I like a lot (Al Golden). Yes, the team was playing a low-level opponent a week after being crushed by Kansas State, but this crowd is really embarrassing.

4) One of the replacement refs who was scheduled to officiate the New Orleans Saints-Carolina Panthers game on Sunday was removed from the crew Sunday morning after it was discovered that he was a huge Saints fan. Oops.

5) Speaking of replacement refs, the NFL has better get its labor dispute with the NFL Referees Union pronto. The replacement refs are just brutal, and they are really affecting the product on the field. I watched the Eagles-Ravens game on Sunday, and I am pretty sure I have never seen such god-awful officiating in all my years watching football. They constantly mis-spotted the ball, made errors with the clock, and failed to make quick calls when games situations required them. It is really an embarrassment.

6) Jae Su Chun, the coach of the U.S. Speedskating team, has been accused of a variety of styles of abuse by a number of different skaters that he coaches or has coached in the past. He denies any wrongdoing, but with this many people claiming to have been abused or to have witnessed abuse, there is likely some action coming on the part of the U.S.O.C.

7) The USC Trojans scored a touchdown on Saturday that should not only have not counted, but that should have been a penalty during their loss to Stanford. Running back Silas Redd was essentially carried over the goal line by offensive lineman Aundrey Walker. This is against NCAA rules, but no penalty was called. By the way, I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing USC lose. Redd left Penn State once the NCAA’s sanctions took effect, heading to Southern Cal because he thought they were primed to win a championship. Saturday’s loss makes that championship quite unlikely this year. Redd not only abandoned his school and his teammates, but he now has to deal with a scumbag like Lane Kiffin while still not winning anything. Sorry about that.

8) Harvard’s basketball team was a huge surprise last season, as it had a very successful season which culminated in the school’s first appearance in the NCAA Basketball Tournament in over 65 years. A repeat is unlikely, as the team’s co-captains, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, are embroiled in an academic cheating scandal. Both players are expected to withdraw from school.

9) Manti Te’o, a star linebacker at Notre Dame, lost his grandmother and his girlfriend on consecutive days this week. His teammates helped him through, and he not only played against Michigan State on Saturday, he had 12 tackles in the win.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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