June 14 - Run Like Hell
On July 28th in London, Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell square off in a 100 meter Haulassathon that
will determine just who the World's Fastest Man is. While millions sleep in Alabama, these two will
get outdrawn by A Team reruns. It just isn't right.
For far too many of us, the only "running" we do is "out of wine." More people care
about the NFL capabilities of these two than any Olympic implications. The
Philadelphia Eagles are said to be interested inthe winner of this race, although
they'll never think about Asafa Powell again if he doesn't have good hands.
People should be drooling over this race. The American and the Jamaican
co-hold the world's record in the 100 meter sprint. They can get moving faster
than any living human, ever. The watch has been around for a long time, and no
one has done this distance at this speed before. The fact that they both laid down
their best time so recently makes it even tastier.
Jesse Owens made Hitler look like a fool, and he'd be reading Asafa's Nikes. Carl Lewis wouldn't get
close to Gatlin. Ben Johnson can do all the steroids he wants, and he can't get near either one of
them. We're going to wipe out a tie at the top of the evolutionary ladder.
If they were boxers, this would be Ali-Frazier. They are like the 1984 Celtic/Laker series- maybe the
two best teams ever, going at it at the height of their powers. They may even exceed these landmark
events. They rule what could be called the only true sport- a sport that is basically untouched since
the first two guys ever raced to something.
I'd bet one of my houses that the first wrestling match ever looked nothing at all like the Olympic
wrestling that you see today. I'd bet another house that it looked a lot more like Smackdown. That's
why nobody watches amateur wrestling.
Sprinting is unfiltered, and it pre-dates Greco-Roman things like javelin or discus. The cavemen
raced, although the "not getting trampled by the mammoth" part most likely trumps the "fastest guy in
the tribe" egocentricity when compared to this July's race.
Running as fast as you can is an instinctive reaction to a terrifying situation, and it speaks to the
Beast in us. Sports are like that in general, and it is a great part of their appeal. Many can be viewed in
their Cro-Magnon context.
Football looks like a bunch of primates fighting over a chicken. Basketball embraces many of the
skills needed to grab apples or coconuts in a competitive feeding situation. Any sort of throwing in
these sports is some European plains caveman tossing a spear at what he hopes is his dinner. The
winner prospers, and the loser starves.
Most sports have altered the basic concept, and they miss the chance to speak to
the primordial beast in us. Sprinting is untouched. Hammurabi or Moses would
figure out what was going on in this race. Adam and Eve may have raced to
something before that whole Serpent thing. I can assure you that no one will care
who the best nose tackle ever was in 2500 AD, but they will still care who the World's
Fastest Man is.
That 9.77 Gatlin and Powell boast in the 100 meters is no joke. It's 22 miles per
hour. It's ten meters a second... better actually. If you look at speed in the 100 meter
race, both sprinters can get to steppin' and outrun:
- a swarm of bees ( 3 m/s )
- a crocodile ( at a paltry 4 m/s, the croc is more Tortoise than Hare when it comes to eating humans)
- a big dog ( 7 m/s )
- lava flowing in a channel ( 8 m/s )
- the estimated 100m speed of the Tyrannosaurus Rex (9.2 m/s)
Amazingly, the speed of a sprinter over 100 meters is greater than the speed of a roadrunner (6.7
m/s). What's more amazing is that a coyote can cover that same distance at 17 m/s, and has the
advantage of being Wily... and he never caught the little bastard.
Sprinters still have some work to do before they can truly live the pacifist life by being able to run away
from every single thing on the planet. "We're all someone's lunch," as they say in Big Business. On
this menu, Gatlin and Powell trail:
- a lion (15 m/s)
- a duck in flight (18 m/s)
- a tornado on the ground (26 m/s)
- a cheetah (30 m/s over 100 meters)
- Asafa Powell not watching where he's going, and running off a cliff (140 m/s upon impact after a 100
There are also questions of stamina, maneuverability, speed of reflexes and so forth, but we are still
talking about two really fast guys. If you were playing with Justin Gatlin in a field and Mom rang the
dinner bell, he's get to eat before you did. If Asafa Powell stole your purse, the only way you'd get it
back is if there were a hungry puma nearby.
If Asafa Powell were sustained winds, he'd be a tropical depression. Justin Gatlin is faster than the
first Indy 500 winner. Powell runs faster than the air speed of the first sustained flight. Gatlin would be
ticketed in a school zone. They aren't that far away from running down a crossbow bolt (40 m/s).
Not only are the two fastest men ever alive at the same time, but they are peaking at the same time.
You don't often get the chance to watch two Masters at work. It's like McGwire and Sosa, and I don't
care if they're full of steroids or not. One of them is the Fastest Man Ever.
We get to find out who it is this July, in London.