U.S. Track & Field Championships: The Rage Volunteers...Again
The Basket Crew: Like Synchronized Swimmers...
"About as pathetic
as anything Inspector Clouseau has ever done in one of his
stupid movies…only this was real…" -Unknown race official
commenting on The Rage's weak attempt at calling splits at
the Run for the Shamrock.
The ensuring controversy
nearly resulted in pulling all future 10K Truth field pass
privileges to USTAF sanctioned events, something most web-sites
(even with our connections) might not ever recover from had
Manciata not intervened on behalf of The Rage. Knowing the
Shamrock's race director certainly helped…plus throwing in
a new set of shoes after The Rage repeatedly shoveled hand-fulls
of dirt on his brand new pair of Nikes…a reflex from way too
many years getting the short end of hard cutter calls that
clearly dusted the corners. (Editors note: However, the comment
speculating on what appeared to be more that just some liberal
pruning on his family tree, was inexcusable, and The Rage
has personally apologized).
The Rage and his coveted Field Pass: "...It's all coming
back to me now..."
Thanks to Manciata,
I was now free to volunteer at one of the premier race events
in the country: the 2001 U.S. Track & Field Championships
at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon Campus (Eugene,
Oregon). I was anxious to put all of the prior controversy
behind me. "Just blend in, baby," I told myself, pulling the
bill down over my face as I stood in line waiting to get my
field pass. The last thing I wanted to do was have to buy
someone another pair of (gasp) Nikes. If I stayed away from
the long jump pit or shot put area, I probably wouldn't have
much to worry about. Dirt is much easier to find at a road
So, who has to carry the Judges stuff?
The official at
the gate scanned the list of names for my name as I stepped
up to the window. "So you're The Rage, huh? Nice split calls
at the Shamrock." ("Damn," I thought to myself. "He knows
me!"). "I heard you'd been cleared. Okay, you're in…but you
ain't callin' out no splits here." And then the merciless
guy blurts out for all to hear: "THE
BASKET CREW MEETS OVER THERE."
I hung my head
in shame as I slunk past the long line of snickering volunteers...only
managing a shameful glance at those with real assignments,
like the hurdle stackers, long jump pit rakers, javelin retrievers,
shot put collectors and…the tightest of tight asses...The
Not that any of
these chumps would recognize or appreciate that the basket
crew was no chump assignment whatsoever. It requires timing,
speed, a keen sense of judgement and, most importantly, working
in unison with your fellow basket crewmembers (the analogy
of synchronized swimming comes to mind). Each athlete in the
running events would have a basket right behind the starting
blocks when they peel off their sweats, headphones and whatever
else they bring along. When they get done with their heat,
they want their stuff in the finishers' corral… and they want
it now, baby.
The Rage in Action: How hard can this be?
I was determined
to prove that I could redeem myself, but admittedly, I was
nervous. To make matters worse, as I waited for my event assignment,
someone comes up to me and asks "Are you with drug testing?"
I thought I had been demoted before I even got started. Images
flashed through my mind of rubber gloves, knee pads and trying
to hold some beaker steady with shaking hands while looking
up into the apprehensive eyes of a world class athlete. I
couldn't help myself any longer and finally lost it. "NO WAY,
MAN! I'M WITH THE BASKET CREW!" The shocked official said:
"It's O.K. Just chill, all right? I'm sure you'll do just
After those two
nice guys in the red coats and the Sam Snead hats helped me
back into my chair, (stopping me from going nose to nose with
Mr. Druggie), once again, I pulled the bill of my hat down
and waited for my assignment.
Maurice Green: "I hope that skinny, bald dude can handle
Finally, I received
my assignment. I would start with the men's and women's 400
meters and then move over to the men's 100 meters. Things
started out o.k. As each runner departed the blocks, we ran
out to retrieve the basket, some of which would be overflowing
with gear. We had to carry 2-3 at a time back to the finisher's
corral, where the competitors would be arriving. Everything
went smoothly, until the 100 meters, where Maurice Green would
Green was showing
up to this event as required in order to compete in the World
Championships in a couple of months in Edmonton, Aberta/Canada.
However, he would run only one heat in protest, having already
qualified for the Worlds. Green was hurt and had a legitimate
beef with the USTAF. Nonetheless, being the fine competitor
that he is, he showed up and was determined to run fast…and
I might be carrying his basket to the finish area!
Then, things got
dicey. The start of the 100 meters was at the opposite end
of the track. I was asked to step up the pace and try to carry
as many baskets as I could. On the very first heat, after
the runners were about half way down the track, I stepped
onto the track and started to stack the baskets for transport,
as I thought I was supposed to do. I got about three-high
and found myself in a rather non-sychronesque-swimming like
tug of war with one of my fellow basket crewmembers on the
last basket. In the ensuing struggle, one of the garments
fell out of one of the competitor's baskets. Which one? Oh,
no. I hoped it wasn't Jon Drummonds. I'd especially hate to
get reamed by him. That guy can rattle.
Green after his 9:90: "Anyone seen my stuff?"
While I didn't
get reamed by Drummond, my fellow basket crew members gave
me some feedback. I hate feedback. Expecting to hear about
the garment, instead, I heard about stepping on the track
too early. I had failed to adjust my retrieval procedure from
the 400m and inadvertently obscured the view of The Judges
in the first two lanes, looking for lane violations. Duh.
How could I have been so stupid?
Once again, I was
pulling down the bill of my cap…but it wouldn't go any lower.
I tried to hang close to a few of my basket crew colleagues,
trying desperately to fit in, but they, understandably, gave
me a wide berth as The Judges in the first two lanes shook
their heads in disgust. Out of sheer frustration, I yell "So
think about why you guys are assigned to those lanes anyway.
Let me know when you think you can handle 4 and 5."
that, I was asking the same two guys in the Sam Snead hats
if I could make just one phone call.
here…" I then put my hand over the receiver and asked "…Hey,
what size shoes do you think those two judges wear?" - The
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and time page last updated: 06/04/2004 8:00 PM