Nearing a Payoff?
The Chicago Marathon on Sunday brought good news and bad news for U.S. distance running. The good news: 31-year-old Jerry Lawson of Jacksonville finished in 2:09:35, the fastest time by an American in more than three years. The bad news: Lawson placed seventh, more than two minutes behind winner Khalid Khannouchi of Morocco. Also ahead of Lawson were four Kenyans and a Briton.
In the 1970s and early '80s, U.S. male runners dominated marathoning. With Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar, the U.S. had the world's No. 1 runner in the year-end rankings eight times from 1971 to '82. But only two American men, one of them South African-born Mark Plaatjes, have ranked among the Top 10 in the world in the past 14 years. Worse, U.S. runners aren't only falling behind the rest of the world they're getting slower as well. From 1980 to '83 five American men broke 2:10; only three, including Lawson, have done so since.
Lawson is an oddity among U.S. runners, and not just because of his goatee, his nine earrings and his training regimen of as many as 200 miles a week. Unlike so many of his contemporaries Lawson has been willing to pass up paydays on the lucrative road-racing circuit to concentrate or the marathon.
Ironically, his nonmercenary approach almost earned him the biggest payoff in running history Earlier this year New Balance offered $1 million to the U.S. runner who broke the recognized American record for the marathon (Bob Kempainen's 2:08:47 run at Boston in 1994) by the widest margin during '97—which was somewhat like offering a million bucks to the baseball player who exceeds Roger Maris's home run record by the greatest margin.
Lawson won't run another marathon this year, but he says he's not worried about missing out on the prize. "I want to keep getting faster, and I think I've positioned myself just right," says Lawson, who was buoyed enough by his Chicago run to stay up partying into the wee hours before heading home and back to training on Monday. "I feel like I'm ready to explode."
No Hang Time
Despite the fact that it lost 28-0 to Hamilton College in a Division III matchup last Saturday, Colby College never punted to end any of its 11 possessions. In the ass kicking, the White Mules threw four interceptions, missed two held goals, had two possessions halted by the end of halves, twice surrendered the ball on downs and lost one fumble.
In their series' five years on NBC, the producers of Homicide: Life on the Street have used police tape to cordon off fictitious murder scenes on streets and back alleys all over Baltimore. But the show had never tried to stage a crime at the city's best-known setting: Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The idea that Peter Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, and the Maryland Stadium Authority would permit Homicide to portray some grisly murder there, made-for-TV or not, seemed hopelessly far-fetched.
But in what producers David Simon and Jim Yoshimura describe as a moment of "pure, unencumbered genius," they jiggered the plot so that the ballpark brass not only embraced the idea but also happily allowed Orioles pitchers Armando Benitez and Scott Erickson to make cameo appearances. In this season's second episode, which is to air on Friday, the victim and the killer are both obnoxious men with thick Long Island accents. Each is a New York Yankees fan. "Someone should check the Maryland Annotated Code," says Detective John Munch, who is played by Richard Belzer. "I'm not sure this is actually a crime in Baltimore."