- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Now it was the Americans' turn for annoyance. Shorter was displeased at having had to set the pace for the entire race, a grueling role over the nearly 25 laps of the 10,000 meters. "It's not a code of behavior, nothing like that," explained steeplechaser Mike Manley. "It's just a feeling distance runners have among themselves that a man who does not want to lead the whole way shouldn't be made by his opponents to keep the lead. Things like this can cause bad feelings."
Shorter, who ended up with his slowest time of the year, felt he had been ill-prepared. "That's the last time that will happen," he said. "You need two weeks to get ready for something like this, instead of doing a full 20-mile workout as I did on Thursday, then coming out and hoping to hang on. I guess it was just delusions of grandeur. I thought I was strong enough to do it."
It was a similar fragile grandeur that Ebenezer Moses Debrah, the ambassador from Ghana, sought when he predicted that Africa would win most of the events. "The greatest athletes in your country are from Africa," he warned North Carolina Governor Bob Scott at the airport before a lavish reception at the Governor's Mansion in Raleigh. "And, Africa can't lose against itself. Since you're from cigarette country, maybe you'd better switch than fight."
America's black athletes and the predominantly black crowd at Duke came near to agreeing with him. Each African victory was heartily cheered, and students from Malcolm X Liberation University in Greensboro, N.C. held up signs in French, Swahili and English which read, "Welcome to our brothers and sisters," and "We are the people of Africa." After each event the drummers stopped their pounding long enough to recompute their special black, red and green scoreboard that listed the totals under the headings Africa and White. Their final tally read 185-83.
"It feels good, man, to finally be running in this meet after all those political meets against the Germans, Russians and French," said John Smith, who flew back from Europe to win the 400 meters in 45.7, the 200 in 20.7, and help the U.S. mile relay team to a 3:03.5 victory. "Instead of just having the Africans grouped on something called the world team in meets with Russian and American teams, it's good to be running only against them."
"You're not really running against them," interrupted retired long jumper Ralph Boston. "It's more like running with them."
It was a similar sense of something special that inspired Leroy Walker to bring the Pan- Africa- U.S.A. meet to North Carolina. Walker, who has been shuttling to Africa since 1960 to coach national teams, run clinics for the State Department and formulate development plans for the Peace Corps, first mentioned the possibility of such an affair four years ago. But it was not until he and AAU track and field director Ollan Cassell met in an Oslo sauna bath last summer that the decision to go ahead with the meet was made. "For a long time after that I thought the heat had got to us," Walker s ys.
To add to the impression that he had gone mad, Walker managed to convince the AAU to hold the meet in Durham, this despite bids from New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and Oakland. The largest previous track crowd in North Carolina had been 2,000. But with the help of some local money, including a $10,000 grant from the city of Durham, Walker put together an event that was successful far beyond the dreams of even his heated-up imagination. "Four or five years ago—maybe half a dozen years ago, I don't want to sell anybody short—this meet could not have been held in Carolina," he says. "We couldn't have gotten a meeting of the minds to do it." Last week, most of Durham's citizenry seemed intent on using the meet as evidence of general civic togetherness. And all things considered, it was pretty impressive evidence.
Still there were loud voices saying that 10 African track meets cannot cure the problems lingering in Durham—and most cities. Black leader Howard Fuller greeted the visiting ambassadors by calling on them to tour the seamier side of Durham. Some Durham citizens did take a few of the African athletes into the ghettos for a brief visit, a tour that must have changed some African preconceptions about the lavish American way of life. Ivory Crockett, who was second in the 100 meters to Jim Green, said that when the African athletes go home and tell what they saw, "No one will believe them. They will be surprised to hear that we aren't all living in brick houses and have nice cars." And the Duke student newspaper editorialized, "While the Duke athletic department gloried in the international track meet, what about the rest of Duke? Just because there are black athletes from Africa and from America competing in Wade Stadium does not mean that Duke is any less exploitative or discriminatory in its everyday policies toward black workers and black students."
But Leroy Walker appreciated the real meaning of his meet; that the mere fact it took place in Durham indicated massive changes, but not so much change that tickets could be priced too high. "We are charging only $1.50 and $2.50 to go to the meet," he said one day last week. "That's cheaper than some high school basketball games around here. I didn't want anyone who wanted to see this meet to say, 'I'd like to go, but I can't afford it.' Two $5 tickets, which is the price at most stadiums, would be too much. It's equal to a lot of people's grocery bill for the week."