Case in point: The U.S. has had no top men's marathoner since Alberto Salazar's decline, because of injury, in 1983. The fastest American male of 1987, Marty Froelick, ran 2:10:59. That placed him 16th on the world list for the year.
Could it be that the exploding calendar in the U.S., the agents pushing for more racing, more endorsements and appearances, the sponsors offering deals runners can't refuse—banquets they can't refuse—have hemorrhaged the legs or altered the values of the best American runners to the point where they can't, or can't afford to, peak for a single race like the Olympic marathon? "It's harder to train and do commercial work than it is just to train when you're poverty-stricken," says Rodgers, who has made and lost a fortune in running.
Could it be that we were better runners when we were amateurs? It has taken so much senescent nodding just to get to that question that, look, there's no page left. We'll have to let it hang there, a juicy curiosity. I bet it will come up at the banquet.