The Men and the Boys
Five athletes from foreign countries loped across the finish line in the National Collegiate cross-country championships last week as clearly ahead of the U.S.-born entries as so many Russians in a space race. And to hear the wails of anguish that arose, one might have thought they were the Russians. "It just isn't fair," said the coach from one college on the east coast. "I bring my youngsters out here and they get their brains beaten out by guys who should have quit school five, six, or even 10 years ago."
His complaint, like that of the other beaten coaches, was that three of the foreigners, all of whom were legitimately enrolled at U.S. colleges, were older than the average U.S. student athlete. Al Lawrence, who won for the University of Houston, is a 29-year-old Australian. John Macy is a 29-year-old refugee from Poland and a veteran of the Polish army. Crawford Kennedy, from Scotland via Canada, is 24.
Each of these runners is undeniably a grown man and each is an immigrant from parts of the world where amateur running is a grown man's sport, conducted far more in athletic associations than colleges. As such they may well enjoy an initial advantage over collegians in the U.S. But as another foreigner once said, "a man's a man for a' that." A male adult of college age is supposed to be a man. He is being trained and educated to compete with men and to take it like a man if he loses.
"I felt like going up to those fellas," said one bested young runner from Brown University, "and saying 'nice run, but I'll bet I can do better nine years from now.' "
Maybe you can, boy, but not if the NCAA makes it easy for you by ruling out the grown-ups as some of the coaches last week were urging. That seems to us about as childish as trying to win the space race by disqualifying Russian scientists.
Present Accounted For
At the end of a losing season
They presented the coach with a car,
In which, and they had good reason,
They said that they hoped he'd go far.