ODE ON A GRECIAN URGE - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
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If the Olympicsare a paean to our ancient Greek heritage, indoor track is a salute to centralheating. Thus saith Arnold Roth, whose paintings (and captions) appear on thisand the following pages. And, as Roth's work bears witness, indoor track ain'twhat it used to be. Once merely a regional idiosyncrasy, it is now a nationalaffliction. As Roth says, there's hardly an arena in the land these winternights which isn't the site of a spectacle that would have shattered many anancient Greek, even though one might say that indoor track is an ode on aGrecian urge.

Competitors arecheered for on the basis of school of origin (above right). If one's own almamater is not represented at the meet, cheers are based on region of origin. Ifone's own region is not represented one can make do with cheering one's self upby going out for a drink.

Awards arepresented by a local beauty queen and some not-so-hot-looking former greats(right), while the losers are led away by their coaches. Emotion is strong ineveryone's heart except the winners'. They are too busy gasping for breath toevince anything but collapse.

The newest indoortracks are made of composition materials. This is unfortunate, since it maywell destroy the romance—and the crippling effects—of the traditional boardtrack.

Indoor track isprecisely like outdoor track insofar as half the people involved are busilymeasuring times, heights, distances, etc., while the other half are just asbusily attempting to invalidate every measurement that is made. Indoor trackand outdoor track differ in that indoor is not so much an athletic contest asit is an exhibition of logistic ingenuity and organized confusion. Nowhere elsedo so many do so much for so few in so little space.

Track isbasically an outdoor, fair-weather sport. True fans agree to that but theystilt flock for the excitement that 83 laps to the quarter mile alone canproduce.

Because ofoverprogramming, distance races often run late. The athletes have been on thetrack long enough to claim squatters' rights. The officials have grown old. Butthe arena moves with the times and prepares for the hockey game scheduled forthe night after the track meet by someone who, obviously, doesn't know muchabout track meets.

Most enclosedarenas were not designed with track in mind. Athletes are philosophical aboutit as they realize their events were not designed with enclosed arenas inmind.

In the new enclosed mammoth stadiums such as the Astrodome the meet seems likean outdoor event that is happening in the wrong place.... As athletes andofficials rely on their innate insensitivity and natural ability to adapt, theshow goes on just as though everything is crystal clear and one goal isuppermost—setting new records of some kind.