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February 14, 2017 | Issue 66
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Oiselle
Kezar Stadium
Wednesday night lights. | San Francisco, California
instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! Here’s a snackable serving of interestingness and inspiration to start your day. Enjoy!

Oh, Lordy.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve gone off on a proper Seb Coe rant but this morning seems as good a time as any to get back in the groove, so here we go:

— What do you notice in this picture? How about this one? These two images Coe posted from last week’s Nitro Athletics meet in Australia raise a few questions that deserve answers: 1. Why did he cover up the logo on his shirt (New Balance) but not shorts or shoes (Nike)? 2. Why is Coe not decked out in ASICS, the official footwear and apparel sponsor of the governing body he heads up? 3. If it doesn’t happen to matter which brand of footwear and apparel the president of the IAAF—who gave up his lucrative ambassadorship role with Nike—decides to wear when he’s out and about at a track meet (in this case, one that isn’t sanctioned by the IAAF), then why cover up any manufacturer’s logo at all? 4. New Balance paid big $$ to have their logo on the England shirt Coe is wearing, just as ASICS paid big $$ to have their logo on the uniforms the Japanese athletes in the photo are wearing. The Japanese athletes, who are all wearing different shoes based on their individual sponsors (Mizuno, ASICS, Nike from what I can tell), are not allowed to cover up the sponsor logo on their country’s uniforms, so why can Coe? 5. What is the current status of Coe’s relationship with Nike, his sponsor of nearly 40 years? 6. Why does any of this matter? Two very important reasons: 1. Sponsorship and logo placement is an ongoing hot-button issue in the world of athletics and will be for the foreseeable future. The head of the sport’s governing body should be subjected to the same rules as any athlete or administrator in this regard if the sport has any chance of moving forward. 2. Confidence in Coe has been low since he took over the IAAF presidency in 2015 and deliberate stunts like this one do nothing to help athletes, fans and potential sponsors regain trust in him or the governance of the sport in general.

Coe recently went on the radio with Australia’s Tracey Lee Holmes and she didn’t shy away from asking him tough questions regarding the Nitro meet, the Russian doping scandal, Caster Semenya’s curious case, retrospective drug testing and more. It's worth a listen, particularly around the 44-minute mark when Coe says that “we will defend [Semenya’s] right to compete” before explaining that the IAAF will continue to challenge the Court of Arbitration’s 2015 ruling that it was “unable to conclude that hyperandrogenic female athletes may benefit from such a significant performance advantage that it is necessary to exclude them from competing in the female category.” The contradiction here is obvious, and troubling. It’s also ironic, given the timing of this excellent 90-second spot entitled “Equality” that Nike—Coe’s former sponsor—recently released. “Opportunity should not discriminate,” the commercial’s narrator says. “The ball should bounce the same for everyone.”

— To give Coe credit where it’s due, he did just put a ruling in place freezing the transfer of allegiance in athletics, which had gotten comically out of hand with the likes of Qatar, Turkey and Bahrain buying top talent from Kenya in order to have a presence on the medal stand. “The present situation is wrong,” said Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, Africa Area Group Representative on the IAAF Council. “What we have is a wholesale market for African talent open to the highest bidder. Our present rules are being manipulated to the detriment of athletics’ credibility.”

Quick Splits

— File this podcast under “Places I didn’t think I’d find insight and inspiration this weekend.” Host Michael Gervais and his guest Jewel—yes, the musician—spend an hour talking about her path from homeless teenager to best-selling artist artist, how to face and embrace fear, letting go of perfectionism, how internal and external motivation influence performance, and a lot more. I found Jewel to be honest and articulate, her insights applicable to a number of different arenas. It’s worth an hour of your time. “I needed to do something that I loved that made me feel like I was making a difference in the world…” Jewel says. “…I want my life to be my best work of art. I don’t want my art to be my best work of art. If I look back and say, ‘Hey, I was a great song writer but a bad person, I failed. And again, it’s just saying, ‘What’s my definition of success and what am I doing every day to ensure that I have success in those categories?”

— Continuing with the aforementioned theme of letting go of perfectionism, Lauren Fleshman returned from a self-imposed social media sabbatical last week with this thoughtful post. Fleshman writes about the quest to reconnect with herself after battling distraction, exhaustion and burnout. “I let go of my past relationship with drive and achievement so I can navigate a new one,” Fleshman writes. “I began to see a new story, one of transition, of growing up, of a relationship with effort and drive, of freeing my hands to make beautiful things from the now rather than hanging onto a rope anchored to youth.” 

— Ed Caesar, subject of my first “Going Long” interview a few weeks back, recently returned home from Kenya, where he spent some time at training camp with Eliud Kipchoge and friends. What did he learn from some of the world’s greatest runners? In short: Slow the f*ck down! “A good day of training was worth little on its own, but a good month was worth plenty,” Caesar writes in his latest dispatch. “Slowly by slowly, the athlete’s shape came.” To complement Caesar’s observations, check out this piece I wrote a while back, where the now defunct Team USA Monterey Bay squad taught me a similar lesson.

— I’ve long been a fan of Tim Layden’s writing but this piece, posted just yesterday, caught me by surprise and might be one of the best things he’s ever written. Layden writes about Curtis Tong, the coach who cut him from the basketball team at Williams College, and the guy who shaped the career of legendary coach Gregg Popovich (while also imparting valuable lessons upon Layden himself). Tong recently passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease and Layden’s piece is a testament to the lasting impact a coach can have on his athletes’ lives—even the ones he cuts from the team. “But details never tell the full story of a coach’s life, because a coach—a teacher, by any measure—is more than the sum of his life’s accomplishments,” Layden writes. “A coach is his own life, and every life he has ever touched, his words and his lessons melting down through generations, outliving him by decades. Coaches expire every day, but they never die. They live forever.” 

— The leader of the free world wants you to believe that The New York Times is failing as a media outlet and pushing FAKE NEWS but the reality of the situation is that quality journalism is alive and well (On The Media’s Brooke Gladstone recently said on the Longform podcast that we’re entering a “golden era” for the press) and the NYT, in particular, is currently thriving in part because readers are realizing the value in paying for it. “I think the public anxiety to actually have professional, consistent, properly funded newsrooms holding politicians to account is probably bigger than all of the other factors put together,” Times chief executive Mark Thompson said in response to a recent surge in print and digital subscriptions. [The graphic in the aforelinked piece showing the revenue shift at the NYT from 2000-2015 is fascinating. “It just so happens that your friend here [print] is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”]

That’s it for Issue 66. If you like what you’re reading here each week, please show your favorite newsletter a little love this Valentine’s Day by posting the web link to your preferred social media platform so that more people can enjoy it. Got feedback or something else of substance to share with me? Just reply to this email or find me on the Twitter

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

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