U.S. runners were much less competitive than they used to be. This bothers the author of the linked article. Paradoxically, more Americans are running. In fact, the author thinks this might be contributing to the slowing down of America’s elite runners. Races are dumbed down to cater to the masses. So what if we don’t produce world class elite runners?
I don’t care. Beyond the health benefits, which you can get at a relatively low level or competitiveness, it matters not at all if athletes improve over time. Competitive sports are the epitome of the zero sum game. I bet they thought up that term to describe sports.
If we improve the general level of production in business, everybody gets more, at least potentially. If we raise the general level of yield in farming, we can grow more with fewer inputs. But if the general level of athletic excellent increases, it does nothing to improve anything but the record books. There will always be only one gold, one silver and one bronze. It doesn’t matter that a decent HS athlete can run/swim/jump/throw better than the guys who won Olympic gold in the 1920s.
Even an average NFL teams today could probably beat the Champion 1967 Green Bay Packers. Players and training methods have improved that much. Big deal. In fact, we were better off in the old days before all this scientific training. The game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys in the “ice bowl” was as good as any game will ever be. No progress is possible, no matter how much more bigger, stronger and technically proficient athletes become.
It is always hard to know when enough is enough. I was on the swim team in HS. I thought I was pretty good because I won most of the time. Technically, however, I was not very good compared with the really excellent athletes. Did it matter? It was against the rules for us to have practices before the season officially started in November. So before we had swim team, we had swim club. We all got together twice a week and worked out. When the season was over in March, we all did other things. There was no continuation of training until we showed up again in the fall. We were good swimmers; we were never excellent swimmers. But we were good enough. It was better that the competition for swimming didn’t dominate our lives even more.
I don’t swim much anymore. It is hard for me to just have fun. Like Pavlov’s dog, I am conditioned. When I jump in the pool, I feel the need to swim back and forth as fast as I can. I still like to run and I make a special point of not competing nor even knowing exactly how fast I go.
Anyway, if America never again produces a native-born champion marathoner, it really doesn’t matter. If the average level of football, basketball or baseball languishes or even declines, it doesn’t change anything, nor does it matter if it improves. It doesn’t create more winners. It is much better if lots of Americans exercise even if none of them gets to be very good.