Track-Hating Writer: Sorry, Sorry, I'm Trying To Remove It

Track-Hating Writer: Sorry, Sorry, I'm Trying To Remove It
On Monday afternoon, Lancaster, Pennsylvania sportswriter Mike Gross penned an inexplicable blog about track and field. Its headline was "High school track: It's springtime and the living is (relatively) easy," and it got worse from there. Some highlights:

​Football is real, track is for weekend warriors: ​"Football, to which This Space devotes most of its year, is the most intense, high-pressure American sport.

Track and field, to which we devote three pleasant weekends each spring, is every bit as intense and high-pressure as frisbee golf."

​Most track athletes are just kicking back: ​"Sure, there are plenty of prep athletes for whom track and field is prime time, serious stuff, and certainly a source of college scholarship money. But there are plenty of others - more than in the fall or winter - for whom track, and the spring season in general, are a source of relaxed fun."

​They even go to prom sometimes: ​"Sometimes the sprinter misses out to go to, or get ready for, the prom."

​I have a ridiculous and useless disdain for millennials: ​"Consider, at big-meet track's essence, the medal stand. The top eight - eight! - finishers in each event at meets like Saturday's Lancaster-Lebanon League get medals.

This is surely seen as evidence of a softening and weakening of our culture by those determined to see such things, except that it was that way when they were kids, too."

​Some athletes have the gall to admit when they're about to be destroyed by a buzzsaw, and I hate that: ​"The L-L had a strong group of male throwers last year, but at states they ran into a Western Pa. kid, Jordan Geist, who was one of the best high-school shot putters ever.

They had no chance to compete with him, but nothing about that was discouraging. 'I think it's cool to see that,'' said McCaskey thrower Cain Resch. 'I can't compete with it, but it's awesome to see.'

That's the mindset. Wouldn't want to cover it year 'round, but I wouldn't want to go a year without it."

Track athletes and parents were apparently furious online, and rather than standing up to his competition like he wants gentle teenagers to, Gross immediately and fully capitulated. Just eleven hours after publication, Gross (whose Twitter bio misspells "millennial") wrote a humiliating apology.

Gross's apology was genuine. In his inimitable one to two paragraph per sentence style, he wrote that: 

"It's safe to say that 'Track and field, to which we devote three pleasant weekends each spring, is every bit as intense and high-pressure as frisbee golf'' is as unfortunate, and as inaccurate, a sentence as I have ever written.

To be as clear as possible: I do not think, and truly do not think I wrote, suggested or implied, that track and field is easy. I could not beat Nathan Henderson in a race if I had a bicycle and he wore a fat suit. I could not throw a shot put out of my shadow or jump over it.

I understand many will scoff at this, but I still know in my soul that I have never, and would never, intend to belittle high school athletes.

But this is not one of those 'IF I offended anyone….' non-apology apologies.

I'm in the communication business, and in this case I failed to communicate effectively.

That failure has, obviously, hurt a lot of people. My work means as much to me as track and field means to you, which is why I am shaken right now, and why I can only hope you will take my word for this.

I apologize."

This apology in some ways makes the earlier takes about participation trophies and the gentility of track even worse--that first column is even more embarrassing if it's not deeply felt. I know many millennials and more bad track athletes, and I'm not sure any of them have ever so thoroughly and rapidly debased themselves on the internet. May we all continue to have more pride and caution than Mike Gross does.
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