Usain Bolt earned our undying admiration for his marvellous exploits on the track, but it was always clear, to be honest, that fumbling, bumbling, tumbling escapes on the football pitch, would never amount to anything more than a glorified publicity stunt.

When fabled American sportscaster Charley Steiner quoted the famous line, uttered by Clint Eastwood’s iconic character Dirty Harry, ‘Sometimes a man’s got to know his limitations,’ he referred to another track and field legend, Carl Lewis, butchering the United States national anthem with all the ruthless efficacy of Sweeney Todd. 

The laborious months of Bolt’s campaign to become a professional footballer may not have caused us to splutter uncontrollably with ceaseless bouts of irrepressible laughter, as Lewis’ spectacular failure did, mind you, what we saw were Bolt’s best parts, but the sentiment should be the same, everyone has limits.

Shockingly, however, it seems the lesson has been lost on the decorated runner and his recent comments about not being given a fair chance to play football, tell us as much.

Based on what I saw, and if there is better footage, I am eager to see it, it’s hard to justify the sprinter being given a trial anywhere at all where serious football is played.

On one level, it’s completely understandable that unshakable self-belief is a key part of the mindset of any great athlete. 

When Michael Jordan tossed aside the basketball and stood, bat in hand, in front of the mirror, he saw Jackie Robinson. When Carl Lewis decided to trade the relay baton for a mic, he likely glanced over to see Lionel Richie looking back, before committing an unforgiving and merciless verbal assault.  The shimmering reflection Bolt cast after putting down his spikes and picking up cleats was, Wayne Rooney, a player whom he astonishingly believed was at the same talent level.

What is less understandable, however, is that three years after retirement and at least two after the professional football fiasco, the world record holder believes that his lack of success was down to a lack of opportunity.  It’s time to be honest, Usain, it was down to a glaring and obvious lack of ability.

Football is a very easy sport to watch, easy to love, easy to have strong opinions about.  Some of us even believe it easy to play in our weekly treks to weekend scrimmage games. 

The images we see when we stand proudly in front of the mirror, before heading to our own local battlefields are varied and endless.  Many of us are Lionel Messi’s, Cristiano Ronaldo’s, Jamie Vardy’s, Karim Benzema’s, and even Zinedine Zidane’s. If you really think about it though, playing well, let alone playing well enough to be a professional at the highest level, is another thing entirely.

With the rare exception, the very best exponents of the beautiful game spend the tender years of their lives ceaselessly honing their craft, and even then, on many occasions, find themselves well short of making the professional-grade. 

How likely was it that Bolt, then a 31-year-old athlete, who never even played the highest level of high school or primary school football, would decide to take up the sport professionally after a few scrimmage games and make the grade?  His only qualifier for getting a trial was that he held track and field sprint records. Fantastic records, mind you, but that is a remarkably clear case of comparing apples to oranges. 

Come to think of it, the situation sounds rather ridiculous when you spell it out loud, doesn’t it?

Well lest anyone out there harbour any illusions, it only sounds that way because the whole thing was.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as he struggled to

 

 

In many respects Bolt and another track and field legend

Bolt trippinCharkg over a football not as funny but breathtaking lack of aweness on limitations certainly in the same ballpark is just as not given chance ridiculous.  Football for year of training Bolt decided to pick it up as a professional at 31 declaring better than Wayne Rooney

Beyond this Bolt now claims not given chance

It’s been a week. Seven days or more than 10, 080 minutes since Michael Norman of the USA dropped a personal best of 9.86s at the AP Ranch High-Performance Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas.

It was an amazing performance by Norman, especially considering that he is a quarter-miler. It is even more amazing when you realize that Norman last ran a 100m in April 16, 2016, four years and three months ago.

Now, these observations are not to cast any doubts about the legitimacy of Norman’s time. In fact, I celebrate it. I like seeing new talent emerge; new exciting talent like Norman who many believe could be the man to break the 43-second barrier in the 400m.

I made the observation because over the past week I was waiting for one Carl Lewis to say whether he believes the time is suspicious because Norman’s previous best was 0.41 seconds slower than the time he ran in Texas last week Monday.

About 12 years ago, another talented sprinter that goes by the name of Usain Bolt secured the first of eight Olympic gold medals when he won the blue-ribbon sprint in Beijing in an astounding 9.69s. Lewis was quick to try to discredit Bolt’s achievement.

“…For someone to run 10.03 one year and 9.69 the next, if you don’t question that in a sport that has the reputation it has right now, you’re a fool. Period,” Lewis told Sports Illustrated magazine in 2008.

Back when Bolt dropped his 9.69 world record during the Beijing, Olympics, he had managed to shave 0.34 seconds off his previous personal best. If my memory serves me, he clocked 10.03 at GC Foster and then a couple of weeks later, he lowered his personal best to 9.76s at the Jamaica Invitational at the National Stadium in May that year.

He would run a 9.94 in Trinidad before heading to New York where he lowered his PB to 9.72, a new world record. He then shaved a further 0.03s off while winning in Beijing.

Like Norman, Bolt was a 200/400m man before he attempted the 100m. Before Bolt had transitioned from the junior ranks, he had run a World U20 200m record of 19.93 that still stands today. That was 2004. Since that time, Bolt had season-best times of 19.99 in 2005, 19.88 in 2006, and 19.75 in 2007;  time that indicated that by the time 2008 rolled around, Bolt was already capable of breaking 10 seconds.

Norman ran 19.70 in July 2019, while defeating Noah Lyles in an epic battle at the Diamond League meeting in Rome, 43.45 to open in 2019 as well as 43.61 while winning the NCAA Division 1 title for USC in 2018. Like with Bolt, the times suggest that Norman was already capable of breaking 10 seconds over the 100m.

So, to me, when Norman shaved a whopping 0.41 seconds off his previous best when he ran that 100m in Texas last week, it really wasn’t a surprise. However, we are still waiting to hear something from Lewis whether or not we are all fools not to suspect the young American.

That to me is where Lewis’ ignorance and hypocrisy are exposed.

To people like Lewis, the factors that lead to Bolt’s fast times were never taken into consideration. In his mind, someone like Bolt from a Third World country like Jamaica could not possibly run as fast without some kind of pharmaceutical assistance.

His silence now since Norman’s amazing run lays bare his true motivations when he spoke with Sports Illustrated 12 years ago.

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