Apparently American sprint star Michael Johnson and the BBC are having a seniors' moment. A BBC2 documentary entitled Usain Bolt: The Fastest Man Who Has Ever Lived - hosted by Johnson this past Saturday - asked the musical question "Who better to investigate [Bolt]than athletics legend Michael Johnson, the man Bolt has dethroned as the world's fastest human ever." [sic]
This claim of Johnson as fastest man will come as a surprise to the many Canadians who saw Donovan Bailey - the world's fastest based on his Atlanta Olympics double gold medals - kick Johnson's tush on the floor of the Skydome (now Rogers Centre) in their 150-yard match race in 1997. Johnson's tenuous claim to the title of fastest human was based on Bob Costas of NBC trying to salvage America's tattered pride in Atlanta by pointing out that Johnson had run the second 100 metres of his 200-metre gold medal run in a faster time than Bailey had executed his only 100 metres.
When Johnson pulled up lame in '97 it should have answered the question of who was fastest man. Till Saturday. The BBC's boast might also tweak Maurice Greene, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay, who lowered the 100-metre record set by Bailey in 1996.
The wonky history lesson didn't end there, says Canadian Salem Besharat, a law student studying in the Oxford, England. "I saw the show on BBC, and I was with my housemates, who are not Canadian," Besharat told Usual Suspects. "When there was no mention of Donovan, I got really upset and my housemates were asking me why I was so mad. To my shock, after Michael went through every single person in the history of the race to break the [100-metre] record, there was a section that went from Leroy Burrell to Maurice Green and completely skipped Donovan."
While Johnson couldn't bring himself to mention Bailey's name, he did exhume the Ben Johnson fiasco. "In fact, the only mention of any Canadians was of Ben Johnson and how he put a black mark on the sport," Besharat says. (Somewhere in the great WADA in the sky, Charlie Francis is smiling.)
In an e-mail, Bailey told Usual Suspects, "It's obvious that the sound beating Michael took on the track has left his memory - of me being the Olympic, world champion and world record holder. It's also funny, because Michael is the 200-metre sprinter who desperately wanted to be a 100-metre sprinter but never measured up."
Copyright laws prevent Canadians watching the documentary on the BBC Sports website. Request for interviews with the show's producers had not been approved by the BBC's Publicity department at press time.
Whose Side Are You On?: What was former NHLer Mike Johnson - working as an analyst for TSN - thinking during Tuesday morning's Canada- Czech Republic contest at the World Championships? After Corey Perry of Canada steamrolled Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun behind his net, allowing Canada an empty-net goal, Johnson had the temerity to suggest it wasn't a goal. "That's a penalty against Corey Perry. That's a penalty that has to be called.... that kind of slash and that kind of shoulder is a penalty."
Treason! As we learned from Don Cherry at the 1987 World Junior championships in Piestany, Canadians must defend themselves at all times against the treachery of the infidel hockey nations. Even if it means breaking a few eggs or losing a gold medal. Acknowledging that the referee missed a penalty on Canada is commensurate with offering comfort to the enemy! Hopefully Johnson has learned his lesson.
God Bless: Usual Suspects' appeal for fewer televised anthems drew a lot of comment last week. "When would be an appropriate time to show the anthem?" asked a few readers. Allow us to present Monday night at Yankee Stadium. In the middle of the seventh, Red Sox manager Terry Francona hustled out of the dugout to argue a call with umpire Angel Campos. Just as Francona got a good spray going in Campos' face, the PA system broke out God Bless America.
Both Francona and Campos suddenly snapped to attention, stifling the debate. By the time the last chord of GBA echoed through Yankee Stadium, Francona had lost much of his vitriol. He retreated to the dugout. End of debate. Talk about sweet music.
Sol Power: The debate over Arizona's new immigration law has spilled into sports with groups using the media to pressure leagues to cancel events scheduled for the state (Frito-Lay is being pressured to drop its association with the Fiesta Bowl, MLB is being asked to withdraw the 2011 All Star game from Phoenix). They're also picketing anyone in sports who expresses support for the law. The latest manifestation came Monday at Staples Centre where a few dozen people protested comments made to the media by Los Angles Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
Jackson was asked two weeks ago about the Phoenix Suns wearing jerseys that read "Los Suns" for their playoff game on Cinco de Mayo. "Am I crazy, or am I the only one that heard when the legislators said that 'we just took United States immigration law and adapted it to our state?"' Jackson told ESPN.com's J.J. Adande. When Adande said Arizona might have usurped federal law, Jackson replied, "It's not usurping, they just copied it, is what they said they did, the legislators. Then they give it some teeth to be able to enforce it.
"I don't think teams should get involved in the political stuff," Jackson continued. "If I heard it right, the American people are really for stronger immigration laws, if I'm not mistaken. Where we stand as basketball teams, we should let that kind of play out and let the political end of that go where it's going to go."
Too late, Phil. It will take more than a Kobe three-pointer to keep you out of the bitter ideological battles in the American media these days.
Weighty Issue: Michael Wilbon of Pardon The Interruption on ESPN/ TSN has the perfect solution for JaMarcus Russell: Play in the Canadian Football League. Wilbon explained that the 300-pound pivot - canned by the Oakland Raiders after paying him a guaranteed $ 31.5-million - needs to take snaps if he's to keep his QB hopes alive. His colleague Tony Kornheiser snorted at the idea, opining that down lineman is where the former LSU star belongs. For the record, Hamilton holds Russell's CFL rights but says we'll be drinking Burlington Bay water before they sign him.
Here She Is: Finally, if Miss Massachusetts looked vaguely familiar to hockey fans at Sunday's Miss USA contest it's because Lacey Wilson is the daughter of San Jose's (currently chagrined) general manager Doug Wilson. The 26-year-old finished out of tiara time, but the resemblance is unmistakable. Maybe Doug can employ Lacey for those candid press box shots that Hockey Night In Canada springs on Wilson at inopportune times. Much better optics.