Nothing to Prove: Why the New York City Marathon Shouldn’t Go On

A Sports Scribe, Et cetera — By on November 2, 2012 at 5:00 am

Disclaimer: This is the opinion of only me, and does not reflect that of anyone else affiliated with The Sports Fan Journal.

The most prevalent taglines, mantras, and yes, buzz words after a chaotic event all revolve around two words: toughness and resilience.

And despite what you’ve heard about quite a few of my fellow NYC residents, we don’t hold a monopoly over such grit. No one place does. While we definitely have a fair share of trials and tribulations, and a unique personality based on our collective ideas and backgrounds, there are no mythical titles won for enduring tragedy.

And that is all the reason why the decision by organizers and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to still carry on with this year’s running of the New York City Marathon is beyond a terrible idea.

You have to forgive me if I think the decision itself smells of the worst kind of grandstanding in recent memory.

The Marathon is an annual celebration of athletic achievement as much as it is one of personal motivation and urban diversity, that of us natives, adopted newcomers and our neighborhoods. It is also the single most taxing event on the City’s calendar by far, combining some logistical challenges that come about in parades, street fairs, block parties and from our notoriously horrible roads.

Now just add the aftermath of the widest Atlantic hurricane on record which broke trees, ripped apart boardwalks, tore homes, snapped electrical wires, flooded roadways, caused fires… swept away memories and took 160+ lives (and counting) from Canada to Cuba.

Sandy killed 38 people in the Boroughs, including nineteen from Staten Island, where the Marathon begins at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge.

More than most, I love the redemptive power of sports. I love the symbol that sports can represent for social good, whether for influencing a greater acceptance of the forgotten or mistreated, for shaping civic pride, or for the temporary kinship built between completely random people for at least a couple of hours.

However, there have been countless examples where the games and the leagues have assessed immediately grave situations, and for common sense, the greater good (or both) made the decisions to take hits on the chin. Even for the millions that the Marathon generates for New York, it’s absurd to think that it will come close to being a revenue-generator it has always been. Sometimes, the best course in business – sports or otherwise – is to accept the sunken costs.

Surely, the clean-up efforts and restoration of transportation have far more important purposes, so the suggestion a few believe that recovering will be expedited solely to run the Marathon is nothing but the anger talking. While it’s understood that Marathon organizers are making adjustments to not interfere with relief efforts, those adjustments aren’t going to stop television cameras from displaying images of destruction and despair as runners pass by.

There’s no need for the City or any of the marathoners to put up a brave face like someone going out with friends days after a hurtful break-up. If this is some manner to prove that, to borrow from Mayor Mike, “New York is open for business,” this is the wrong experiment to test that theory. Yes, it’s tough to postpone, and it would be disappointing to cancel the Marathon outright. Unfortunately, it’s going to go as planned, regardless of criticism, because common sense is losing out to ego.

Overcoming adversity should not be a badge of honor or a marketing slogan. If the City’s government and its people are trying to prove something, it’s proving that the citizens who need a helping hand the most will get it.

J. Clinkscales

Jason is the co-host of The Exchange on BlogTalkRadio with Sumit Dasgupta (@skd_thExchange) and spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Also a vastly undersized PF.

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    3 Comments

  • JAG says:

    In theory, I have no problem with having the marathon. It’s a great event that brings together people from all over the world and could stand as a testimony to the fact that, yes, New York and our nation will survive this too.

    However, marathons aren’t run in theory. As you pointed out, the reality is that the race is a logistical nightmare under the best of circumstances. Roads are closed, traffic slows to a crawl and it’s labor intensive. Many police and city workers who could be helping with the storm recovery will be directing and looking out for the runners. I have to agree; this needs to be shortened to a 10K or postponed.

    • Its one of those things that I would never think about, but now that its presented in this fashion…hell no this event shouldn’t continue. Its a grand affair and tons of resources are put in place to make this happen. Postpone it? Sure. Having right now? For what?

      Great read Clinkscales, well done.

      -Ed.

  • Y’all figured this out quickly about me: despite its shortcomings, I love my city, to the point that I even prefer calling NYC ‘The Boroughs’ to truly reflect its essense. And even though this is a bad decision, I do hope the best for anyone that participates. I can’t hold absolute ill will for those who feel that this is the best course of recovery.

    However, I get tired of this concept of proving our place in the world. I have friends & family that work for the City and State governments, as well as for utility companies, local supermarkets, hospitals and EMTs. I don’t think they’re worried about a Marathon. Hell, they’ve even put their hype about the Knicks & Nets to the side until we return to a real sense of normalcy. They’re not trying to show “how tuff Noo Yawkas are” when they work, they just friggin’ WORK!

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