I wrestled with this one, but after reading Ato Boldon's list in my timeline about three times, I had to share a little bit of my own experience with a few of them. And for the record, I prefer calling them the Track & Field 10 Commandments - because I believe that they are words to live by.
It was 2008. I'd made an Olympic team and competed in the fasted 100M Olympic final in history (even though I got butt naked last) -- and everything was gravy -- or so I thought. I was at my nephew's state championship karate tournament with my then pregnant wife, and I got a phone call. "They aren't going to resign you."
Out of all of the noise in that arena, I never imagined that those words would come through so clearly. I sat there in shock, wondering what I did wrong. Not renewing me? Why? I'd made four teams, got four medals, won a national title....and the list goes on. But, there I was with no contract, a baby on the way, a mortgage to pay...life to live...you get the point.
Commandment #8: No one from that shoe company you love so much loves you. Romance with no finance is a nuisance. The more in love you are, the less you make.
After the dust settled, I "re-realized" that track and field is a business. Contracts are business. They're not (and never should be) personal. It's all a business. I always knew that, but the words didn't mean anything to me until they applied to me.
So what's the moral of the story? Do your job and your sponsors will do theirs. And, if your romance with them turns to business before you're ready don't get hard feelings. Respect the game for what it is, be grateful for the opportunities that you have while you still have them, and when it all ends, understand that life doesn't. Move on. It's all good.
Commandment #1: Save your money like you life depends on it (it does) and make it earn more while you are earning a lot of it. And yes, get a pro to do this. "Your cousin who's good with money" doesn't count.
When I signed with my agent, he gave me two pieces of advice. The first piece of advice was "save for a rainy day," and the second was "buy a house." Fortunately for me, I listened, because my rainy days did come.
Injuries sidelined me twice in my career - in 2005 and 2010 - and you know what got me through those injuries? My savings account. I was able to live off my savings for almost three years when I was unable to compete. And in track and field, when you don't compete, for the most part - you don't get paid. No rollovers, no bonuses, no appearance fees, no nothing. But I'll tell you what you DO get: a super clear understanding of what "reduction clause" means!
I'm joking, but seriously - there's a misconception out there that track athletes make the same kind of money that other professional athletes make. Now, some track folks are winning (and if you are, trust and believe I'm happy for you), but I think it's very fair to say that the majority of pro track athletes don't make anything close to that. The sad thing is, some of us are trying to live that lifestyle.
The truth of the matter is, if a 12-year NBA veteran can blow through $110 million, trust me - you can blow through a fraction of that in the blink of an eye - especially if you aren't careful. Am I advocating a life of mediocrity? Yes. Am I saying that you shouldn't reward yourself? No. What I'm saying is that the money will eventually end, and as Ato put it, not many "get to decide when they retire." So, think before you splurge, and save for a rainy day - because when it rains, it pours.
Anyway, I put myself out there a little bit, but I had to add a little more color to Ato's commentary. I could go on...and on...and on, but I won't (at least not here).
The Track & Field 10 Commandments...they're pure genius as is, but what is principle without practical application? I want yall to know and see that what Ato is talking about isn't just talk. It is TRUTH. I've lived it. I AM living it. And, I'm NOT retired. Trust me - any honest athlete who has been around the block more than once or twice will tell you the same thing. And, if you're lucky, maybe they'll tell you their story too.
So if you're really down for the cause on this track and field tip, then you need to get with the program and do your thing intelligently. You can't say that no one ever told you how....anymore.
Music: Look at Me Now by Chris Brown (feat. Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne)
Last year I had the opportunity to watch my high school coach celebrate his 60th birthday, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was the first time that I actually got to see my coach as a regular person and the talented musician that he is – minus the whistle and the coach-speak. But, what was most impressive, if that’s the word, is that there were so many people who traveled to Texas just to celebrate with him. And, it dawned on me that maybe I wasn’t the only person who thought he was such a good guy.
Anyway, during his “thank you” speech, Coach started talking about an athlete. He said, “every once in a while you have an opportunity as a coach to really make a difference, and I can say that I was able to make a difference in this young man’s life.”
Now, if you know Coach Andrews, then you know that he’s touched quite a few lives, and coached quite a few athletes. It’s just the type of person he is, but as he continued to speak, I realized he was talking about me. And, as I looked around, it dawned on me that I was his only former athlete in the room. I was in the same room with his childhood friends, old classmates, former co-workers, family members, and running buddies. He was talking about me.
Coach went on to say that he was happy that this athlete kept in touch with him over the years, and that he was proud to see what this athlete had become – in spite of his short comings as a student, in spite of his failures on and off the track, and in spite of the fact that he grew up in a not-so-good neighborhood. And then he said, “Darvis, come on up here, man.”
Now, I’ve competed in stadiums with thousands of people, but in this room of 100 guests, I got up and struggled to say what I’d been wanting to say for years.
“You're like the father I never had, and I thank you for it.”
And, I lost it. Yep, grown man, Doc Patton…I cried. And, I’ve told people my story before…several times, but I guess what made this time different, is that I was in front of the people Coach called his “family,” and I was part of his family.
And, when I think about where I could’ve been…what I might have become…and, all the friends I’ve lost to the streets, dumb decisions, and pride…I’m so grateful that I’m NOT what most people said I should’ve been. And, Coach Andrews is a huge reason why.
This man picked me out of a crowd and showed me my true talent. He made me learn the value of hard work and discipline. He helped me understand the importance of tenacity and perseverance. When I doubted myself, he believed in me. He helped me with my homework. His wife made me dinner, and I sat at the table with his children. He did everything that I wish my father had, and he is one of the reasons that I’m the athlete I am today.
How do you say thank you for that?
I’ll never be able to. But, what I can do is try to be the mentor and friend that Coach Andrews was for me with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I have a Little Brother, and he’s a smart and witty kid – far more intelligent at his age than I ever was. And, our relationship is growing. We hang out. We do homework. We talk. I know his principal. We play video games…it’s casual, and it’s fun. And, I just try to be there as much as possible. Will it make a difference? Maybe. Do I do everything right? Probably not. Am I making a difference? I guess we’ll see. It takes time. And, I’ve got plenty of it. Coach gave his time to me. I’ll give my time to my Little Brother.
I’ll tell you what. If you’re a coach, or if you’re thinking about becoming a coach, please realize and understand the power you have to change your athletes’ circumstances, the power you have to make a difference, and the power you have to be a life-changer. Realize that and DO IT. I’m proof that it is possible.
If you’re not a coach, so what. There are so many kids out there floating around aimlessly, praying for direction. Praying for discipline. Praying for structure, and accountability…and hope for something better. Do what’s right and make a difference in a kid’s life. Become a mentor. A little time, a little attention, and little faith is all it takes. I dare you to be the change that makes the difference.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard the Mark Block doping news. I typically don’t jump into this type of conversation, but since everyone is talking about it, I thought I’d chime in – from a different perspective.
First let me say that I’m glad USADA and the IAAF are taking a strong stance against doping. As an athlete who has been in the game for almost 11 years, I think it’s long overdue, and let me tell you why.
Last year I was named the 2002 US 200M champion because the gold medalist who won was slapped with a doping sanction. Now pause and let that soak in. Last year – 2010 – I was named the 2002 US 200M champion. That’s EIGHT years after I crossed the line.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’ll take the title all day long, but NOW, that is “all” that it is. I don’t have a medal. I don’t have the prize money. I don’t have podium pictures to show my daughter. I don’t have a videotape of me crossing the finish line first. My point: is the damage is done. The memory is already etched in history.
I guess what I’m getting at is…yes, doping damages the perception of track and field and it dampens the excitement that comes with reaching the highest pinnacles of the sport…but it also impacts lives – our lives – athletes like me who are out here grinding every day, trying to make the most of our God-given talents. WE are the ones who have to answer the questions and RE-set the example for the boys and girls who want to grow up and be the fastest men and women in the world. WE have to show them that shortcuts kill your integrity, disappoint your fans and bring shame to your family. WE have to show them that cheating doesn’t pay.
Chew on this for a second: If I could have won fair and square in 2002, I would have become a US champion ONE year after turning pro. I would have been a back-to-back US champion going into the 2004 Olympics…a champion who helped my team bring home a silver medal. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and only God knows what WOULD have been…unfortunately I can’t rewrite history, even if stuff is taken out of the record books.
In the eight years that it took for the dope folks to issue the doping sanction that gave me the 2002 US title, I made five teams, recovered from two injuries and a recent surgery. Meanwhile the cheaters prospered and reveled in the glory that their greed gave them. Eight years later, they’re on to the next one. ..
I want to be very clear. I’m not taking a shot at USADA, the IAAF, USATF, or any other governing body of the sport. What I AM doing is telling all of the cheaters, cheater-aides and anyone who is thinking about cheating that when you make the decision to cheat, or help someone cheat you create a ripple effect that has lasting repercussions. Cheating is bigger than YOU. And, if you’re a cheater, then I’m sure you don’t care. But, for the record - I do. Just think about it.
My mom called me today and asked me if I was hurt. It was a random question and totally out of the blue – especially coming from my mom. I was kind of annoyed because I knew why she was asking, but told her that I was fine. Then I asked her why she wanted to know. As I suspected...
“Well so and so said such and such and they said they know you from …. blah, blah, blah."
It’s funny how an injury can take you off the scene and out of the mix. You miss a meet or two - let alone an entire season - and folks think you retired, died, evaporated, or just fell off the face of the earth. The same is true for one bad race. You’re eclipsed just that quickly – and you’re standing there screaming, “HEY I’M STILL HERE! I’M STILL GOOD! I DIDN’T DIE! HELLLLLLO!!” LOL! I’ve got to laugh on that one!
I’m joking, but for real…it’s true. And, am I talking about myself? Yep. But, I think a lot of track and field athletes can relate to that feeling – especially those who have experienced setbacks like me. It’s really like that in track and field. And, I doubt that it’s like that in any other sport. True track heads are few and far in between. And yall know who you are! There's nothing like a true track fan...yall sit out in the sun baking during the summer to watch all the heats. You hit up T&FN all the time and know your stuff. But, most folks aren't like that - they know the Olympics – and that’s once every four years, so unless you go beast mode during the Olympics, it doesn't take much for the majority of the world to forget about you. Now, that’s just my opinion. And, I’m not married to it. It’s just a random thought…something to munch on.
The good news is that we've got some of the best and most talented sprinters and jumpers in the world on the scene right now. And with so many good athletes out there, I think we're erring more on the side of the UNforgettable. So I hope folks are paying attention.
Oh! And, just in case there is any question...I'm doing just fine, and hope things stay that way if God says the same.
My season kicks off next month at the UTA Bobby Lane Invitational. I'm running the deuce. If you're in DFW, check me out!
I just watched the Dateline special on Japan, and I can’t begin to express the feeling I have in my gut. Those pictures and the videos are unreal...but the scary part is that they are real.
It’s moments like these that make you stop and think. These moments make you realize the significance of one second. In one second your entire life can end, or change forever. These moments make you realize how important it is to say I love you and cherish the little things that we all at times take for granted.
We flaunt what we’ve got, and we boast about how much money we’ve got...and we throw our weight around acting like we’re in charge of something, and it’s moments like these that make you realize how superficial and arrogant it all is.
And to see how in that instant, the world responded. Just that quickly, the things of the world lost their value. The things didn’t matter. Things don’t matter. People do.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I guess I’m rambling, but my heart goes out to everyone affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. God bless all of you. And God bless everyone who in that second, made the decision to pray, and help in some way.
I know most of you reading this cannot just get up and go to Japan to volunteer, but you can help. I found this list of the ways you can text to donate. Now, I'm not advocating any one organization over the other, but I am advocating help. Boiled down, basic help. It's just the right thing to do. What's $10 to you? Half of a haircut? A fifth of a tank of gas? Lunch? Whatever it is to you, count your blessings, pray about it, and see if you can find a way to spare it.
Today was a good day (minus the blowout I had on the way to the weight room). Shout out to the debris in the road that tried to take me out, and the Good Samaritan in the white Chevy Cavalier (Damon you know who you are) who helped me change my tire! The fact that he stopped on the side of the freeway in lunchtime traffic to help me out lets me know that there are genuinely good people walking around this world.
Anyway, practice went well. The weather was ideal – not too hot, not too cold, and no wind. It was a speed day, and I’m feeling good about where I am at this point in my training – especially when I think of where I was around this time last year.
I’ll give you a little back story to get you up to speed on things…
Last year after competing in the Jamaica International Invitational, I walked off the track with a hitch in my get-along. I tried to shake it, but the pain was familiar. It was the same pain that took me out in 2005, but I had no idea what it was. Fast forward to June 2010 and I’m in Philly having surgery to remove scar tissue and repair a sports hernia. Whoa.
I was two meets deep into the season, ready to go beast mode, and there I was sitting in a doctor’s office realizing that the season that had just begun…was already over. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Just as my wheels were rolling, I was being sidelined. And as a competitor, there’s nothing worse than watching your teammates and friends do what you ought to be doing.
After surgery, eight weeks of rehab, and what feels like two years of training, I’m recovered and ready. I can’t begin to describe how much I’m looking forward to the season. And honestly, I’m glad that I had the surgery when I did. I was able to fully focus on my recovery without feeling rushed or worrying about missing a major championship.
My season kicks off this month, and it feels good to know that I’ll finally have the chance to compete against someone other than my daughter for a change. God willing, it’s going to be a good year.
I travel a lot, and believe it or not I get some fan mail. It’s funny to think that I have fans.
Anyway, I actually read my mail, and every once in a while, I get something that really makes me stop and listen. This morning I was cleaning out my Facebook messages, and I came across a note I received from a kid named Andrew. I met Andrew after Penn Relays last year. He wrote:
Hey man, just wanted to say running into you was one of the highlights of my Penn Relays weekend…I'm encouraged to see a man of God like you out there doing what you love. You're a man of faith, letting God lead your track career and providing for your family. That's just Awesome. Keep the faith man! ~Andrew
After coming off a year of injury and recovering from surgery to repair a four year-old sport hernia, I can’t tell you how much that note meant to me. Whether it was sent this year, or last, Andrew’s words still resonate with me...and they’ll keep me grounded.
So, thanks for the support, Andrew. It means a lot. And with that, I’m ready to kick off my 2011 season. Leeeeeggo!