Tuesday, August 16, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Lawson dispute is total rubbish

Leader sports editor

Razorback fans can be weird, and that was never more evident than in the way many of them cried foul for Jarrion Lawson’s losing jump in the Olympic long jump competition last Saturday. By rule, Lawson’s final jump wasn’t good enough to earn a medal, much less a gold. The replay made it abundantly clear that he dragged his hand in the sand far behind where his feet landed.

So there was no controversy, except in the minds of Lawson, Hog fans and much of Arkansas media.

What makes it weird in this case is that Lawson is a Texan who happens to go to college at the University of Arkansas, while the man who beat him is a native Arkansan.

It’s as if attending college at Fayetteville makes one more of an Arkansan than being from Arkansas. People don’t readily admit it, but many sports fans identify so much with their favorite teams, they feel as if the athletes’ accomplishments are their own. So much so, that when a guy who plays for their favorite team is up against their neighbor, they root for their team.

Jeff Henderson grew up in McAlmont and graduated from Sylvan Hills in 2007.

His standardized test scores weren’t high enough in high school to qualify for a scholarship to the SEC schools that were recruiting him, but he’s a proud Arkansan and has always represented the Natural State in a way that should make everyone else proud as well.

Lawson complained that he thought his jump should’ve counted from where his feet landed, which appeared to be a few centimeters beyond Henderson’s gold-medal distance. But that’s not how the long jump has ever been measured.

It’s measured by the nearest mark left in the sand to the front edge of the jump board, and Lawson’s hand drag made a clear depression in the pit well behind his feet.

Later in another interview, Lawson said he didn’t think he dragged his hand.


Henderson, 27, expressed regret for his friend and competitor, saying, “That happens in the long jump when the hand goes back. I’m sad that it happened to him, but he’s a great competitor. He’ll come back.”

The other thing Razorback fans, and most of the Arkansas media, doesn’t seem to remember, or possibly even know, is that Henderson also had a jump that, from start to finish, would have beaten his own Gold medal jump.

Earlier in the competition, Henderson’s best jump was launched from far behind the blue fault line. NBC was showing close-ups of each jumpers foot as it hit the launch board, and giving precise measurements in centimeters of how far from the blue line each jump launched from.

Henderson’s third jump was from so far behind the blue line, it was not even on the white board, and NBC’s technology couldn’t measure it. It was a terrible mistake on Henderson’s part, but he didn’t argue for a rule change that measured jumps from launch point to landing. He knew what the rules were, and he accepted that he’d made a mistake.

Lawson’s jump just happened to occur on the final jump of the competition and he and his coach protested the measurement.

There is no controversy except in the minds of Razorback fans and Arkansas media.

Maybe someday, with the technology NBC used in its coverage, the long jump could be measured from wherever the athlete launches, but he’d still have to execute properly, and not drag his hand.