MURRELL COLUMN: A reason to watch the games before the Games

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, July 7, 2016

When Tyson Gay was suspended for almost a year from track and field, there was no reason to watch the sport anymore.

It had lost its luster from the days of “Wide World of Sports,” which occupied Saturday afternoons in American homes and fueled the viewer’s need for the next American sports hero. That is, if superstation channels weren’t available to watch that mogul-owned baseball franchise or the local independent wasn’t carrying the regional team.

A true lover of sports didn’t need any more news of an athlete in any sport testing positive for so much as a poppy seed.

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By the time Carl Lewis ran his last race, track and field on TV was almost as obsolete as a week-old bout between contenders hoping to take on the champion. Even with a little more popularity, it wasn’t enough cause for the networks to air live, wall-to-wall coverage we take for granted in major-tournament golf or 500-mile NASCAR shootouts.

Too bad. Here in Texas, we celebrate track and field as a search for the next great athlete. The sport alone is what foreigners call “athletics.”

That’s why gymnastics still captures the hearts and ignites the imagination of so many, even if it’s every four years. Some of us, though, don’t like to wait that long.

That’s the sentiment with track and field. It may not be our grandfathers’ track and field that once was so accessible to an entire nation when much of us were awake to see it live. But as it was from the days of Keith Jackson’s calming voice behind the microphone, it remains an exhibition of heroic athleticism, whether athletes get paid or not for it.

Behind every act of such athleticism is a story worthy of Jackson’s informative yet colorful voice. Some are of hardships. Some are of love. Some are of the athletes who never lose.

They are all wonderful stories.

Yet, my lackluster view of world-class track and field in the 21st century caused me to learn nothing about the story of Inika McPherson before this week.

Coming off the holiday, I had to do a little research. McPherson’s achievement of making the U.S. Olympic team for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games is the continuation of a story of a person’s ride from success to downfall to comeback, the kind of story that motivates so many.

The world only knows — or will know — of McPherson as the downfallen national champion banned from her discipline of the high jump for an unpronounceable substance. Track lovers in Port Arthur know her as one of the most talented high jumpers in UIL history and a three-time All-American at the University of California.

Is Simone Biles not a good-enough reason to watch the Olympics? Kevin Durant, no? (Let it go, Thunder fans.)

Let Inika’s story move you. Cheer for Port Arthur.

And don’t say you don’t have the patience to watch track and field. You watch golf and soccer, don’t you?

As we learned from Andrew Landry not too long ago, there’s always a story worth following.

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or at On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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