Appreciating Greatness

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As we shared with HepsNation earlier this season, there are always stories behind the numerical results or competition videos from a given meet.  We share with you another one, this time it’s set out in Track Town, USA.

Marlon Mattis is a very proud dad, as his son Sam won the NCAA discus title last Friday.  Can’t you see the emotion the two of them display in the image above?  It’s one of the iconic images from the whole meet.  But from what Marlon shared with us via email today, Sam’s accomplishment was appreciated by more than just his family, teammates, and members of HepsNation – it was appreciated by the people who inhabited Track Town, USA.  We share Marlon’s email below:

Hayward Field, Eugene Oregon—Track Town USA?  Truth or Hype?

The athlete had one last push, one last burst of energy that he hoped would push him ahead of his competitors. With a grunt and effort beyond his body’s physical limits he gave it everything he had left.  When the effort was completed the crowd roared with delight. They stood to their feet and applauded in unison, almost 12,000 strong, to demonstrate their appreciation for the effort and event-winning result.

The athlete was asked to do a victory lap. A validation and confirmation of his hard work. As he completed his ¼ mile slow jog around the stadium the fans leaned over to slap high fives and show their appreciation for what he had just accomplished.

This was Oregon, Track Town USA, the home of the smartest most rabid track and field fans in the USA.  The athlete was a discus thrower.  I repeat, a discus thrower! He was not from Oregon, he had no connections to OU. He was Sam Mattis, an Ivy League thrower from UPenn and they embraced him as one of their own.

As the meet ended, Sam and his team left the meet venue and were walking to their car to go get some food. As he left the stadium loud applause came from a group of about 30 or so people who were waiting on line for local transportation.  Along the walk, total strangers came up to congratulate him.mm-mattis-congrats-dinner-2

As he and his team sat down at a local restaurant table the restaurant broke out in a loud ovation before he even had a chance to sit down. He and his team mates, coaches, family and friends looked at each other in a combination of confusion, appreciation and stunned amazement.  There was no preparation for this type of reception.

This was not Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston or any other football or basketball star.  This was a discus thrower from the Northeast, an unknown who was not factored in the form charts as a potential winner.

However, in Eugene the sports world is flipped upside down. Track stars are super stars and you get the fans’ adoration by showing up and competing at your very best potential. In Eugene, restaurants have window paintings of track greats adorning their store fronts.  The inner walls are covered with pictures of past and present track and field luminaries.

In Eugene, the fans know so much about track and field that you feel comforted that Athletics has a true home in the United States.  In Eugene, a thrower is the equivalent of a star linebacker and a runner is a star running back or quarter back.  In Eugene, track and field matters and I became a fan of Eugene.

Track Town, USA is no hype. These people set the standard for track and field knowledge and passion.

If you love track and field like I do, it is imperative to put Eugene on your bucket list of places to visit for a track event.  There is no hype here.  In fact, I would go do far as to say that Eugene’s track fans are themselves superstars. Thanks Eugene for making a throwing event Olympic in feel and emotion. You folks are the heart and soul of track and field in America and the world.  I’m going back as many times as I can.

– Marlon Mattis

Author’s note: Thank you, Dr. George White and Prof. Desiree Kennedy White [parents of Mattis’ teammate, Noah Kennedy-White] for making this dream happen.  Without your friendship and thoughtfulness, I would not have been there to see this minor miracle take place. – MM

right photo and video courtesy of Marlon Mattis

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