Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bad Nike

Stop right here if you think this is one of those screeds about Nike's sweatshops, or its contributions to rampant consumerism. Plenty of other folks carry that torch, so I'll lay off.

No, I'm cranky about the lame way The Goliath Of Beaverton handled its women's marathon in San Francisco a few days ago. Perhaps you've heard by now: a schoolteacher from New York named Arien O'Connell flew out to SF and, running in the big mass of "non-elite" runners, ran the fastest time of the day.

"Fastest time of the day" means "winner", right? Not so fast.

By Nike's corporate logic, only a runner in the "elite" group (the ones who get a 20-minute head start so they won't have to weave through the 10-minute-milers) can "win" this race. About the only argument in favor of this position is that the elite runners might have adjusted their tactics or strategy if they knew that someone in the pack was gaining on them. Easily outweighing this argument is mine: someone running in the main pack lacks the built-in advantage of starting out front.

Nike finally buckled after a few days of criticism, and announced that it is now recognizing Arien O'Connell as "a winner" of the event. They'll send her a trophy, just like the winner got on race day.

Lame. Arien O'Connell is THE winner of the race. Period. If Nike has trouble grasping that, perhaps its executives could sit down and study a few of the company's ubiquitous ads.

Just do it, Nike. Just do it.

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