Of course, you’re going to watch. As a sports fan, you can’t help it.
Dismiss it as a stunt, which it is. Sound wise by saying that Olympics-level sprinters are a different class of athlete than football players — not better, just different. Fear, if you prefer, the consequences to the Seahawks if there’s an injury.
But I’ll bet you a poster of Bo Jackson — the one that was pinned above the beds of many boys, and fathers who won’t admit it, across America in the 1980s — that you’ll watch.
Because there’s the teensiest chance you’ll see something you otherwise would not believe. And you want to be part of the moment.
Especially if you watched the Seahawks-Cardinals game the past fall when DK Metcalf saved a touchdown when he ran down Budda Baker after his theft of a Russell Wilson pass. You may even be sitting in the same chair, now sacred, that you jumped out of when it happened.
As coach Pete Carroll said afterward, “That was one of the best football plays I’ve ever seen.”
The video launched a thousand amusing memes across social media, and would have been the Monday talk of the office/classroom/shop/bus stop, if you had any one of them to go to. (unmute)
@packersroyale#packersroyal♬ Joshritt69 Dont run from the lord – Josh Ritter
The play cemented Metcalf’s place in 21st century sports lore, no matter how the rest of his career plays out.
So yes, you will watch on NBC at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, after he accepted the tweeted dare from USA Track & Field, in a Summer Olympics year, to run against 17 professional sprinters in the 100 meters at the Golden Games in Walnut, CA. If he advances out of the first round, he’ll have to do it again in the final.
— DK Metcalf (@dkm14) May 3, 2021
If he can somehow run it in 10.05 seconds, he would qualify automatically for the U.S. track trials in June ahead of the Tokyo Games (hopefully) in July.
But Renaldo (Skeets) Nehemiah, a former world record holder in the 110-meter hurdles who was a 49ers receiver when San Francisco won the 1982 Super Bowl, delivered an industrial-grade scoff in Metcalf’s direction.
“If you put a world-class track athlete in the same spot, he would be 10 meters in front of Baker and waiting for Baker,” Nehemiah told reporters. “People just don’t understand world-class speed.
“There’s not a sprinter in the world who will let this guy think he can run with them. They will destroy him. No offense to DK, I’m a fan of his. I applaud him for wanting to find out — and find out he will.”
Far be it from me to dispute Nehemiah’s expertise. I mean, as remarkable as was Metcalf’s 4.33-second time at the 2020 scouting combo for a guy 6-4 and 230 pounds, it wasn’t an NFL record. That belongs to former University of Washington receiver John Ross, at 4.22.
But besides times, the comparison that intrigues me, and many others, is Usain Bolt of Jamaica, the greatest sprinter in history.
I had the privilege of a 2008 Summer Olympics press seat in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium when Bolt, 22, exploded upon global sports scene. He set world records in both the 100 (9.69) and 200 (19.30) and won his third gold in the 4×200-meter relay.
There’s something about pure speed that is enthralling.
Running is something we’ve all done, racing is something we’ve tried at least once until the truth came over us. The 100 meters at the Olympics is perhaps the one event even non-fans find a way to see live. Watching in person Bolt, taller than Metcalf at 6-5 and slimmer at 207 pounds, swallow half-acres with his strides to gain the title of World’s Fastest Human as the world watched, was among the most majestic things I’ve seen in sports.
A year later, Bolt outdid himself at the World Championships in Berlin, clocking a 9.58 that stands today as the world record. Here’s the point that intrigues me about Sunday: Bolt was 23 when he set the record, same age as Metcalf now.
Since Metcalf hasn’t run track since his high school days in Oxford, Miss., where he was mostly a hurdler and a triple jumper — and part of a state-record 4×100-meter relay team — he’s missed a whole lot of practice time and techniques that are part of an event more difficult that it looks.
But none of us, including Metcalf, know what apex physical maturity has brought to him.
The fact that Bolt, who repeated his triple golds in London in 2012 and in Rio in 2016 before retiring, could not top his 2009 time, suggests that the absolute peak is fleeting, critical and, perhaps, now for Metcalf in track.
Obviously, comparing Metcalf to Bolt, who dominated globally his fellow sprinter pros, is unfair. It is also irresistible, because we love to see great athletes push frontiers of human achievement.
Jackson did it best in from 1986 to 1994 when he starred for NFL Raiders and the MLB Royals. He was the first and only player to be named an all-star in both sports. Deion Sanders doubled in football and baseball too, and the nation was intrigued by Michael Jordan’s mid-hoops career attempt at minor-league baseball.
There were others, including Gene Conley, subject of a Wayback Machine profile for his feats after he starred in baseball and basketball at Richland High School and Washington State. He spent a combined 22 seasons as pitcher for the Boston Braves/Red Sox and a forward for the Boston Celtics. Conley won a World Series ring in 1957 with the then-Milwaukee Braves and three titles with the Bill Russell-era Celts.
Metcalf isn’t attempting anything as prodigious. But in these times when every premier athlete is bubble-wrapped and banned from anything that would jeopardize the millions to be made from his skills and gifts, it’s fun to contemplate an attempt, however fleeting is 10 seconds, to reside at the frontier.
If Metcalf pulls this off, I’d like to see him find a tee time at a U.S. Open qualifier.
So would Budda Baker.
I will definitely watch – for all the obvious reasons you state. Just showing up is good enough for me – if he beats anyone then good for him. I suspect he would have a better chance at the 200, with his stride and power, but what the heck. Go for it DK and I’m impressed you are trying this!
It’s a bit of theater in mid-May. And if he surprises, the legend will seep into the minds of NFL DBs.
I want to see Poona Ford do rhythmic gymnastics.
I want to see you cheer for the Cougars.
Here we go, BYU, here we go! (clap-clap)
I don’t see Metcalf running under 10.30. He will get smoked out of the blocks. And he will lose ground in the last 30 meters when his competitors don’t slow down as much as he does.
Amazing physic powers you have.
Psychic powers too.
Doh, good catch.
Yep! Physics will prevent Metcalf from running under 10.30 today.
That’s logical, but we’ve never seen him in this circumstance, at his physical apex.
He’ll be lucky to run 10.2secs. Given his size, perhaps he should have tried the 200m, instead.
10.2 would be great in this field. Staying out of last will be a feat.
I tend to agree with all the skeptics, but the main thing that intrigues me is that we’re talking about something he can simulate with about 99% accuracy what he can run. It’s not like taking an MMA fight or a track star playing football where you really have no idea how the guy is going to do until he does it. Presumably, DK has run the 100 on a track with blocks and track shoes, possibly against other world class sprinters and gotten a baseline. If he’s over 10.75, he (probably) doesn’t take the challenge. Or, it’s very possible the money he’s getting is so good, that he doesn’t care that he’s going to embarrass himself. My hope is that he’s run a sub-10.5 and with a fast track and adrenaline, he’s hoping for something competitive. Also, take a look at the simulcam with Andy Isabella who ran a 4.31 at the combine:
DK is pulling away at the end. It looks as though if they ran 50 yards, DK wins by a yard This is what you saw when he ran down Budda. Plus his form didn’t look great. He’s way too upright early. Don’t count him out!
Metcalf ran relays in HS and I’m sure has since practiced with coaching. I don’t know what the money is, but I’m sure NBC is good for an appearance fee given its need to hype the games.
He doesn’t want to be embarrassed. This is not Nate Robinson boxing. Metcalf is ascendant, and doesn’t want to screw up.
What’s always stood out to me about the Metcalf/Baker play as amazing as Metcalf’s play is, is how quickly Wilson gave up on it. He probably wouldn’t have caught up with Baker but what if Baker tripped up? I remember former Green Bay GM Ron Wolf saying the reason he drafted Matt Hasselbeck is that he saw Matt throw an INT and Matt ran across the field after him and never gave up on the play. Just food for thought.
I hear an interview with Coach Holmgren saying he wouldn’t support Metcalf participating in the race. Didn’t surprise me and I agree. If Metcalf gets hurt and it affects his upcoming season then it was a bad choice. He’s also too heavy. But can’t deny I’m curious to see how he does.
If that’s what stood out to you, you missed something dramatic. Wilson knew he was beat and wasn’t going to put a 90-yard sprint on his legs.
Metcalf is taking a risk, for sure. So does every player who walks into a bar. I think the Seahawks might gain a little edge in cred by letting him try.
If DK has a respectable performance, what’s next, DK races a race horse?
I saw John Carlos sprint at a San Jose State track meet. Carlos, not as heavy as DK was a remarkable sprinter. Carlos, played some pro football.
I think the horse race stunt by Jesse Owens was a hallmark of the racial discrimination he faced. Despite being an Olympic hero, he had a hard time making a living.
The bit about this that grinds my gears is the slight hypocrisy from Nehemiah. Or, maybe it’s just perceived on my end. Imagine if he and Willie Gault had listened to the doubting Thomases and Debbie Downers when they crossed over in the ‘80’s. And, I hate to come across like a defensive and sensitive homer in Metcalf’s defense, but, I don’t recall Nehemiah having any specific special skills on the gridiron other than being fast. From what I can tell, that’s really the only skill required to do what it is that Metcalf is attempting to do. He has that. I don’t think we’re going to see a guy punching above his weight here like we saw with Jordan in ‘94.
Nehemiah is just protecting the sprint fraternity, forever stuck in the margins of U.S. sports except for a few minutes every four years.
Not sure how this discussion takes place without at least a nod toward Bob “The Bullet” Hayes, the only athlete to have ever won a both an Olympic Gold Medal in the sprints and a Super Bowl ring as a receiver with the Cowboys. He is surely the standard against which DK and all other pretenders need to be measured.
Of course. Thanks for the recall.
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“Running is something we’ve all done, racing is something we’ve tried at least once until the truth came over us.”
Our track coach was kind and sometimes let me run the slow leg of the 4 X 100, but only when the meet was against a weaker school. Our leadoff guy was pretty fast so I would get the baton about 5 yards ahead, lost the lead about halfway through my leg, then passed to our 3rd guy about 5 yards behind the leader. Our 3rd guy made up my yardage, then our anchor guy (FAST) would win easily by about 5 (or 10 depending on his mood).
Never got to run in meets against rival schools but the coach was a good guy for allowing me to run. I showed up each day and went through the routine.
Our other runners made sure I knew the facts of my “speed” but they were as kind as the coach. No nastiness.
So I was lucky even through the truth had come over us.
Those of us who threw weights in HS track were given a “fat man’s relay.” I don’t care to share further.
AHA! “Weightmen’s relay.”
We cheered harder for that event. Always.