Stones Jump

I started running track when I was a freshman in high school and was soon informed that I bore a striking resemblance the American high jumper Dwight Stones. I could remember watching Stones in the 1976 Olympics, where he was favored to win Gold (having already set the world record three times), pushing a giant squeegee mop by the high jump pit to clear away the puddles forming from a sudden rainstorm. Largely because of those puddles, he had to settle for a bronze. The image of this world-class athlete trying to squeegee away an act of God stayed with me for many years. I would remember it when I watched a special on him during the final years of his track and field career. He had hired a new coach who was using all kinds of unusual techniques, like having Stones play racquetball and swim. I felt about those techniques like I did about his squeegee.

But I always liked Stones. He was a very optimistic and articulate athlete. He loved track and field, and toward the end of his career began serving as a color commentator. In fact, in the 1984 games he became the first athlete to both compete and broadcast.This is not surprising. In 1982 I was watching the Millrose Games, a prestigious Indoor Track event held in Madison Square Garden. Stones participated, but the competition was stiff, and he was at the end of his athletic career. However, the moment he missed his last jump, he grabbed a headset and mic and, his brow still damp with sweat, began broadcasting.

“Look at him,” I thought at the time. “He’s actually more interested in the broadcasting right now than the jumping. He can already feel his future pulling on him.” Stones was going to be interested in something whether it was jumping or talking about jumping. It didn’t really matter, did it? He is still my favorite track and field color commentator, all that sharp interest still ringing in his voice, safe forever from storms or age.

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