Oh sure, there was a lot of pretty important events that occurred over at Market and Fifth, like that birth of a nation business, and the framing of the American ideal and grand experiment. Between Independence Hall, the First (and Second) Bank of the United States, and any number of spots where taverns once rested in Olde City, there’s a square mile on the east end of town that is debatably the most historical piece of land in the world.
Yes, once upon a time things went down in Philadelphia.
But if we’re just talking about sports and/or athletic competition, nothing beats Franklin Field. Take away the fact that the Eagles won their last championship at the old stadium 50 years ago, the sheer number of Olympic champions that have taken a spin on the oval in the place is staggering.
Put it this way… there are world-record holders and Olympic champions who have competed at Franklin Field in the Penn Relays and are not members have the event’s Wall of Fame. Michael Johnson isn’t in it, nor is Jesse Owens, one of the most important African-American athletes of the 20th Century (top two at least). Both runners raced at Franklin Field yet are not memorialized on the far wall on the east end of the stadium. They don’t mess around in this stadium.
Still… Jesse Owens.
Of course Usain Bolt isn’t in the Wall of Fame, either, but that’s for a good reason. Bolt, still just 23-years old, will make his professional debut at Franklin Field on Saturday. As a school boy in Jamaica, Bolt made the trip to Philadelphia to race at Penn several times, but that was before he was the fastest man in the history of the planet.
Bolt seems poised to add to his legend when the world-record holder in the 100- and 200-meters steps up to the 400, which was Michael Johnson’s signature event. But that isn’t going to happen any time soon. The training is too difficult for the 400, Bolt said. While we’re at it, don’t expect any world records at Franklin Field, either, since Bolt says he wants to spend the 2010 track season “taking it easy.”
“I want to try to get through the season injury-free and be unbeaten,” Bolt said. “If I need to run fast to win, I will do that. But if not, I will just take it as easy as possible.”
Those aren’t exactly the most inspiring words, but like anything “easy” for Bolt is a relative term. At top speed Bolt gets over 30-mph, and because of that he usually commands six-figures in appearance fees just to show up at a track event. However, for the USA vs. The World competition on Saturday, Bolt waived his fee to race at Franklin Field.
Oh yes, Bolt came to Philly for free.
“I told my coach, we decided we really needed to come to the Penn Relays this year,” Bolt said. “So we decided that it's OK. I like to run the relays with my team. For me, it was just enjoyable, a very fun moment when my coach told me we're going to the Penn Relays. I was happy to come here.”
No, certainly that’s not something we hear every day around here, then again, Bolt may need a few more appearances at Franklin Field to get his name etched on the wall at the top of the curve. Yeah, Bolt is the fastest man in the history of the planet, but that’s nothing new for the folks here.