January 04, 2010
Since Usain Bolt burst onto the worldwide scene in the spring of 2008, no sprinter has been able to touch him. Now, the self-proclaimed "fastest man in the NFL" is going to try.
ESPN reports that NFL rushing champ Chris Johnson is in talks with the three-time gold medalist to run a charity race that will determine the world's fastest human. The camps are still discussing the distance of the race. Johnson wants a shorter sprint, which would theoretically favor him, and Bolt would prefer to keep things closer to 100 meters.
Short or long, it doesn't matter. Let me write this slowly so there's no confusion: Johnson. Doesn't. Have. A. Chance.
I don't want to hear about his fast 40 times at the combine or how Bolt is a notoriously slow starter or how if you sync up Bolt's blazing 100 from the Beijing Olympics, it looks like Johnson could hang with him for the first half of the race. Those facts are minor distractions obscuring the most important point of all: Usain Bolt is the fastest human being who has ever walked the Earth. Running a 4.24 at the combines and having the ability to outrun a safety for the Houston Texans doesn't mean Johnson can compete with that.
If they're running in pads or on turf maybe Johnson could have a shot. Not on a track though. Sprinting is a discipline. There are nuances to running a race. It's not just outrunning the guy taking an angle.
The reason Usain Bolt is a slow starter is because it fits in best with his racing style. He builds to peak speed in the 100. That Johnson's sprint matches up with the beginning parts of Bolt's race makes as little difference as the Broncos leading the AFC West on Halloween. All that matters is how you finish. And in a race of 10 meters or 1,000, it would be stunning if Bolt didn't finish ahead of Johnson.
There was some chatter during the last Olympics that an NFL team could give Usain Bolt a workout based solely on his speed. But people came to their senses and realized that speed doesn't necessarily make a football player. The same logic applies here. Just because Chris Johnson is fast doesn't mean he can hang with a world-class sprinter.
I'd certainly watch a Bolt-Johnson race. And I certainly won't be surprised when Usain Bolt crosses the finish line first, as usual.
Update: Bolt's agent denies the ESPN report and has asked for a retraction, according to universalsports.com:
"There is no truth to the story and I have contacted ESPN in an effort to get them to take the story down because we don't want this to spread like wildfire," [agent Ricky] Simms said in a phone interview with Universal Sports. "Usain doesn't follow the NFL too closely and is not really familiar with all of the players. He likes (international) football and cricket. But more importantly, he has a schedule and a coach to follow and there is no chance that we would set up this type of event."
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