By ELLIOTT DENMAN
BERLIN - Doug Logan is a Manhattan College grad, a fellow who, it can safely be said, has been around the block a few times.
He's been around enough blocks to remember four of the fastest Manhattan Jaspers who ever lived, guys named Joe Schatzle, John O'Connell, Lindy Remigino and Bob Carty, who in their day, which was the mid-1950s, formed the finest collegiate 440-yard (4x110) relay team in America.
Coached by the famed George Eastment, they beat the best of the East every time out, then traveled west to beat off the best of the rest of the country in the Coliseum Relays, the nation's biggest invitational meet, held in the L.A. Coliseum, before over 50,000 fans.
These four were picture-perfect baton-passers, They'd done their homework, they knew their stickwork.
All these years since his Manhattan College days, you might, in a sense, say that Doug Logan owes his current job, Chief Executive Officer of USA Track and Field, the governing body of the sport in America, to some other one-lap relay runners. It is not too long a stretch to say that he was brought in to head up USATF last year, charged with ironing out some very big wrinkles.
As wrinkly as it gets in this sport is the should-be basic-basic-basic job of finding two sets of sprint relay runners, four guys and four gals, capable of getting the baton around the track in the sport's biggest meets. And the coaches who get it to happen.
So far, strange as it seems, he's had no such luck.
America's men's and women's 4x100 teams crashed and burned at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, bombing out of contention thanks to some incredibly inept baton work. Don't you remember? Better, how can you forget?
Beijing 2008 was supposed to be the wakeup call of all wakeup calls, the sure-shot signal that that kind of mess-up would no longer be considered tolerable behavior.
If you bet a zillion bucks on the odds of that happening all over again, at the World Championships of Track and Field, now winding up at the historic 1936 Olympic Stadium, you'd have had a heck of a time finding anyone willing to handle the action.
But - would you believe, could you believe? - the same kind of negative lightning struck down Team USA all over again at the Worlds. First, the men Friday night. Next. the women Saturday night.
America's men at least got the baton around the track the whole way, only to be DQ'd following a British team protest. Sure enough, the late-late night video review showed the Brits were right. They'd seen that the pass from USA No. 3 man Shawn Crawford to USA anchorman Darvis Patton had violated the rules; Patton had touched the incoming baton before he had full possession inside the 20-meter exchange zone. And that was enough to get Team USA bounced.
A day later, the USA women treated the baton even more negligently. They got it just halfway around the track.
Leadoff runner Lauryn Williams did her job, successfully passing to Alexandria Anderson. But third runner Muna Lee never could handle the incoming pass from Anderson.
Reaching back desperately for the baton that never got to her - her arm was likely out of position to grab it - Lee eventually tumbled to the track - surely distraught - and it was all over for Team USA.
Anchor Carmelita Jeter could only look on in desperation as the American women joined their male counterparts on the sidelines.
Goshawful as these two mishaps were, Doug Logan wasn't ready to call any of it the end of the world.
"We`re still having a pretty good meet," Logan reminded. "We're doing fine in the medal count, we're putting a lot of people in the finals. Remember, this is a year after Beijing. This is a building year."
He called the relay problems "a virus."
And he knew that somewhere out there was a medication that would cure it.
Some speculated that after Beijing the USA relay people were just too uptight and were vicitms of self-induced pressure.
It's an interesting theory that may be right on.
So call in the pschologists. This has gone so far that it's become a mental hurdle more than a physical one.
Is it a fear of failure? Maybe, just maybe.
As the Americans were wallowing in their misery, the Jamaicans were having a wonderful night of it.
First, Simone Facey, Shelly Ann Fraser, Aleen Bailey and Kerron Stewart ran Jamaica to a 42.06 win in the women's 4x400. Bahamas (42.29) and Germany (42.87) were their closest chasers.
Then the Jamaican men took center stage.
Steve Mullings and M$ichael Frater got them going and superstars Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell did the rest.
They did the basic - got the baton around the track and blazed their lap in the World Championships record time of 37.31. Trinidad and Tobago (37.62) and Great Britain (38.02) tracked them down for the silver and bronze.
Would the USA men have beaten the Jamaicans if they'd been out there Saturday night? Expert opinion: probably not.
Would the USA women have beaten the Jamaican ladies? Expert opinion: it would have been one heck of a race.
But bottom line is that you've got to be there to do such stuff and Team USA never got past the prelims.
Doug Logan also knows that Joe Schatzle, John O'Connell, Lindy Remigino and Bob Carty would have had no such difficulties.
All these years later, those Jaspers of old could teach a few very good lessons to America's 2009 team.
It's called Stickwork 101.