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The Inside Track

February 13, 2002

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "SportsCentury: Florence Griffith Joyner"

Where: ESPN, today, 4:30 p.m.

As part of Black History Month, ESPN has chosen to revisit the Florence Griffith Joyner story. Unfortunately, it's a story that always will be shrouded by questions of possible performance-enhancing drug use. They are questions that never seem to go away, not even 3 1/2 years after her death at age 38.

This half-hour profile focuses too heavily on those questions. There still are no answers, and this show really offers no new perspectives.

But maybe any Griffith Joyner profile would be guilty of overdoing the drug rumors. Lifetime aired a one-hour profile during Black History Month two years ago; it too dealt with the drug issue.

It just seems that this ESPN profile stresses that aspect too much.

One interesting topic this show touches on is that Griffith Joyner fired her coach, Bob Kersee, one week after the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials. Maybe there's a parallel with Michele Kwan there somewhere.

Griffith Joyner replaced Kersee with her husband, Al Joyner, and you could say things turned out all right, considering FloJo, as she came to be known, shocked the track and field world at the 1988 Summer Olympics at Seoul.

Her performance in Seoul capped an incredible year. Her athletic accomplishments are certainly a big part of the show, as is her beauty. Host Chris Fowler, in the opening, calls Griffith Joyner "the most flamboyant member of track and field's first family."

No question she was flamboyant. "You never knew what to look for first, her hair, her nails, her outfit or her time on the track," journalist Christine Brennan says.

Muscle structure is something else people always looked for, as well. They wondered how she became so muscular so quickly. They also wondered why she retired so abruptly in February 1989.

Those are questions that may never be answered, and apparently they are questions that may never go away.

Larry Stewart

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