Today we welcome back the great Rick “Tall Rick” Hunter, as he shares about legendary leaper Dick Fosbury and his famous flop.
By: Rick Hunter
The history of sport* is littered with greats whose names conjure up indelible images in our minds. Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath, Michael Jordan, Roger Bannister, Jackie Robinson, Kerri Strug. But rarely do these two come together in such a way as the Fosbury Flop.
From the knuckleball to the granny-style free throw (this one never caught on, since basketball players would rather shoot 75% from the charity stripe than look like their grandmother), from the forward pass to curbing PED use in thoroughbred racing, these techniques, while sport-altering, never took their name from their inventor. Ever heard of Eddie Cochems? Didn’t think so.
If you develop a rare disease and have at least a Kardashian-sized level of “fame,” you might at least get an eponym for your trouble (cf., Lou Gherig), but you have to put up with a pretty substantial amount of debilitation.
And yes kids, you might have the moves like MJ (or Jagger [hey, another MJ, whaddya know (wow, this is quite the unnecessary bracketed clause!)]), you might be able to hit like Ray Lewis, but it may be time to give up that dream of the Eponymous Revolutionary Technique (hereafter referred to as “ERT”). I’m going to go out on a non-researched limb and say that the Flop is the singular example of an ERT in the long, sordid history of sport.
This ERT had its global coming-out party at the high jump competition of the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics, when a 21-year-old Dick Fosbury unveiled the Flop to a confused and initially incredulous world audience. Young Fos (I like to call him “Fos”; it’s our thing) delighted the crowds by running diagonally toward the bar, curving and then leaping backwards over it. Up until this point, the dominant methods of high jumping involved techniques known as the Straddle Technique, the Eastern Cut-Off and the Upright Scissors Method, all of which – let’s be honest – sound just as (if not more) painful or silly as “Fosbury Flop.”
Fosbury actually developed the technique in high school, much to the dismay of his coaches and the regional media. It was described as everything from “a fish flopping in a boat” to an “airborne seizure.” One newspaper even ran a photo with the caption “World’s Laziest High Jumper.” But Fos had his first last laugh when he rode the Flop to second place in the great state of Oregon as a high school senior. At the ’68 Olympics he took home gold, a legend was born, and the Fosbury Flop has been the dominant high jumping technique ever since.
So, Dick Fosbury, for your athletic prowess and your eponymous Flop, we salute you. The world of sport is forever indebted.
*for the purpose of appearing more intelligent than he actually is, or at least, as an attempt to appear more European, the author of this post has chosen to use the “s”-less plural “sport” (think cricket, Formula One, football with a round ball and running clock) rather than the more common “sports” (baseball, NASCAR, football with an egg-shaped ball, constantly-stopping clock, and a preponderance of concussive head trauma).
** To read about the first time Rick ever heard the F word that started it all, click here.