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February 13, 2017

A penny for your thoughts: Who is track’s fancy dog and junkyard dog?

We take a quick moment to welcome on Ryan Sterner to the site’s staff. Ryan is based in Los Angeles and will bring us some neat videos and funny posts from the West Coast. It’s been a shared ambition of ours for some time to host a podcast in which we discuss the great issues of our time. But podcasts are hard to pull off and our voices are both high-pitched and grating. So we’ve set our sights lower: welcome to Ryan and Paul Send Each Other Emails — the future of entertainment.

FROM: Paul Snyder

TO: Ryan Sterner

DATE: Wed, Feb. 8th 2:41 PM

SUBJECT: A penny for your thoughts?

Hey friend,

Remember how we decided Tom Brady was the fanciest dog of football players? Who is the fanciest dog in the track & field world? Who would you say is most deserving of the accolade on the opposite end of the spectrum, track’s junkyard dog?

Please respond ASAP,


FROM: Ryan Sterner

TO: Paul Snyder

DATE: Wed, Feb. 8th 5:11 PM

SUBJECT: RE: A penny for your thoughts?

Great question.

I suppose the thing we need to do first is set the parameters for what’s a Fancy Dog?  A quick google search reveals that dubbing Tom Brady a Fancy Dog was actually creative theft. I god damn knew I had read it somewhere before.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t take that idea and make it our own. Per Deadspin, the term Fancy Dog implies someone who is beautiful for the sake of being beautiful, obedient to basic commands like “Go win me a Super Bowl,” and that’s about it. For our purposes, we’re looking for the track world equivalent of this:

Look at that thing. What purpose could it possibly serve aside from acting as a glorified centerpiece? Could it fetch the newspaper? Is it able to bring you a cold beer, either by resting it on its head or carrying it like a stick? I doubt you’d be able to even jog around the block without it resting on its haunches and rediscovering its taint for the fifth time that hour. I can say with 90% certainty that if someone broke into your house, that dog would stand up and whisper “Salutations!” The answer to whether or not it’s capable of such Common Dog Feats (CDF–a key metric) is a hearty CERTAINLY NOT.

An appearance of Track’s Fanciest Dog should be accompanied by a lot of pomp and frill; they should be splendid and expensive looking; their maintenance should be extravagant and utilize gadgets that seem both arbitrary and futuristic.

On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the Junkyard Dog. Utilitarian is the name of the game. This thing is the antitheses of a show dog. It should sleep outside. It should bite you. It should be filled with rabies. BUT IT SHOULD GET THE JOB DONE. Maybe it should look like this:

Perhaps you shouldn’t have a difficult time hearing Track’s Junkyard Dog paraphrasing Booby Miles, “All I know is track and field” and then running in a straight line until he/she pukes or dies.

My early leaders for both category:

Fancy Dog: Galen “Fancy Feast” Rupp

Junkyard Dog: Matt Scherer.

This is clearly up for debate–actually, the Fancy Dog is not up for debate, that’s the clear winner. Nonetheless, let us please figure this out together.



FROM: Paul Snyder

TO: Ryan Sterner

DATE: Thu, Feb. 9th 3:24 AM

SUBJECT: RE:RE: A penny for your thoughts?

I agree with the parameters you have set forth, old friend. I also agree that we have found our Fancy Dog, and that no further discussion is necessary on that topic.

That said, just to really pound the point home: I have some further evidence to support that Rupp is not just a Fancy Dog. He’s the dang Best in Show!

Since the Fancy Dog is defined by a singlemindedness toward their athletic pursuit, and assuming that everyone only has so much of themselves to give, they fundamentally lack a certain je ne sais quoi — that human touch. Accordingly, any attempt on the part of a true Fancy Dog to relate to people, ought to sound robotic or painfully out of touch. (Classic example is Tom Brady saying the following when pressed about Trump’s Muslim ban: “I haven’t paid much attention to what’s going on. I’m just a positive person.”)

Rupp’s attempt at a normal statement that I wish to share isn’t political (or an attempt at being apolitical). Instead, it comes from his inactive-since-2012 Twitter account. He seems to be stating his intentions to watch a movie, but the outcome just seems like a random word generator, whose data input is pulled from old recordings of the Movie Phone guy.

Really remarkable stuff.

As for the Junkyard Dog accolade, since the Dog Scale is a continuum, it’s safe to say its recipient ought to be the true opposite of the Fancy Dog… meaning they should exude Joe Six-Pack qualities and be able to coherently describe a movie.

I’m open to including retired athletes, mostly so I can nominate Bill Rodgers. Here’s an article about the guy. The main point I wish to bring to light, is that he spooned mayonnaise on pizza during the peak of his training, in order to pad his caloric intake and because he liked the taste.


FROM: Ryan Sterner

TO: Paul Snyder

DATE: Thu, Feb. 9th 12:01 PM

SUBJECT: RE: RE: RE: A penny for your thoughts?

The Human Touch is an interesting metric to consider.

If the Dog Scale truly is a spectrum, we should expect the Junkyard Dog to be the MOST relatable of all the athletes. To borrow some worn out political schtick, “Yeah, but would I want to get a beer with them?”

I’ll tell you right now…any man who puts mayonnaise on his pizza is no friend of mine. That to me sounds like the repercussions of trying to teach a robot about the habits of humans. In theory, sure, condiments are supposed to lift up the lowliest of foods. But pizza? Nice try, Terminator!

My new nominee is none other than the former World Record holder himself Steve Jones. Here’s an interview with our Junkyard Dog. He started smoking cigarettes at age 11. He probably drank more beer before turning 16 than I have in my entire life. The man had a gosh darn manufacturing job.

Beer drinker. Nicotine addict. World record holder. Steve “I never wore a watch” Jones. Junk. Yard. Dog.

Sidenote: Is Junkyard Dog something to aspire to?

FROM: Paul Snyder

TO: Ryan Sterner

DATE: Fri, Feb. 10th 9:22 AM

SUBJECT: RE: RE: RE: RE: A penny for your thoughts?

Seems we’ve settled the score on Rupp’s fanciness. If everyone’s favorite chain-wearing automaton hadn’t been programmed these last two decades to cover ground as rapidly as possible, it’s safe to assume that whatever his alternate reality Primary Objective might have been, he’d have been just as successful.

On to the J.Y.D.

While I agree that mayo is pretty disgusting on its own, I gotta say, condiments and the proletariat go hand-in-hand., so I’m not totally sold that Rodgers is off the table. He’s also a failed small business owner and cancer survivor; the guy knows a thing or two about getting knocked down and embodies the fact that you won’t overcome every struggle presented to you (thank goodness he beat the more pressing setback, though). Plus he was a hometown hero during his racing days. Everyone wants a ticker tape parade!

That said, I’m close to switching over to team Steve Jones as our Junkyard Dog, but I have a question first: Have you stumbled upon any interviews in which he expresses a pro-catsup philosophy? I just need a little more proof.

I definitely think everyone should aspire to the status of Junkyard Dog. He is a true Renaissance Man. Somebody who can balance the rigors of elite-level training, with an active social life and various chemical dependencies. He amazes and inspires us. So I’m glad we’re giving this accolade a little more thought than the Fancy Dog award.

FROM: Ryan Sterner

TO: Paul Snyder

DATE: Fri, Feb. 10th 9:41 PM

SUBJECT: RE: A penny for your thoughts?

Holy crow. I just finished this Bill Rodgers article you sent along. A few initial reactions:

1) He might be a psychopath.

2) He is definitely the Junkyard Dog, despite there being a few contradicting aspects of his origin story.

Whose origin story is more Junkyard Dog? A or B?

  1. As a boy, Rodgers chased butterflies with a homemade net in a field near his house in Newington, Connecticut. “He was an expert,” says his 85-year-old father, Charles, a retired mechanical engineer. “He mounted them on a board and could tell you the name of every one of them. And that’s how he began running—by running after butterflies.”
  1. I was 15. Some guys with the Air Training Corps youth group—it’s the cadet version of the RAF—needed an extra body for a cross-country meet. I was sort of hoodwinked into it. Well, it was a day trip away from home to a seaside resort, and you got a snack on the way. Thing was, it was October—cold, rainy, may have been snow. So, not too much at the sea. That was the third time I’d ever run—it was 3 miles. I finished fifth and qualified to run in another meet.

The answer is clearly B. No Junkyard Dog has ever had time for something as trivial as chasing butterflies.

Whose early career is more Junkyard Dog? A or B?

  1. After graduating from Wesleyan in 1970, Rodgers stopped running, and started smoking two packs of Winstons a day and hanging out in the manifold bars of Boston, where he got around town on a used Triumph 650 motorcycle he had bought with $1,000 borrowed from his best friend.
  1. When I first started, we didn’t have a coach. There was a senior person in the group, with more experience, so we followed him around like a pied piper. No treadmill, no massage, maybe ultrasound, no heart-rate monitors. It was all about putting your shoes on and going for a run. I worked split shift—six days on, four days off—and sometimes nights—five nights with three days off

This was really the tipping point for me.. We’ve already established balancing your vices and an elite level of fitness is key to being the JYD. We’ll ignore that at the time he was ripping through the mean streets of Boston on his hog, he wasn’t running a lick. But the fact that during this same time period, he went on to win a 10 mile road race wearing a pair of jeans, sealed the deal for me. Anyone who wears jeans to do something that requires even a modicum of equipment is alright in my book, if not slightly unhinged.

Steve Jones does come off as a bit sanctimonious. Though not publicized at all, he does seem to be the Charles Barkley of elite running. “I think the sport has lost a little bit of appeal to me as an elite runner from the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s because it’s not about the guys going out there and running to hurt themselves anymore.” He said that back in 2015. He might as well be calling Lebron a crybaby.

You’re right. You’re always right.


FROM: Paul Snyder

TO: Ryan Sterner

DATE: Sat, Feb. 11th 8:00 AM

SUBJECT: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: A penny for your thoughts?

Pleasure doing discourse with you, Ryan.

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