In 1992, Reebok set out to bolster interest in their Track and Field shoes by televising short advertisements capitalizing on a friendly rivalry between two decathletes bound for the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. They ran frequent ads touting the Dan and Dave phenomenon, hyping up the inevitable matchup of two American greats.
Oops, did I say inevitable? [inigo montoya]You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.[/inigo montoya]
The whole deal fell apart when Dan O’Brien (left) muffed a pole vault in trials and failed to qualify. To someone like me, with a short memory and very little interest in Track or Field, that is where the story ended – a humorous cautionary tale for our marketing-mad times.
Not so, says the Portland Tribune. The newspaper’s Steve Brandon covered the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson were reunited and immortalized on the same day.
“It’s really an honor, especially to go in with Dave,” says O’Brien, 39. “I wouldn’t have accomplished any of the things I did in my career had it not been for Dave. He was the guy I was chasing the whole time. He kept me hungry.”
It’s important to remember that Dan and Dave did accomplish great things in their careers. They just failed to live up to the contrived situation Reebok placed them in. Dave Johnson made the Olympic field in Barcelona and won a bronze medal in the decathlon in spite of a broken foot. Dan O’Brien, three years younger than Johnson, was able to come back for the Atlanta Games in 1996 and take a gold medal.
Both men give back by teaching. O’Brien trains young athletes in speed and conditioning, and owns a gym in Scottsdale, Arizona. Johnson (right) has been a special education teacher and is now the Vice Principal and Athletic Director of a High School near Salem, Oregon. In case you think a Bronze Medal isn’t worth the cost to melt it down, listen to the way Johnson uses his:
“When I need to, I put it around a kid’s neck and let them know I was once their age and had to make some changes in my life to win that medal. It’s an incredible tool to use. Kids listen.”
It’s all well and good to watch the inspirational videos during the Olympics, but it’s ten times more refreshing to realize that some of those soft-focus profilees really do go on to do special things with their lives. Too bad we’ll never know which one of them was “the best”.