Track & Field News, the self proclaimed Bible of the Sport, finally gave in to popular demand and put Allen Johnson on the cover. Before this issue, Allen was known as the greatest athlete never to make the cover of TFN. To their credit Allen's cover misfortune was not due to any hidden agenda but rather some misfortune on AJ's part. Here's how TFN's editor, Gary Hill explained Allen's absence from the cover up until this point:
So how could he be so good for so long and not make the cover?
One of the important things you need to recognize is sheer dumb luck. Of the bad kind. Here's the major highlights of his career and what they were up against:
AJ won his first world title in '95; Jonathan Edwards and history's first 60-foot TJ made the cover.
=AR (never set a WR) at '96 OT: can you say 19.66?
'96 Oly title: can you say 19.32?
'97 world title: Geb was off on a WR tear to go w/ his world title.
'01 world title: Zelezny wins his third gold (that one not a slam-dunk on merit).
'03 world title: have we ever had a better cover than El G/Kipchoge?
Hopefully that gives a better understanding of why his big-time exploits didn't make it to the front, no matter how deserving they appear when viewed as THE PHOTOG'S POINT OF VIEW
You may recall that we went through a lot of this when people were clamoring for Liu on the cover after Lausanne.
A good photographer knows that his best chance of selling a shot (to anybody, not just us) is ACTION, and the best action involves more than one body. That leads (particularly in lane races) to pictures shot in a horizontal format, rather than the vertical that fits the cover, if there's more than one star in the race. (See p. 10 of September for why we couldn't put Arnold and Liu on the cover.)
I have not yet see any shots from Athens, but I'm willing to bet that the majority–if not all–of the shots we get are in a horizontal format. The good news is that unlike Arnold and Liu, there's noobody between AJ and Liu, so perhaps somebody got bold and went for a vertical that includes both, or if it cuts somebody off, it's Liu.
As you've seen many times, and I've alluded to, AJ is a classic head-down hurdler. Not presenting your face to the camera is not conducive to good cover art. (AJ also hampered his chances for years by wearing those big dark glasses, furthering obscuring himself, I would note.)
So the bottom line is that all the amusing banter about AJ "deserving" the cover aside, before he can remotely be considered, suitable art has to be in place. Historically, that has not been an easy task. stand-alone items.