Forget 15 minutes. Curtis Bell’s fame was even more fleeting, spending all of 7.77 seconds in the national consciousness. That’s how long it took the Michigan native to span 60 frenetic meters at Saturday’s USATF Indoor Masters in Louisville, finishing a full second behind Tyreek Hill. The odd spectacle quickly went viral with Bell mocked for his unusual racing attire, looking very much like someone who hadn’t run competitively since high school. Bell confirmed that to be the case, telling Dan Le Batard Tuesday that his minimal training for Saturday’s race included weight lifting and plenty of bourbon.
“The last time I ran a 60-meter race was way back in high school in 2014, so nine years ago,” said Bell, who claims he was actually wearing tights rather than pants, not that onlookers would know the difference. “Me and my wife went down a couple days early, treated it as like a vacation for us. I was walking up and down Bourbon Row trying all the bourbons.”
Many found it odd that Hill, a decorated high-school sprinter who once competed at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, chose to stage his comeback at such a low-stakes event, competing against the likes of Bell, an accountant, a property manager and a museum employee. Nobody was more surprised to see the Dolphins deep threat than Bell, who couldn’t believe it when he saw Hill’s name on Saturday’s start list.
“The Masters Championships are basically like the beer league for track. Anyone can sign up at any time. Everyone else my age is competing at USAs or Worlds,” said Bell, who insists he would have worn better clothes if he knew the race was going to be televised. “I hadn’t done any real training prior to this, so I’m now in a panic because I’m going to be on ESPN and I’m going to get destroyed and I’m going to get made fun of on social media.”
Bell was a successful pole-vaulter at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, though nothing in his career could possibly have prepared him for the “Cheetah,” in all his fleet-footed glory.
“I was a pole vaulter in college, but I’ve never been fast. I’ve never claimed to be fast. I signed up for this race for fun. I didn’t know that there was going to be a professional athlete in the race. I saw his name pop up and I’m like, ‘Well, I’m in deep s---,’” said Bell. “In all honesty, for him being a football guy, I thought he was going to get out of the blocks way quicker.”
The irony is that Bell, who now serves as an assistant track and field coach at Central Michigan, doesn’t even particularly like running. “Basically, all I do nowadays is just lift because I don’t like running. I hate running, actually,” said Bell. “All the girls [I coach] are making fun of me. They all want to race me now because they think they can beat me.”
While it may not have been the most flattering portrayal, the 26-year-old still got to brush shoulders with one of the NFL’s best, even sharing a moment with Hill after the race. “We get done with the race and the officials are ushering us back over to our stuff and there’s just a crowd of people following us. I just gave him a fist bump and was like, ‘Good s---, man.’ And then I just walked away.”
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