“It’s part of the Peachtree’s charm. People won’t know the people who win or their name, but they’ll know that it (Peachtree) attracts some of the best talent in the world.”
That’s John Curtin of the Atlanta Track Club quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about tomorrow’s 42nd Peachtree Road Race, which doubles as the USA Road 10K Championship and PRRO Race of Champions.
If it weren’t so stunning an admission, it might actually be horrifying. Maybe I misread. No, that’s correct, having people not know who your anonymous, interchangeable champions are is now considered “charming”. Not a blight on the sport, not an indictment on the last generation of leaders who allowed a totally unregulated marketplace and stagnant prize purses to create the image that road racing is boring, even as race coffers continued to swell with participant entry fees, it’s charming. Kind of like how Antebellum life in and around Atlanta was charming, I guess.
TOUR TELLS STORIES
Yesterday, the wife and I watched the start of the Tour de France on Versus. What I took away from that show was a quote by seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong about the rise of American cycling over the last twenty years:
“Once you have the athletes that people can follow, that people can be fans of, can really buy into their stories and follow their every move, that’s what makes sports!”
Notwithstanding the speed achieved, pitting unknown runners who are neither asked nor required to offer promotional assistance to hype the races, and who represent nothing more than themselves and a shoe company, is a formula for the sorry state of the sport we have before us. End result, nobody gives a damn who wins, and an entire generation now believes that foot racing is a participation-only endeavor whose primary purpose is to raise money for charitable causes.
When iconic races like Peachtree continue to rake in so much money on the participation side (55,000 runners @ $33 per entry = $1.815 million), while only paying out $111,300 in overall prize money – because that’s all it takes to draw anonymous speedsters from poor countries where talent is abundant – and then admit to the utter lack of interest in the sport, and do nothing to right it, what does the future hold? When Peachtree doesn’t see beyond what for them, individually, is a successful model, and doesn’t consider the consequences to the sport, what’s left? Another lost generation?
Until we understand and embrace the need to create fan-based as well as participant-based events, then put significant developmental dollars toward achieving that goal, until we decide to alter the formula which brings us these utterly forgettable individual lab experiments of races which fixate on the cold calculation of time rather than the red-blooded heat of rivalry and competition, attributes which helped create these road event juggernauts in the first place, we will continue to suffer the “charming” indifference we so richly deserve.