|In a response to my latest post, PRO RUNNER DAVID TORRENCE – “Don’t Blame Elite Athletes for State of the Sport”, journalist Parker Morse wrote, “Kudos to Mr. Torrence, not just for his effort, but for the wide variety of efforts he’s involved in. The real key to all this is not a dogged hunt for who is to blame, but a broad search for new solutions and new ways forward. Being willing to try anything and everything is a big part of that. Toni, I’ve seen you throw out a few ideas here and there as well.”|
“A broad search for new solutions and new ways forward” is absolutely the answer, Parker. But considering the number of years that the sport has been dealing with this issue, the solution remains elusive, especially without a U.S. superstar at the forefront. Imagine if Usain Bolt was from Louisville? That’s what any new solution has to overcome.
And yet, USATF always touts Team USA as the “greatest track & field team in the world”. And it is. But then USATF never constructs any Ryder Cup or President’s Cup-like competitions against other T&F teams to prove the point on the field of play. That only happens unofficially with the Olympic medal count once every four years.
I think it is the individual event format of track meets and the individual scheduling of road races, then, that’s holding back the marketing of the sport. Every event on the track, like every road race, is a universe of one, locked into its own silo. Nothing links up with anything else. So while every track and field event shares the facility, none of them are tied into a comprehensible format for public consumption with any other of the other events.
It’s like Monty Python’s Flying Circus is in charge. But rather than the Upper Class Twit Competition, we have the “Everything is Separate and Distinct from Everything Else” Meet where shot put fans watch that, and the sprint fans watch that, and distance fans pay attention to that. And very few pay attention to it all, because it hasn’t been formed up to be consumed in that fashion.
“And now for something completely different.”
At least at the NCAA T&F Championships we see university teams in heated competition with every event scoring points, and the outcome often decided in the final relays. OMG, an actual narrative to follow, what a concept. Why can’t that format be brought into the pro ranks?
“Today, Nike Team A representing Portland goes up against Asics A repping Irvine, while Nike’s Team B from Eugene meets Reebok B out of Boston in the quarterfinals of the USA Track Circuit Championships, etc.”
Every event would score points leading to a team winner at the end of the meet. Team standings would be maintained, an end of the year playoffs would eventuate among the top teams, leading to a Championship Meet pitting the two top teams vying for the Series Cup.
Today, domestic meets, like the Oxy High Performance, aren’t even arranged for competition to be the focus of attention. They are nothing more than a series of qualifying races for the USATF nationals. On the international scene the Diamond League travels the globe pitting every event against itself rather than linking all the events into a team format where the cities hosting the meets would be rooting for their home squad. How do you expect to interest new fans in that?
That the sport does as well as it does using this format is a testament to the undying nature of the sport, and the love of its true believers.
There you go, Parker, that’s one idea. Here is another: bring in Show Biz people who know how to stage events to take the elements we have and fashion a track meet or a road race. What’s to lose at this stage?