As the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships get under way in College Station, Texas (watch ESPN3 6:30-10pm Eastern Friday) and the New Balance National Indoors are contested at the New York Armory through Sunday, I thought I’d extend the conversation I began earlier this week.
On Tuesday I suggested that track & field build on the marketing momentum generated by the NFL’s Scouting Combine by challenging track and field athletes in the same Combine events – 40 yard dash, vertical jump, and standing broad jump – to show how our sport’s talent stacks up against America’s most popular sport – PIGGY BACKING ON THE NFL COMBINE.
Today, I want to amplify on that suggestion by encouraging track to include mimicking the way America’s pro sports break down their games for their fans. In that sense, let’s begin by deconstructing our events into their component parts by taking splits in the 100 meter dash and other shorter speed races, as well.
Consider, we split the bejezus out of the marathon to make it palatable, every mile, every 5K. We give the 400m split on the 800, all four 400s in the mile, etc. If the sport is going to be about clocking speed, then break it down into its component parts with some secondary and even tertiary level granulars to identify the basic elements that lead to these remarkable performances.
For instance, within the trade we always look at reaction time in the 100, but it almost never shows up on TV. Instead, the program always follows the same format: introduce the athletes, run the race, show the replay, interview the breathless winner, then move on to the next event.
Even within the sport there are many folks from outside the sprint culture who think fast people are just fast people, and things like technique are of less importance than in other events.
So, let’s begin deconstructing our events with a panel of sprint experts, both coaches and ex-athletes. Track analyst Ato Boldon is especially good at this, as was Dwight Stones for many years. It would simply be a matter of bringing athletics more into line with the best practices used on the NFL channel where the inner game is showcased and distinctions exhibited.
Then take that model around the studio from the anchor desk to different sets, and teach the audience about the individual events, so many of which are very technical in nature, but rarely explored as such.
Within our limited TV time frame we do too much showing a piece of almost every event, but never really go in-depth to illustrate any one event, especially the field events. Who knows, we might actually draw a new audience by taking a deeper dive and showcasing our sport like the NFL, NBA and MLB do.