So there’s this story on LetsRun.com today talking about how Dallas SportsRadio 1310/96.7 The Ticket was mocking the TrackTown Summer Series final last Friday, which they evidently ran into the night before on ESPN while channel surfing.
Mostly, the hosts focused on The Freeze, Nigel Talton, the sprinting groundskeeper / mascot for the Atlanta Braves who has captured baseball’s attention chasing down fans who are given a head start as they race foul pole to foul pole along the outfield warning track. At the TrackTown Summer Series Final in New York, The Freeze raced a bunch of track fans who were given a 20-meter head start – two of the fans actually beat him.
Oh, and the Dallas sports radio guy’s mocked the whole thing quite viciously, even suggesting that the well-mocked WNBA “is laughing at these guys.”
But mocking isn’t altogether a bad thing. You know what mocking is better than? Silence, or total indifference. Like it or not, think it’s gimmicky or not, the Tracktown Summer Series has people talking in the mainstream media. It might not be the kind of talk they would prefer, but talk is talk.
After the meet The Freeze got interviewed on ESPN’s SportsCenter. And from my conversations with TrackTown founder Vin Lananna and CEO Mike Reilly, that post-meet interview was exactly the kind of “partnership” TrackTown had arranged with ESPN rather than just another time-buy. In fact, the meet wasn’t shown live on ESPN, but rather held back an hour, specifically so it could be the lead-in to SportsCenter, thereby making the live interview with The Freeze possible.
So, yes, the first public perception of the TrackTown Summer Series may have been ridicule. But maybe that mocking tone might be enough to lure just a few more viewers or fans next time they see the name TrackTown Summer Series, or The Freeze.
But let’s not forget, either, that in the meet’s final event Robby Andrews of the San Francisco Surge nipped under the 3:36-flat qualifying standard he needed to punch his ticket to London and the IAAF World Championships (3:35.25), as he finished a hair’s-breadth behind Johnny Gregorek of the New York Empire, who also PR’d (3:35.00). So the meet wasn’t simply a carnival sideshow.
In the 1980s as cable TV opened the media marketplace to a host of new stations and shows, sports became a TV show. And what are tv shows built around? Characters. Outside the soon-retiring Usain Bolt, running has no characters.
Is Nigel Talton the fastest guy out there? No. With PRs of 10.47 in the 100m and 21.66 in the 200m he is a serviceable NCAA D2-level college sprinter. 10.47 would have grabbed sixth place at the D2 100m final this year. But he isn’t Nigel Talton on the track, he’s The Freeze. He’s a character that he has marketed at a professional level.
So let’s not disparage a costume-wearing groundskeeper with fine sprinting form, or a new athletics venture trying out innovative ideas in an attempt to re-animate a moribund sport that has been ill-served by its anachronistic presentation model and crushed by its corrupt officials.
People outside the game are talking. At this stage that’s enough for me.
5 thoughts on “TRACKTOWN FREEZE OUT”
Duh! should read “…had some personal experience running in a 10,000m race in 1975 with the old ITA (US Pro track league in the early 1970’s) pace LIGHTS set ……
T&F would benefit greatly from an integrated music/sound interplay similar to the Las Vegas casinos. Announcers cannot drum up excitement beyond a certain level and they often miss action on the track that the eye catches. Sound interplay would communicate the missing pieces. Also, I think you noted before the need to use a speed bar somewhere during the event that captures the speed of the meet or world record and overlays it with the actual speed of the live event. Use Technology!
Robert and Tony have good ideas! I had some personal experience running in a 10,000m race in 1975 with the old ITA (US Pro track league in the early 1970’s) pace lets set up on the track. The lights were set at meet record pace and they were relentless. Just before I was lapped by Doug Brown of Tennessee the pace lights lapped me and I watched Doug duke it out with the pace lights to the finish. The crowd really seemed to enjoy it, especially since the meet was in Knoxville where their favorite was battling the lights.
I suggest programming the pace lights at the meet record pace exactly how the existing meet record was run using at least 400m splits. This way if there was a long charge to the finish in the meet record race the lights would mirror that or if it was a go out fast and fade race the lights would do the same. The lights could be “way behind” early in the race but come charging into the finish while the runners were trying to stay ahead of them.
How about detailing “anachronistic presentation model” for readers like me who know less than the writer.
Sure thing, thanks for asking. We often assume a deep knowledge base in our readers, but your reply reminds us to be more precise in our own presentations.
In the world of track & field (what the world outside the U.S. calls ‘Athletics’) we see a series of event competitions that are all independent of any of the other competitions, each contested by runners who mostly represent shoe companies who wear identical uniforms in which every event 800 meters and above is led by controlled pacesetters. This, in the long run, has led to a loss in public interest beyond a hard-core base. So, here is the wome’s 400m hurdles. Now, forget about that, because here comes another event that has nothing to do with the next event, etc. It’s a series of events that add up to nothing. We don’t even vote for the top 3 performances of the meet like we once did.
Instituting team-based competitions where points are accrued in each event leads to an overall meet winner. We saw how exciting this format can be at the recent NCAA Women’s T& F Championships when the entire championship came down to the 4 X 400m with Oregon needing the victory over USC – who had beaten them by a hair in the Indoor Championships – to overcome the 8.2 point lead helf by Georgia. With the team element in play the stakes were raised and with the race so close, fan interst rose significantly. Plus, with athletes wearing team colors, it was much easier to identify the players.