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.