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The problem with Track

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  • The problem with Track

    I have seen countless message board posting and magazine articles on why track has problems attracting media coverage, advertising dollars, and popularity among the general public. Most track fans point to internal problems like marketing, leadership, and meet structure. All of these do contribute to the lack of popularity in America but I believe the real problem is how the media and general public percieve sports like track and field.

    Most non track fans and american sports media will tell that track lacks popularity because the public only cares about track for two or three weeks every four years. And it is this perception that is killing our sport. This is a lie that keeps track from growing and it is a lie from the sports media in this country. Turn on ESPN, ABC, NBC, or CBS on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and you will find that sports dominate the programming. The sport you find (football, and basketball aside)are golf, auto- racing and tennis. Who decided that these sports should be on television? It wasen't the general public, it is the rich white advertisers and station executives who all play golf or tennis, and think that the public is so stupid that we will watch auto-racing. These people cannot relate to a physical sport like track and field but they can relate to golf so thats what we are fed by the media.

  • #2
    Re: The problem with Track

    I accidently hit post to quickly and did not get to finish my post so I will continue it here in this reply.
    The way sports get T.V. coverage is the same way policy is inacted in goverment. In goverment special interest groups with money get advertising dollars and their ideas are heard. A good example of this the ridiculous second hand smoke advertising campainge. Some people with money, and a distain for smoke in their personal space got together to form an interest group. Sports grow in popularity the same way. All one needs to do is look at extreme sports. Ten years ago people would have laughed at the idea of skateboarding, and snowboarding being on television, but then one day one of the big shots at ESPN saw how much his spoiled pot-smoking, skateboarding friends loved doing stupid tricks on their skateboard that it gave him an idea. Lets market the s..t out of skateboarding to other stupid rich white kids.

    As rich white kids in this country submit sports like track and field to urban black kids, the problem will continue. This statement is not meant to be racist but it is true. If the majority loses interest and the media promotes slower less physical sports track and field will continue to be shoved into the corner while other individual sports will flourish.

    I don't have the solution but I think this is the problem. Maybe some one else can come up with the solution because track could be very popular.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: The problem with Track

      I accidently hit post to quickly and did not get to finish my post so I will continue it here in this reply.
      The way sports get T.V. coverage is the same way policy is inacted in goverment. In goverment special interest groups with money get advertising dollars and their ideas are heard. A good example of this the ridiculous second hand smoke advertising campainge. Some people with money, and a distain for smoke in their personal space got together to form an interest group. Sports grow in popularity the same way. All one needs to do is look at extreme sports. Ten years ago people would have laughed at the idea of skateboarding, and snowboarding being on television, but then one day one of the big shots at ESPN saw how much his spoiled pot-smoking, skateboarding friends loved doing stupid tricks on their skateboard that it gave him an idea. Lets market the s..t out of skateboarding to other stupid rich white kids.

      As rich white kids in this country submit sports like track and field to urban black kids, the problem will continue. This statement is not meant to be racist but it is true. If the majority loses interest and the media promotes slower less physical sports track and field will continue to be shoved into the corner while other individual sports will flourish.

      I don't have the solution but I think this is the problem. Maybe some one else can come up with the solution because track could be very popular.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: The problem with Track

        It's delusional to think track will ever be hugely popular. And this is coming from someone who LOVES track! Track championships are set up to be boring: what other sport would have an event that lasts a week in which 95% of the action is meaningless heats (meaningful only to the marginal who are trying not to get eliminated). The finals are scattered, with a few clumped on the last day or two. Only the truly diehard fan is going to follow this -- and that's the point! Why can't we understand we're fans of a nonmainstream sport and be happy with that? Yes, the one-night European-circuit meets are great, but these days they rarely involve American athletes in more than a few events, and we can't duplicate that competition here.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: The problem with Track

          Golf is set up to be boring but it gets lots of coverage.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: The problem with Track

            The "problem" with track is that people don't understand it. I was just talking to some collegues about track and they don't see the skill, the strategy, or the beauty in running. Plain and simple. One person described it as very "two dimensional" whereas soccer, football, baseball, etc is "three dimensional." Unless you're a runner or a complete sports not, the majority of people will never see the fun in watching track and field. They might appreciate the ability to run/jump/throw that fast/high/far and the dedication it takes to achieve great things, but that doesn't make the sport fun to watch. I brought in a tape of one of the most exciting races I have seen (a high school mile race incidentally) and everyone watched it and thought it was boring. This was a race that was one in 4:08 and had 6 lead changes over the last 600 meters.

            Sorry guys, stop analyzing. We love the sport, but until someone educates the public and explains to them how running works... until someone extremely good looking comes along who is marketed by major labels... until that someone makes brash comments about being the best in the world and then backs it up... until that guy dates a super model or popstar and is seen at all the hippest clubs... (i.e. Beckham) its just plain old runnings to most folks, and that is boring.

            M

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: The problem with Track

              Golf is actually very exciting as a TV sport -- it IS a terrible bore to watch in person. On TV, there's constant cutting back and forth to 15 or 20 guys trying to make an important shot.
              While it may be a matter of personality helping to build fan interest -- Pre as an example -- I'm still sorry, track is just not that great a spectator sport. I went to the Olympics in 1996. I was thrilled to watch Haile win the 10,000. A heat in the 1500 was interesting, though the best weren't really running hard. I also saw a hurdles heat on the other side of the track that lasted all of 10 seconds and I couldn't even tell who won. Also long jumpers who looked very graceful but honestly, one jump looked just about like another, and I wasn't even that far away . . . I'm enough of a fan that I'd spend three days and hundreds of dollars to see one 28-minute race, but the rest really wasn't all that great, even for me --

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: The problem with Track

                These points I find salient:
                1. Track, as we know and love it, it not a spectator sport that will ever go mainstream.
                2. If (and that's a big if) we want it to 'go public', we will have to package it for TV. That means 1 to 2 hour (max) meets that can be shown live! There will have a be a circuit that people read about regularly and gain some interest in who wins and who loses. The home office will have to hype it to the MTV generation. The stars will have to go out and sell their personalities. If this sounds like prostituting the sport, that why I said IF.
                3. Everything in the media is about IMAGE and that's what we don't have except at the Olympics. We get it at the Olympics because it's us (USA) against them (dirty commies, etc.). We have to give the public a reason to care BEYOND what we ourselves enjoy. That's the nature of the beast (apt metaphor).
                4. I happen to like track the way it is, but I would also like to see it grow and get more people to care about it, but that would require a metamorphosis beyond what I may tolerate. It's a true dilemma.
                5. I am more than willing to pass this 'problem' to the ad execs to fix, but I guess I better be prepared to 'buy' their product.

                Comment


                • #9
                  People who run meets could do better

                  From HS to college, meets could be run much better and faster. Even in their current formats.

                  Get the damn hurdles up and take the damn things down. That takes up half the time in most meets I see.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Track issues

                    The reason track isnt popular in the US has nothing to do with "rich white people". TRACK MEETS ARE BORING AND CONFUSING. There are too many events and too many heats/flights for the layperson to take it all in and enjoy it. A track meet cant be enjoyed by the casual observer the way a football game can. Unless people have competed in track they have no idea how talented and special the athletes are. It takes a pretty knowledgeable fan to enjoy track meets.

                    What is the answer? I'm not sure, but I think two things would certainly help.

                    1)Star athletes with crossover appeal, for example being very attractive, or being a total pain in the ass. Just something to get people talking.

                    2)We need to improve on the numbers of kids (highschool and younger) who compete in track. As a result the level of competition will be higher and there will be more knowledgeable track fans. This would certainly help the sport a great deal.
                    throwzfan

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: The problem with Track

                      >The "problem" with track is that people don't
                      >understand it

                      Conto-

                      We agree again. It is boring unless you are educated. But, baseball bores the hell out of me - I don't know the game. Soccer is perceived as "boring" by the general population but as kids have been playing more and more over the past 20 years the sport is slowly catching on.

                      For a spectator to enjoy watching a sporting activity they have to somehow identify with the activity. This means having an appreciation for the skills and talents being displayed - otherwise its just a bunch of guys in shorts running fast.

                      Education early is the answer. This entails more recruitment and involvement in the high schools. This is not an easy task with so many "game" sports competing for our athletes. It would help if the media (being pushed whenever possible by Masback) would cover the sport at least a little bit. Maybe even show a little track on t.v. This has been the worst year I can remember for track coverage. No thanks to Craig.

                      We he take advantage of the WC to showcase some of our Elite athletes? I doubt it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Track issues

                        Our numbers are excellent. Track is the #3 HS participation sports for boys and #2 for girls. And I am one of those (few?) who doesn't think that kids younger than about 12 even need to get into track (burnout is real). As gh pointed out a while back is his #1 wish, we need a Pro Track organization that is ready willing and able to put us into the media market. What we get from that will be rather different than what we have now, for better or worse.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Track issues

                          Heck, I find football, baseball, basketball and hockey incredibly boring and a huge waste of my time. I don't understand their appeal, especially hockey. OK, baseball, too. Anyway, the "majors" are a complete mystery to me.

                          That being said, I also don't expect T&F to ever be a huge, mainstream sport, no matter what changes are made. Not because it is boring, or mismanaged, or whatever, but because it involves a bunch of activities the normal Joe Q. Public can't go out in his backyard and do.

                          Don't rush to tell me that "anyone can run" because that just ain't true. You have to be reasonably fit to run any distance at all.

                          How fit do you have to be to toss a football/baseball back and forth? To shoot baskets? To chip golf balls? To smack a few tennis balls? To kick a soccer ball?

                          I have never in my life seen a pick-up track meet involving adults! Nope, never seen a few dudes get together and have a high jump competition at the old playground. Never seen a couple folks tossin' the old discus/jav/shot/hammer back and forth (amusing as that might be). Never seen someone passing the time at the park with a few triple jumps.

                          Let's just enjoy the sport we love and make a few converts along the way...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Track issues

                            We've bemoaned track's minor-league status for years, and pointed fingers and assigned blame, and asked Masback to do the impossible in "marketing" a product most people don't really want (and blamed him when we don't see success). Sorry, it ain't going to change. Yes, there will be an upsurge of interest around the rare world-beater and personality, like Ryun and Pre and Webb and the occasional sprinter, but this interest in a specific event/athlete doesn't translate into overall interest in watching a track and field meet. It's just not that exciting, with hurdles and heats and officials, etc. If, as was suggested, we had a steady diet of 2-hour meets, tightly scheduled, with world-class athletes, maybe then things would change -- but world-class is key, too, because Americans don't want to watch mediocre competition. We've got one or two such meets on the West Coast now -- wish there was one back East (sorry, I can't get excited about relays in Philadelphia --)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Track issues

                              This has been an interesting thread, with lots of good comments.
                              I'm another who has found track meets difficult to watch in recent years, largely because the number of events--- and the duration of the competition-- have increased so much. The result is that fans are expected to endure hours of watching for a few moments of excitement scattered here and there.
                              When I first became interested in track, there were invitational events on the west coast in late Spring, and top competitors from around the world were invited (this was in the era of Herb Elliot, Peter Snell, etc.). Even the most casual fan knew that, for example, Elliot and Burleson were racing the mile at Modesto, and that was even featured on a Sports Illustrated cover (the race was, incidentally, won by Jim Beatty). Big crowds came out to see those featured events, and there was a sequence to those invitational competitions ( I've forgotten exactly now, but something like this: Colosseum, Fresno, Modesto, Compton), so that US athletes would have several chances to compete against the foreign stars--- which, to me at least, made the whole thing more interesting.
                              Now fans have to sit through at least double the number of events (because womens' events have been brought in) plus various things like wheelchair races, old-timers races, etc., and the meets go on for hours and hours.

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