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  • Interesting AP story on the demise of track and field

    http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/07/ ... eijing.php

    Some interesting points including the Bob Costas reference (which caught my eye) and the TV ratings (track and field trailed both swimming and gymnastic Olympic Trials here in the states).

    If NBC wants to improve ratings, they need to improve coverage. The world record red line they used in swimming was great - why can't they do that same thing in track and field (for those who don't know what I'm talking about - during the race, they super-imposed a red line over the swimmers that showed the leader in relation to swimming a world record time).

    Getting rid of some of the old-time track athletes as announcers wouldn't hurt either. Carol Lewis for sure, but Dwight Stones has out-lived his usefulness too.

    And then another thing that I think would work is if the IAAF put together an online subscription service for people to watch track meets live and follow along on their computer in all the events. Make it video on demand so you choose which events you're watching (a race or a field event). I realize many of the top meets are televised but you're still at the mercy of their coverage. Maybe the NBC Universal will be able to offer this in the future, but the IAAF is going to have to control the various meets.

    Or does this type of service already exist?

  • #2
    Re: Interesting AP story on the demise of track and field

    Originally posted by marndar
    The world record red line they used in swimming was great - why can't they do that same thing in track and field (for those who don't know what I'm talking about - during the race, they super-imposed a red line over the swimmers that showed the leader in relation to swimming a world record time).
    The moving red line works great because plenty of world records are being broken thanks to the Speedo LZR Racer suit.
    In track WRs are extremely rare, I can't see the attractiveness in seeing athletes fail against this standard. Worse it makes pretty decent performances look mediocre, e.g. running 19.8 but finishing 5m behind the line.

    Comment


    • #3
      the only thing that will bring back interest in track and fields is a dramatic improvement in the performance of white runners. white female runners are still competitive but white male runners have been handed their lunch.
      white males control almost everything in the world and except for rabid fans, most white people are not interested in anything that contradict the ideology of white supremacy.

      track and field still move the white fans who care about performance and not skin color but they are in a distinct minority. the casual white fan is only interested in track and field if some white person is doing something incredible. they are not interested in the performance of nonwhites, no matter how incredible it might be. the overall popularity of track and field depends on the casual white fan interest.

      how can we improve the performance of white track and field athletes?

      we have to stop the color coding that goes on at all levels of the sport. the idea that black athletes are natural speed merchants and white athletes are only good at distances must be killed. if white athletes don't start running more 100, 200, and especially, 400s. their leg turnover will not improve and they will not be able to run with the dibabas and the bekeles.

      the second thing that must be done is to assign some blame to the coaches who now control the sport. if they are going to take credit for the good they must also take the blame for the bad. bob kennedy is the only american to break 13 minutes for 5k. he's on a very short list of white guys to have done so. why doesn't he have more say over the training and development of america's distance runners? as great as prefontaine was he could not compete against the best in the world today, not even the best juniors! so why is he lionized while kennedy is almost forgotten? what is mottram doing better than our guys? why don't we hire some of the kenyan and ethiopian athletes as coaches? both tergat and gebreselassie are almost at the end of their illustrious careers, perhaps they can be persuaded to help us develop our athletes.

      finally, let's put to bed, finally, the idea that skin color has anything to do with individual achievement. no athlete has three legs or two hearts. all world class athletes are genetically endowed. the fact that kennedy and mottram can run under 13 for 5k must mean that there are lots of other white guys who can do it too. where are they ? why is nobody finding them?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by cornstarchwilson
        we have to stop the color coding that goes on at all levels of the sport. the idea that black athletes are natural speed merchants and white athletes are only good at distances must be killed.
        I agree but that does not explain why there are so few Kennedy's or Mottram's running world class 5000's.

        Originally posted by cornstarchwilson
        the fact that Kennedy and Mottram can run under 13 for 5k must mean that there are lots of other white guys who can do it too. where are they ? why is nobody finding them?
        Maybe they find more lucrative sports?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by cornstarchwilson
          white males control almost everything in the world and except for rabid fans, most white people are not interested in anything that contradict the ideology of white supremacy.

          track and field still move the white fans who care about performance and not skin color but they are in a distinct minority. the casual white fan is only interested in track and field if some white person is doing something incredible. they are not interested in the performance of nonwhites
          Nonsense! (And racist nonsense, at that.)

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          • #6
            I'm not sure it's so much about skin color, I'd associate it more with nationality, at least in Europe. People are much more interested when athletes from their country are involved. And with too few Europeans getting into the medals, at least on the track, people stop caring. Not too many are interested in anonymous Kenyans and Ethiopians battling each other.
            Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...

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            • #7
              Motivation.

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              • #8
                If skin color is so important, why is the NBA so hugely popular? And the NFL to a great degree? I'm with tandfman.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Interesting AP story on the demise of track and field

                  Originally posted by marndar
                  http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/07/15/sports/OLY-ATH-Slouching-Toward-Beijing.php

                  Some interesting points including the Bob Costas reference (which caught my eye) and the TV ratings (track and field trailed both swimming and gymnastic Olympic Trials here in the states).

                  If NBC wants to improve ratings, they need to improve coverage. The world record red line they used in swimming was great - why can't they do that same thing in track and field (for those who don't know what I'm talking about - during the race, they super-imposed a red line over the swimmers that showed the leader in relation to swimming a world record time).

                  Getting rid of some of the old-time track athletes as announcers wouldn't hurt either. Carol Lewis for sure, but Dwight Stones has out-lived his usefulness too.

                  And then another thing that I think would work is if the IAAF put together an online subscription service for people to watch track meets live and follow along on their computer in all the events. Make it video on demand so you choose which events you're watching (a race or a field event). I realize many of the top meets are televised but you're still at the mercy of their coverage. Maybe the NBC Universal will be able to offer this in the future, but the IAAF is going to have to control the various meets.

                  Or does this type of service already exist?
                  The ratings average for swimming & gymnastics vs. t&f is meaningless unless it is compared with 2004 & 2000. I've written before that attendance from PennR to Berlin GL is at record levels.

                  I realize that in journalism "if it bleeds, it leads" is a way to gain attention. I doubt that marginal readers will be attracted to a headline "Track & Field Has record Attendance From Penn Relays in April 2007 Through Berlin Golden League in September 2007."

                  In addition, when I worked at T&FN 1965 - 1967, a small minority of letters from subscribers stated that the way to improve t&f was to increase coverage of the reader's favorite topic such as race walking & age group. Many of the postings here contain the writer's pet peeve, so I suspect that t&f is doing well.
                  none

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I don't believe its an issue of race so much as an issue of understanding and competitiveness. People Understand the Mile (and to a lesser degree the 1500). And other distance events Why? Because they can go out on their track, run 4 laps and and time themselves, or run a local 5K or Marathon. People do it casually, so the casual fan is far more inclined to understand a great time. However we (the US) are traditionally mediocre if not downright terrible on the world scene at distance races, while the events we excel at (sprints specifically) are nto as well understood. How many people go out and run 100m as fast as they can? When I was coming up as a sprinter, random people would say to me "You run track? How fast can you run a 40 yard dash? How fast can you run a mile?" Those were the only two distances people can relate to. Its unfortunate, but I don't know what can be done to change it. Clearly, its not a matter of Track not being visually stimulating, because Nascar gets 100K people to an event and solid TV ratings. You can't convince me seeing cars go around in a circle, is more entertaining than the variety of events available at a track meet. But because most of us get behind the wheel of a car, and have probably had a speeding ticket or two, its easier to relate to car racing.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by cornstarchwilson
                      the only thing that will bring back interest in track and fields is a dramatic improvement in the performance of white runners.
                      Absolutely ridiculous. If this was true then hockey would be more popular than the NFL or the NBA, which it clearly is not. Soccer (OK non-Americans, football) has never been more popular worldwide than it is right now, at the same time that it's becoming ever more multi-racial. If "whiteness" was the determining factor in what was popular then the throws should be the most popular events in T&F, instead of the least popular.

                      Originally posted by Trackfan310
                      I don't believe its an issue of race so much as an issue of understanding and competitiveness.
                      Much closer to the crux of the problem. Most Americans don't really understand what's going on at a track meet. At far too many American meets the signage and announcing is incredibly deficient, and often seems to be undertaken with the expectation that everyone in the stands is already a track fan and therefore already understands what's going on (or is just as confused as the confused uninformed announcer). And in the case of the field events, the events far too often seem to be treated like an arcane ritual about which only insiders should be informed, and which only they could possibly understand. No need to give mere spectators athlete names and numbers, distances and heights, round or try numbers - you should just sit back and enjoy the sight of the intermittent jumping and throwing, and we just might inform you of the final results once the ritual has been completed.

                      I know that folks like Garry try mightily to fix these probelms, but the standard of spectator information at most meets is abysmal, and I've certainly seen these same problems crop up in major meets like USATF or the Trials, and even in the WCs and Olympics.

                      Of course TV is the main way that most non-fans experience the sport, and most of the TV coverage given the sport in the U.S. IMO only serves to confuse potential fans and drive them away from T&F.

                      A nice simple and clear explanation of the various events would be the most helpful thing possible, both at the meet and on TV. It really only takes a moment to say "the competitors will get 6 attempts" or "top 4 finishers will qualify for the final" or "the race will be 2 laps of the track." But this simple information, which would allow people to make some sense of what they're seeing and understand it well enough to be excited about it rather than confused by it, is seemingly more often than not omitted. On TV, in addition to more context and information about the events themselves, it would also be good if we could see things from camera angles that actually help viewers make visual sense of the events (and what the hell is it with the useless behind-the-back or head-on angles used by American TV for most field events?).

                      On U.S TV though, instead of information and context useful for fans and would be (could be) fans alike, we get this: seemingly endless personal profiles and "human interest" stories, concentration on a few selected athletes - often to the extent that the other athletes in the events aren't even named (athletes who sometimes win anyway, to the obvious confusion and annoyance of the announcers), incomplete or cut up races including sometimes showing just the last lap or final straightaway of longer races, contextless and anti-dramatic field event "packages" usually shot from the idiotic camera angles mentioned above, the infamous out-of-breath interviews that immediately follow each race as if required by law - instead of analysis of what actually happened, and generally confused and ill-prepared commentary from people who seem barely interested in the events they're watching (Hammond) or excited to the point of incoherence (Carol Lewis).

                      Give viewers an explanation of the techniques,strategies, and tactics actually used in the events? No. Or even tell the viewers things as simple as how many people will qualify out of a heat, what a good time would be (other than the usually over-hyped records), or even how many laps there are in a race - or how many laps are left? No. Instead we see them time and again taking an inherently exciting sport and turning it into confusing repetitious boredom, particularly for the non-track fans in the audience.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        IMO Track and field has become a niche sport in the US because several generations of fans have not been taught to understand and appreciate T&F by sportscasters and talking heads of the now-burgeoning sports/entertainment world. Through a lack of coverage, especially between Olympic Years, on shows like Sportscenter, these fans have been taught that T&F doesn't matter. While the ball sports get covered ad nauseum, the genuinely important, dramatic, newsworthy efforts of runners, throwers, jumpers are ignored.

                        My hypothesis has long been that the ESPN announcers, writers, decision-makers, simply don't understand T&F and would much rather keep America's attention on their ball-sport comfort zone. PEDs are sometimes used as the excuse.

                        Michael Wilbon's recent column in the Washington Post dismissing Usain Bolt's World Record because of the recent litany of cheats that preceded him is an example, and this has been echoed by several ESPN talking heads as well regarding their lack of enthusiasm for the Olympics. Of course, the same argument of PEDs could be used to justify disinterest in the World Series or the Super Bowl, but it would be ESPN sacrilege to go there. So T&F gets singled out while no one expresses disinterest in the San Diego Chargers because of Shawne Merriman's 4-game suspension due to steroids. Huff.

                        Malcolm Gladwell's Blink has a great chapter explaining why some tremendous music doesn't get radio airplay, and I think the same applies to why terrific sports judged niche sports don't get more play on a national level. The sports media industry shapes public opinion, judges niche sports as not fitting what the fans want, when the industry is in fact what has shaped the fans' impressions of what is interesting and important in the first place.

                        How could this ever change? I think in some way Nike is the only player with the pull and (perhaps) the motivation. Meanwhile, more seats for us in the stands.

                        Thank you for indulging me in a long-overdue rant... It was therapeutic.

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                        • #13
                          Interesting AP story on the demise of track and field

                          Notice the end of "positive force"'s posting:

                          "Thank you for indulging me in a long-overdue rant...It was therapeutic."

                          The 3 previous postings prove my points:

                          Track & Field has never been better.

                          Charges about "the demise of track and field" are "pet peeves" related only to the individual doing the posting and have NOTHING TO DO WITH THE HEALTH OF OUR SPORT IN GENERAL.

                          Mark Twain said that rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated.

                          I'm glad that some posters have suggestions to improve our sport. I'm sorry that some posters have complaints. NONE OF THESE POSTINGS HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE "DEMISE OF TRACK AND FIELD."

                          On the other hand, evidence is that it has never been better. Attendance & participation are examples. IF any serious problems exist where are the facts? Every complaint is anecdotal. I've seen no complaint that puts the situation in perspective. For example, 2008 OT ratings are meaningless without the context of 2004 & 2000 ratings.
                          none

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                          • #14
                            Following up on the "red line" idea from swimming: Can somebody please explain to me why the long and triple jumps are always shown on American TV from the perspective of the end of the pit, looking back down the runway? What on god's earth are the TV producers thinking? In what way is that helpful to viewers trying to judge the distances being jumped?

                            American TV producers should look at the IAAF feeds for how to do it right: The horizontal jumps are always shown from the side, up against the distance board. (One was available in Eugene, and in feet rather than meters, no less!) And the IAAF always computer-generates a yellow line, a la the football first-down marker, to show where the leading mark is.

                            Seriously, that's a ridiculously simple idea and it utterly boggles my mind that it is never used in the States.
                            "Run fast and keep turning left."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Interesting AP story on the demise of track and field

                              Originally posted by marndar
                              And then another thing that I think would work is if the IAAF put together an online subscription service for people to watch track meets live and follow along on their computer in all the events. Make it video on demand so you choose which events you're watching (a race or a field event). I realize many of the top meets are televised but you're still at the mercy of their coverage. Maybe the NBC Universal will be able to offer this in the future, but the IAAF is going to have to control the various meets.

                              Or does this type of service already exist?
                              There is nothing quite as event-specialized as what you describe, but the coverage on WCSN.com (for Grand Prix meets) and at USATF.org (for Golden League meets) is IAAF-controlled, and they do a pretty damn great job of showing field events in between the running. MUCH better than American television, which all but ignores the field.
                              "Run fast and keep turning left."

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