Monday, July 18, 2011

My 2 Spikes Worth: What does the US Women's Soccer run mean for Track?

Here today, gone tomorrow?
As a former soccer player and a fan of Team USA, I loved the run the women went on that ended a few PK's short of a World Cup title. I equally enjoyed the Men's run in 2010. Most Americans enjoy soccer during the World Cup as well. The question always turns to, what will this mean for soccer in the US beyond the World Cup? The same thing seems to happen with Track and Field around the Olympics. People get excited about certain people and certain stories. In Beijing, it was certainly Usain Bolt, his world records and his lightning bolt pose. In Atlanta, it was Michael Johnson, his unbelievable 200 and of course, his golden shoes. Will there be a moment where Track takes over Twitter like the US Women's Soccer team did yesterday during the 2012 London Olympics? More importantly, will it matter if they do beyond that moment?

There is a lot of chatter about whether or not Track matters anymore to the public and "what can we do to make Track more popular to the average person." I don't particularly think Track will ever catch on in the public spectrum and I'm okay with it.

Do you remember me?
First off, when track was popular, there weren't as many options. ABC's Wide World of Sports showed Track all the time and was almost required viewing. Now we have over 1000 channels. The NHL had to shut down for over a year to fix itself (and it has an entire country behind it). The NBA looks like it's about to take a long vacation as well.

Now while I am okay with track's current status, my only worry is the question of : Is Track sustainable in it's current state? I sure hope so. I was pretty bummed when Dick Patrick was let go from USA Today. But I was pretty happy when NBC won the bid for the Olympics through 2020. Why you ask? Well, that pretty much ensures that Universal Sports (an NBC imprint) will be around until then. Universal Sports shows the Diamond League, which is essentially the Premier League for Track. In some shape or form, NBC also owns Versus, home of the Tour de France, which in my opinion, is the best endurance event on television.

Also, there are people outside of the mainstream that are keeping Track poplular amongst it's current fanbase. One can hardly imagine a world without the "World Famous Message Boards" of I can't say enough about what I think Flotrack and Runnerspace have done for the sport. I can only imagine the hours that people like Ryan Fenton and Ian Terpin have put in to cover high school to professional running. There are a few professional journalists out there, including Ken Goe and Doug Binder, that do an excellent job of covering the sport. Then there are plenty of cottage industry types, like Jesse Squire (the Track & Field Superfan), that have other jobs and cover the sport because they love it. As long as there are people like this, Track will survive.

The Men's Marathon will close the London Olympics
When I was in Eugene covering the Prefontaine Classic this year, I met a bunch of high schoolers on a road trip. They had driven from Minnesota to Coos Bay to Eugene, and were heading to Portland after Pre for a nighttime 5k road race. That reminded me that Cross Country is the one of the most popular high school sports in America. The potential cult fan base will always be there. If you are a coach, show your team the Prefontaine movies, show them Chris Solinsky's 26:59 on Flotrack, have a showing at school for the Boston Marathon and tell them about the Diamond League (the professional track circuit). The USATF may be a mess, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to sit around and wait for Track to be shown in Prime Time again. Enjoy the sport and spread your passion and Track will be just fine where it is. And the Olympic year bump will be just gravy!

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  1. Thanks for the RunnerSpace comment!

  2. No prob, keep up the great work bringing the sport to the fans!