Can Track & Field Compete in the Media?

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Let's face it, we all have egos. We all want to be thought of in a positive manner as much of the time as possible. We also want to be thought of as doing a great job!

Yet, track and field seems to receive more of the bad press on sports than any other sport! Why is that?

The question has both reasonable and unreasonable answers. First, the reasonable answers: writers who cover track & field, love the sport and want to see it succeed. They also are the first to cast stones at the sport, finding parts that need improvement, and comparing the sport to the old days. Much of what they say is understood by the track fan, much of what they write, however, is not understood by the general sports fan.

The truth is, we live in a totally different world than track & field inhabited in the 30s-40s, and then the 50's-60's. Track & Field did not do well against the growth of professional sports, like football, basketball and baseball. A televised track meet is a whole different animal than a televised football game. How to give the TV viewer intimate viewings of a 1,500 meters, how to give the TV viewer the tension that fills the sprint start as sprinters line up, these are some of the questions that a producer and director have to ask themselves. Track & Field can be dynamic, and the stories of athletes, weaved into the comptetition, can make for some compelling Television.

A sport that is not communicated compellingly, a sport that is focussed on self hatred, is sure not going to grab the attention of sponsors. A great track & field meet on TV cost money, and unless that money is there, producers will take short cuts. A sport that focuses on drugs, even though is has done to advance drug testing, and more to catch cheaters than all other professional and Olympic sports combined, needs to say that in its defense.

The focus by many in the media on, " well, there were no records today" has hurt our sport. Track & Field is about competition, pure competition, throwing, jumping, running—that is what people want to see!

At the adidas track classic, Reebok Grand Prix and Nike Prefontaine this year, the crowds and the TV fans were treated to some great competitions, and dazzled by a few American, Chinese and World bests! But the key was the competition, and TV did a nice job in telling the story.

The web is giving track and field something to cheer about. From Flotrack.com to letsrun.com to dyesports.com to runningnetwork.com, a fan or could be fan can find stories on track and field, road running, race walking and ultra running, all to their liking!

The web has added timeliness to print media. Our publications have had to change to take the benefits of websites, however, most has been for the good. Readers check the new news on a daily basis and receive our publications with stories, and features that recommend them finding more on the web. After ten years of archiving, we have a few million pages of archived content. After ten years of web coverage, we have ten years of e-newletters updating our readers on every track meet that they want to read about!

Track & Field has a second chance, and the web will be continuing to evolve. Soon, one will be able to download every race that Jeremy Wariner ran in the season in the 400 meters. If one wants an interview with Wallace Spearmon after a 200 meter race, one will be able to download that from a podcast soon.

And sponsors? Sponsors go where they can find an intelligent, interested populace that buys things. If they see numbers improve, on the web, on TV, in print, for interest in track and field, they will spend money.

1 Comment | Leave a comment

I really couldn't have said it better.Our sport does have a segment of self hate and a destructive perimeter that is getting in the way of the pure and beautiful sport it is.

We track and field enthusiast love "All" track and field from our youth competitions to our Master's Meets.We understand what it takes at all levels to compete. It takes the same thing, hard work and an individual willingness to show up for every race ,every meet and most important every practice.

The general population may need"sexy,and compelling to get the big sign-on for Track and Field.But for those of us that just want an opportunty to view a good meet ,this summer we enjoyed the USATF JO's on line via web cast as well as the AAU JO's. It was exciting , engaging and best of all great meets to watch the future achievers of a great sport. Track is a great sport and the future of spectatorship is in part via the internet.

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