Michelle Carter, Shot Put Champion, photo by PhotoRun.net
Five thousand people, sitting around the steps of the State Capital in Sacramento, were entertained by the sport of athletics! That is how the first night of the US outdoor champs opened.
As we walked over to the Shot Put competition, I was not sure what I would find. I had seen Shot Put competitions in Europe on the streets, and loved them. My favorite has been Hengelo, where beer gardens surround the shot competition, held in the center of the city.
USA Track & Field put a shot put competition literally, on the steps of the capital so that many who had never seen a track and field event before, were entertained for 90 plus minutes. It was not that Michelle Carter, in her shocking fuschia hair, throw the 8.4 lb/4 kilogram ball through the air over sixty-two feet into the sand. It was not that Michelle Carter, the American record holder, knew that her father, Michael Carter, had thrown 80 feet, 3/4 inch, the longest throw ever by a high school male shot putter, in Sacramento. It was quite simple: people can understand a competition: throw a metal ball as far as you can, and you win, and there are not too many bizarre rules.
The announcing was tried in a humorous vein. It was a good try, but I think someone with a bit more authority and knowledge of the event could have added to the competition. These were sports fans. They like to see Olympians, they like to see people throwing things and making an effort. Keep it fun, keep it lively, keep it on schedule.
Michelle Carter got her best throw out well into the competition. On the men's side, Joe Kovac, Reese Hoffa, Kurtis Roberts all got the crowd excited. Joe Kovacs' huge throw of 22.03 meters, 72-3 3/4 got everyone excited, and it got Joe excited. Sports fans like genuine delight in performances-there is a lot of that in track and field.
Interviewing Joe Kovacs was fun after his competition. He was enjoying his victory and his personal best. His anecdotes about his coach, the legendary Art Venegas, were to the point, memorable and added to Kovac's story: Penn State grad, who moved to Chula Vista to see how far he could throw.
The truth is, there are lots of stories like this in our sport. But, we do not focus on them. If we want our sport to grow, to get on TV, to gain audience, we have to become better at story telling.
The shot put competition in Sacramento gave the shot put, a fascinating competition for those who understand the event, a chance to pick up new fans. A good friend of mine, Scott Fackert, brought his wife, Sue, and two sons, Max and Brian, to the event. Brian is a swimmer, and he enjoyed the event, with big athletes throwing a metal ball. Max, in seventh grade, is a new convert to the shot put. He was fascinated with the guys throwing 70 plus feet!
I think we converted a few to the shot put in particular, but most importantly, to our sport in general. Athletics is a great sport. It is all about the presentation!
Joe Kovacs, the US shot put champion, photo by PhotoRun.net