This summer has been one of the best summers on record for track and field on television in North America. Combine that with WCSN.com, the Iaaf’s radio and video clips, and if you have not seen a great track meet on TV this summer, then you are just plain, blind!
This summer has been a gravy train for track and field on television. The problem is, that there is so much, that it has been hard to keep track of it. First, the elite US outdoor season was on ESPN2, CBS and NBC this past spring. Most of the meets were pretty well done, with the Pre Classic being the best of the season.
My little gem this summer though, has been Versus, formerly the Outdoor Life Network, that has been running the IAAF series Golden League this past summer. Using the Eurosport broadcasts, and the able commentary of Peter Matthews and Tim Hutchings, these meets are one hour broadcasts, competition only, with the sparsests of commentary.
The best commentary of all season was the Gaz de France 1,500 meters, followed by the screw ups in the Gaz de France steeplechase, which was cut one lap short. The commentators were incensed, and told us so, and the program, with informed commentary by people who care about the sport, was the better for it.
Versus has done a superb job in finding sports that are of a more global nature to promote their programming. From the Tour de france, to Golden League to hunting shows, Versus has established itself as the non ESPN. And it is working. Ratings are up, TV commercials are up, Versus is on the right track, and track and field is part of their success!
The viewer sees nearly all of the distance races, plus there is a running clock to show the times and splits. The commentary, by Hutchings especially, is well done and informed, and gives the track fan, and would be track fan a chance to see the best the sport has to offer-competition.
The sad thing is that we in the states are seeing much more than most of Europe. In many countries in Europe, IAAF meetings are only seen on pay TV, and not everybody has cable as they do in the states. This is hurting track in one of its true core areas-Europe.
The indoor series, outdoor series, NCAAs and World Champs this summer, plus the Golden League, gave US track fans something to cheer about. With the performances of the US team in Osaka, with 26 medals, if there is a time to promote the best sports team in the U.S. it surely is 2007, and for once, TV has helped us tell the story!
For more information on athletics:http://www.american-trackandfield.com
For more information on the Iaaf: http://www.iaaf.org
For more information on USATF: http://www.usatf.org
Digital issue of ATF: http://www.flipseekllc.com/ATFguide.html