September 9, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Quick run up to someone at the shopping center and ask them to name three current track stars.
That’s what we thought.
Rich Pereleman for UniversalSports.com ran an incredible story about fixing track and field. Which is interesting because track is struggling to maintain against stiff competition from Mixed Material Arts, Extreme Games, and another other form of entertainment for that matter.
“Track & field, even in the Olympic year, is simply irrelevant as a spectator sport in the United States. The “regular season” for elite U.S. track & field athletes, in the United States, is an unremarkable series of three invitational meets called the “Visa Championship Series.” In 2008, this included the May 18 adidas Track Classic in Carson, California (attendance about 2,000); the May 31 Reebok Grand Prix in New York (sell-out of 6,490) and the high-quality Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon (a legit attraction that sold out at 14,221). That’s it: three meets. The last meet in the “series” was the Olympic Trials from June 27-July 6.”
The downward trend of the sport in the U.S. can tied to doping and lack of a leadership in the sport.
There is a laundry list of things that track and field must-do to improve, but becoming relevant again has to be at the top of the list.
By that I mean the sport must woven into the social fabric as it once was in this country. Gone are the days prior to 2001; my how we long for the brilliance of Carl Lewis; the incredible domination by Michael Johnson; the unpredictable antics of Maurice Greene.
Before the Olympic Trials most of the country would have been hard pressed to name fastest U.S. athlete for the past year: Tyson Gay.
Track meets have to be running in the U.S. during the summer months in order to make any ground. Many of the current track athletes lack the proper exposure. The fact is that the Adidas Classic, Prefontaine, and the Reebook GP have absolutely no media buzz.
Under new CEO Doug Logan the sport’s governing body has taken to social marketing, and that is certainly a start.
Every professional sport except track works at winning over the current and future generations. There is an opportunity with the Beijing Olympics, progress made with the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon and the star power of Usain Bolt to build momentum for the sport in this country.
Every four years we have this same conversation. Do you think this year will be any different?
By Jay Hicks.
August 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Lolo Jones was two hurdles away from Olympic gold.
-Beijing-Midway through the race Jones opened up daylight between she and the rest of the competitors. The question seemed to be who would take silver and bronze.
Then disaster hit.
Then Jones clipped the hurdle with her lead foot and instantly went from first to seventh place–a change your life kind of moment. In the semi-finals, Jones established her role as the elite of the field - rolling out at 12.43 - the third fastest time in Olympic history.
Dawn Harper of the U.S. won the gold medal in 12.54 seconds, Australia’s Sally McLellan landed silver (12.64) and Canada’s Priscilla Lopes-Schliep scooped up bronze (also 12.64).
It seemed to be destiny, but it was not to be. Owning the fastest time in the world and winning in races by wide margins. The story of Jones had the making of a American come back story. She cleared
Daughter of a single mother with three brothers and a sister, at one point lived in the basement of a church. Her father was in and out of jail during her youth. The kid who bounced from family to family. Jones worked minimum jobs to stay in the sport. The story was close to coming full circle for the 25-year-old LSU graduate.
“You hit a hurdle about twice a year where it affects your race,” said Jones. “But it’s kind of like a car. When you race in a car and you’re going max velocity and you hit a curve, you either maintain control or you crash and burn and today I crashed and burned.”
“When I crossed the line, it was very hard to pick myself back up,” she said. “Today’s hard.” Tomorrow’s going to be harder.”
It was a heartbreaking race and a reminder of how difficult the sport can be. Lolo is a champion with or without a medal and after this latest disappointment she will keep moving on.
By Jay Hicks.
August 7, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Are you ready for some the Olympics? Or, more importantly are you ready for some Olympic performances? As I mentioned last week, the uniforms reveal a great deal about countries and how they want to be seen by the world.
Tomorrow is the Opening Ceremonies, which marks the beginning of the world’s largest spectacle. So we took a moment to give a preview some of the team uniforms. It should be noted that the Olympic rules state that a country can not wear the same uniforms to two consecutive uniforms. Depending on the uniforms that rule may actually do some countries a favor.
Which nation do you think has the most fashionable uniforms at the games?
The Beijing Olympics are about to kick off, but some Canadians are predicting one medal loss for our team: Best Formal Team Uniform. Reaction to their look and the fact they are manufactured in China has not gone over well with citizens.
July 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Give a track fan an out of this world track experience, and he’ll be starved for more—more action, more entertainment, and more star-studded competition on the track.
Fans wanted more from the sport, and there is a great deal to celebrate after the U.S. Olympic Trials. The atmosphere in Eugene was magical, mystical. There were some sick performances and incredible athletes over the eight-day meet.
The emergence of Eugene as the leading track venue and city couldn’t be better timing. Eugene certainly lived up to the billing of “Tracktown USA” while hosting the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. The sport just helped to dig itself out of a big hole titled ‘irrelevancy’ and back to its rightful place at the center stage of the Olympic Games
The American consumer craves a spectacle. The sport is notorious for hosting track meets in medal bleachers that are less than half full. Not this time around.
The military jets that flew over the stadium during the National Anthem on the first day of competition really set the tone for a high caliber affair.
The $8 million renovation to Hayward Field looked the part as a professional venue for a professional sport and played host to some 167,123 spectators over the ten days of competition. The stadium even included corporate viewing areas.
Fans wanted an elaborate event, and the Eugene ’08 organizers delivered the Eugene Festival that included live music, booths, food, and the competition on jumbo screens for those without tickets.
Where does the sport go from here?
Not wanting to sound the least bit cynical, how does the sport get on live television? Eugene is no where close to hosting fan meets in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago?
It is not enough to have a bastion of the sport that resides in Eugene. A lot of people left Atlanta in 1996 after the Olympics thinking the sport had turned a corner, only to realize at the beginning of 1997 that the sport actually was scheduled to have less meets that year, rather than more.
Vin Lananna, University of Oregon’s director of track and field, is not leaving anything to chance or USA Track and Field. “I think the leadership of USA Track & Field and the USOC need to get serious about looking at the sport as a professional sport, and one that is a spectator friendly event. Create schedules that make it exciting,” said Lananna at a press conference last Sunday.
The sport must relentlessly sell itself to grow from a marginalized sport to where every meet is on live television. Lananna said he envisions an annual summer circuit of three West Coast meets starting next year. His preferred rotation: Eugene-Portland-Eugene.
U.S. Olympic track coach Bubba Thorton said, “Many Americans think of track and field as a summer sport, yet there are not any professional competitions in the United States. There are other competitions in the spring, or meets that include all-age competition, but there isn’t any pro competition.”
Some of the nation’s best track and field athletes might return to Hayward Field this month for an Olympic tune-up, kicking off what could become a summer circuit of meets in subsequent years, officials said Sunday.
Vin Lananna, University of Oregon’s director of track and field, said he is working on bringing a national-caliber meet back to Hayward on July 27. “It won’t be a great, big monstrosity, but we’ll have a couple events,” Lananna said. “We’ll try it out. But when we do it (in 2009), we’re going to blow it out.”
Bill Roe, USA Track & Field’s president and acting chief executive, said he supported the summer circuit concept. If Vin’s interest was to have one here, we would definitely put one here,” Roe said of Hayward. “I don’t see it as being any detriment to having nationals here. I see it as more opportunities we have to put our athletes in front of these fans. Obviously, our athletes respond in front of these fans.”
There seems to be some forward momentum from the 2008 Olympic Trials. Cynicism says to wait and see how things progress with the sport because we have heard this before. It is evident after the 2008 Olympic Trials the casual sports fan is secretly cheering for the sport to return to its rightful place at the top of the
By Jay Hicks.
July 14, 2008 by · 2 Comments
It’s all a matter of perspective, but gracing the cover of Spikes magazine has the opposite affect of the “Madden Cover Curse.” Whether you think it’s a silly urban legend or an undeniable truth, the Madden Cover Curse has become an entrenched part of football lore.
Yelena Isinbayeva was featured on the first copy of the edgy new British track and field magazine, officially launched June 3, 2008.
On Friday, Yelena upped her own World Record in the pole vault to 16 feet, 6 inches and again comes into Beijing as the favorite. Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb could only be so lucky. Yelena got a bounce from appearing on the cover, and hopefully, the sport will also.
The IAAF, in partnership with UK Athletics, launched a major drive to promote athletics globally with a new cutting edge magazine and interactive global website - SPIKES.
Is Spikes magazine the new hero of the sport? Without a doubt, it is a witty and humorous new jaunt.
Spikes magazine and Spikesmag.com couldn’t come at a better time. They will help promote the sport at a time when there is a great deal of competition for young people’s attention. The organization’s mission is to bring the world of track and field to life and help put it back where it belongs: on top of the world.
By Jay Hicks.