It snowed. Looking outside now it seems like blizzard would be the best description of what transpired these last 12 hours. It’s absolutely stunning out there. It’s also cold out there. In here it’s warm, pleasant really. In here, the fireplace is a roaring inferno courtesy of a Duraflame log. Excessively descriptive, I know. But the last thing I want to do is give anyone the wrong impression. We may meet someday and with me writing about saving this and saving that I don’t want you expecting a guy who chops his own wood. What disappointment you would feel. No, better that you know I buy it by the case. And I struggle, mightily, when I lug the box of enhanced logs to my car through the Acme parking lot.
This snow has many of us in the Northeast trapped. Driving right now would not be smart. Running on the roads is out of the question. If you have a bike or a treadmill you best be putting it to use. And after that? You can only drink so much hot chocolate. I already binge watched every episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix. I could watch that Oregon Project post race workout on Flotrack again. Nah. How about we help save running? Help save it a little bit? Will ya?
Was that an echo or a roar of affirmation? Since this seems to be entirely up to me I will go with the latter. Sounds like you’re all in. Great. You need to be. We need to be.
Where to start? Anywhere, really. There are so many different ways we can help save and strengthen the sport. Which is good as well as depressing. Luckily I have thought this through and as a result I am prepared to narrow it down. I’ll just spin my Track & Field Circle (should be an oval) of Those in Need of Help and we’ll see where it stops….
It landed on the Running Mouths. They are the writers, the broadcasters and the bloggers. We (running fans) have some truly exceptional journalists on television, in print and online covering Track & Field. The first thing we can do is aknowledge who they are. Ato Boldon, Steve Cram, Tim Hutchings, Toni Reavis, and Steve Ovett are outstanding television commentators. They handle the flow of a race and the color needed to not only keep the viewer interested but also educated. More importantly the schooling these broadcasters give is not an elementary education. Most Track & Field broadcasters believe they have to explain running to an audience of meatheads. Newsflash! Meatheads are not watching the broadcast! We wish they were but they are not. We’ve made it too boring for them to watch. And even if they did watch they would not like being talked down to. If only the meatheads could listen to a meet with the right commentators. Boldon, Cram, Hutchings, Reavis and Ovett understand that the competition will do the majority of the work for them. They are there to add insight, commentary and maybe some expert opinion on the direction we should be taking this race. Each race has and is a story. The best commentators introduce the characters, set the stage, and then act as the narrator. These five get it.
Tim Layden and Dick Patrick, Curtis Anderson and Chris Lear are some great print journalists. They write about the sport for people who want to read about the sport. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But try to read an article about a race, any race at any level – high school to Olympic – written by someone who does not get it. It’s torture. It turns people away. It further delegitimizes a sport that comes across increasingly as illegitimate. With Layden, Patrick, Anderson and Lear the sport gets the respect it deserves when their ink hits the page.
How do you save Track & Field with this information? Contact these guys. I gave you the websites or Twitter handles for most of them. Tell them that you appreciate what they do. Better yet, follow them. Read their articles. Buy their books. See when they are commentating. Watch. Listen. Read. Enjoy. Just don’t stop there.
Make sure you let NBC, NBC Universal, BBC, ESPN, ABC that these are the ones you want to see back again and again telling the story. Let’s make that as easy as possible. Here are a few big hitters for you to start with.
NBC Universal Sports, which was formerly known as World Championship Sports Network (WCSN), shows many of the elite European Track & Field meets. They have the following on their website:
Have suggestions, feedback or comments about the Network? Contact our Universal Sports Customer Support Line at 1-818-593-3978 and your call will be directed to the appropriate department.
Call. Thank them for showing Track & Field. Tell them you want MORE Track & Field and Running. Tell them you want the best commentators. Tell them. It’s one phone call. It matters. Everything matters.
While you are at it you might as well contact ESPN and tell them you want more Track & Field on ESPN 1,2,3, all of them, as well as more coverage in their magazine.
Sports Illustrated was once a magazine that actually covered sports and not just basketball, baseball and football. You could count on a couple of covers every year that had a Track & Field athlete on it. No more. Let them know that you want our sport back in the magazine! Write the editor of Sports Illustrated a letter, a long one or a short one. Just write one.
You can use this email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Was that so hard? No, I didn’t think so.
Now, imagine that you passed this along to two running friends. Then they each passed it to two more. Then those four passed it to two each. Then those eight passed it along to two each. All we would need is for that next group to pass it along to two friends each and NBC Universal Sports, ESPN and Sports Illustrated would each get over 120 messages TODAY asking politely for more and higher quality Track & Field, Cross Country, and Road Racing coverage! Steve Cram, Ato Boldon, Tim Hutchings and Toni Reavis would also gain 120 new followers on Twitter as well as 120 new readers of their blogs and articles.
What if we kept sending this info out? If 40,000 can commit to training for and then completing 26.2 miles through the streets of NYC and 500,000 teenagers can take to the line each year to race the mile I have to believe we have enough kindred spirits out there to rattle some cages.
Do you have a local newspaper? Do they cover Track & Field? Probably not. Write them. Enlist your friends to write as well. Do you read any of the Track & Field or running blogs out there? You should. Check out these two to start:
The snow will melt. The Duraflame Logs will exhaust their 180 minutes of flammable biomass. By then, we can do a little bit to help support, save really, Track & Field. I’ll throw other ways to help at you, don’t worry. There are websites and companies, athletes and stores, magazines and photographers that you, I, we can help. In doing so we will be saving and strengthening our sport. For now, though, we can focus on this one specific area. It may not be much but it’s something and on a day like today it sure beats shoveling.