When the Millrose Games decided to move the meet out of Madison Square Garden and into the New Balance Center/168th Street Armory for the 2012 meet I was disappointed. I fell in love with running during the 80’s. I remember watching Eamonn Coghlan and Marcus O’Sullivan win just about every Wanamaker Mile there was in front of sold out Madison Square Garden crowds. I remember the seemingly endless meet coverage on the MSG channel. More than anything else I remember imagining how exciting it would be to race at Madison Square Garden. (I was the first HS miler not invited to race in the Millrose HS Mile! Still stings.) Having a meet in the greatest arena there is seemed to legitimize the sport. Due to dwindling attendance at the meet which was due to boring races which was due to incredibly weak fields which was due to no one caring about Millrose anymore which was due to no one caring about Indoor Track anymore the meet finally left the increasingly barren MSG. I was pissed. I was frustrated. I was mostly sad. It seemed like yet another capitulation by our sport.
The meet organizers decided to move Millrose to the Armory. Even though the Armory has one of the fastest tracks in the world I kept saying it won’t be the same if it’s not at MSG. I was right. But not in the way I thought.
After attending Millrose each of the last 5 years (3 at MSG and 2 at the Armory)I have to admit that the quality of the meet has improved dramatically since the move. The fan experience has improved each year it has been at the Armory as well. Year two at the armory had the ushers being more polite, the athletes were treated better, the food offerings were improved, and Coogan’s is still nearby.
And the organizers have added some nice bells and whistles. There is a great raffle that the organizers are having to benefit the Armory Prep College Fund. I was fully prepared to see some really weak offerings for the potential raffle winners. Instead, I saw 8 awesome prizes. You could win a burger and beer with Nick Symmonds at Coogan’s after the meet or a brunch with the Chairmen of the Boards Eamonn Coghlan or even an entire Millrose weekend with hotel and tickets included. It may seem silly that I am dedicating part of a post to a raffle. It’s not silly. The people at Millrose are trying to make their meet better on and off the track. That deserves recognition.
Let’s talk about the track part. Bernard Lagat, Nick Willis and Evan Jager in the (rarely run) 2000m, Nick Symmonds, Duane Soloman, Robby Andrews, and Eric Sowinski in the (rarely run) 1000m, young studettes Mary Cain and Ajee Wilson will battle in the 800m and the greatest athlete on Earth, Ashton Eaton, will be competing in two events, the 60m Hurdles and the pole vault. The Millrose Games will be a family affair for Ashton as his wife just happens to be the World Championship Heptathlon Silver Medalist, Brianne Thiessen. Mrs. Eaton will be competing in two events, the long jump and hurdles. Add to this already great meet the classic Wanamaker Mile and the HS relays and mile races. Really, what you have is what we have always asked for: a well run, compact, and exciting Track & Field meet…with beers.
What will we as Track & Field Fans do with this? If history is any indicator we will collectively yawn and then make sure we bitch about having to pay money to experience it. Any money at all to watch the meet online or in person is too much for us cheap bastards. Hell, $30 is too much for a raffle ticket, isn’t it? We want Track to be more slick and more exciting and more popular and less expensive – as if it could get any cheaper. We’ll pay $100 so we can run a 13.1 miles with other people on a road but we’ll protest $100 for ticket to one of the premier Indoor meets in the World. Hypocritical? Apathetic? Naive? Pessimistic? All of the above? Worse?
If the Millrose Games can turn around a dying meet maybe we can turnaround a dying fanbase. If you are from the tri-state area then try to attend. Buy some tickets. It’s worth it. If you can’t attend the meet then make sure you watch it on ESPN or online. Throw some cash at the raffle. Visit the sponsors at the bottom of the NYRR Millrose Games homepage. Make sure you READ and SHARE the articles you see about the meet. Talk about the Millrose Games. Do something because they are doing something. And that is what we wanted.
What happens when we get what we want?
See you at Millrose.