Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Slow Death of Track and Field

Track and field has been dying a slow death for the last 40 years.  As shamerturism gave way to professional track and the spike of performance enhancing drugs, the public seemed to lose interest in the sport.  So the latest fix by the sports ruling body seems appear foolish and wrong headed.

The IAAF rebranded itself World Athletics today.  Just yesterday they decided to ax two field events, the discus and triple jump, plus two running events, the 200 and steeplechase from the Diamond League.  It is beyond head scratching.  Consider this, without the 200 meter dash, we may never have seen the likes of Usain Bolt.  That's right, no Bolt.

The Jamaican sprint made his name as a 200 meter runner.  The first time I became aware of him was when he started running stupendous times as a 17-year-old in the 200.  His fame as the world's fastest human wouldn't come for another five years.

Without the steeplechase we wouldn't have had the incredible 2017 magic of Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs turning the world on its head with their dramatic one-two finish at World Championships.  The steeplechase was where the great Jenny Simpson first made her name before turning to the 1,500.  It is one of the most entertaining track races alone simply because of the hazards of the water jump.

World Athletics banished the 5,000 meter this past Diamond League season and 10,000 meter races have gone almost extinct at major track meets around the world.  World Athletics says it is taking its lead from social media.  So let me get this straight, a handful of idiots on Twitter are determining what events are worth watching at major track meets.  Think about this, only 22 percent of Americans even use Twitter and that number mirrors use of the social media platform around the world.

Two of my greatest track and field memories are watching discus thrower Mac Wilkins blasting massive throws at Hayward Field forcing officials to add extra turf to the end of the throwing zone to handle his efforts.  The other was watching Willie Banks imploring the crowd to join him in clapping him down the runway to a massive triple jump.  The athletes need to band together and put a stop to this nonsense.  They have the power if they work together, otherwise their event may be next.

Track and field is at death's door and only its athletes can save it.

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