January 2010

CORDNER NELSON (see p. 35 for his obituary) produced much of the best writing ever seen in the pages of T&FN—or in any other track source, come to think of it. Through the years, we were so enamoured of one of his best pieces, dealing with the various kinds of fans that can be found in the sport, that we ran it multiple times. Cordner divided fandom into 7 distinct types:

 

•Collectors Of Statistics (the numbers can be more important than the meet);

•Competition Lovers (fast times don't matter; head‑to‑head competition reigns);

•Prognosticators (picking winners ahead of the meet provides the rush);

•Scouts (who can be first on the block to tab an unknown as a superstar‑to‑be?);

•Technique Specialists (enjoying the nuts & bolts of how it's really done);

•Special Collectors (one who travels all over the country to see some specialized barrier, like every sub‑4:00 mile).

•Enthusiasts (the broad‑based fan, who samples some/all the other categories).

 

In summation, Cordner said, "If I had to be only one of these 7 types, I would choose to be an Enthusiast. To them, everything else is a bonus."

 

I last talked about Cordner's categories in this space in December of '06, and at that time I identified what I considered category No. 8, and that's the Contributors. Those who spend a lot of their own time and money making sure the sport keeps running at the competitive level even if it co‑opts much of their ability to actually watch meets.

 

Personally, I've always been a Statistics Collector kind of guy, lately leaning towards morphing into a Contributor.

 

The rise of the Internet and its omnipresent chat‑rooms has caused me to realize that there's yet another category of follower of the sport. It's one of the most important there is, but it's small, and on its way to becoming an endangered species.

 

Who are these hard‑to‑find people?

 

They're those rare birds who like the sprints as much as the distances, the jumps as much as the throws, the men as much as the women, and the preps, collegians and pros pretty much the same.

 

In short, while I don't have a catchy title for them ("Real Fans" seems a bit too precious), they're pretty much the people who read T&FN. I don't claim for a minute that we have a monopoly on these catholic‑in‑taste‑fans, as there are certainly those who don't like our thrust, find us too expensive, whatever. But I am surprised in reading our message boards‑and those on other sites‑to find out how tightly focused most people's appreciation for the sport is.

 

I hasten to clarify that that's in no way a putdown; just an analysis of the way it really is. Some people only care about left‑handed Armenian hammer throwers born on Tuesdays. The good news is that the Internet finally gives them a place to go; the bad is that finding their niche online only makes actually going to meets‑with all those other boring‑to‑them events‑something of little interest to them.

 

Anybody have any great ideas on how to solve that nasty little problem?