“RIGHT ON THE FINISHLINE,” I suspect that most of you would respond in answer to my lead-in question. And for what most fans want to get out of a meet, that’s clearly the right choice.
Only on rare occasions, however, would I agree with that option, particularly if one compounds it with what I consider that spot’s shortcomings by sitting as close to the oval as possible. Still, I realize that most fans prefer that up-close-and-personal vantage point too.
That I disagree doesn’t surprise me. As I last discussed in my column of February ’07, I’m a contrarian when it comes to finding the best vantage point at most sporting events.
Football? As far as I’m concerned, the worst place you can sit is on the fabled 50-yard line. Similarly, center court/ice is overrated in basketball/hockey.
I think those coveted “middle of the action” seats guarantee only two things at the team games:
•You’ll get a close-up view of plays that mean absolutely nothing.
•You’ll have a bad angle/distant view for the great majority of the plays that do mean something.
Depending on what you want out of track, the finishline can also give you bad angles and distant views of what means something, although the analogy with the team games is flawed in that the final result of any race isn’t decided until the players in the drama actually cross the line for the last time.
Make that officially decided. Many — even most? — races are decided somewhere else: in the starting blocks, coming into the stretch, down the backstraight. So if the strategy and moves are important to you, then being right at the finish probably isn’t your best choice.
On the other hand, one thing that ringside seats do give you — in all sports — is a massive jolt of adrenaline. The closer you are to the action — if you can hear the heavy breathing, see individual drops of sweat and contorted faces — the better you can live vicariously through the participants.
So I don’t think the track fan who prefers to sit there is remotely off base. But at this point I’m playing a bit of a word game with you. Sit on the finish if you’re a “track” fan to the great preference over — or exclusion of — field. You know, the athletes who jump and throw.
Down low and/or on the finish line really compromises your appreciation of most field events.
So if you’re a track and field (or field and track) person, my take is that you need to get higher up and do something I wouldn’t do in the same stadium for another sport — sit on the 50 (gasp!).
I think some of the best locations I’ve ever had for spectating a meet were the vantage points I sampled at various Olympic Games and World Championships. Those were on or near the front row of the second deck, in the middle of the homestretch. There wasn’t a significant bit of action that you didn’t get a decent view of. Most meets don’t have second decks, of course, but if they do, you should try it out.
Another locale that’s greatly underrated, even in a smaller stadium, is the 1500 start. That puts you right across from the finish line, so you can still have a parallax-free angle, with the added bonus of having a far better angle for watching the homestretch battles. In an era where the media and/or VIPs gobble up virtually all the finishline seats, that’s a terrific backup.
Just don’t tell anybody else; when I get there I want to be sure I can find a great seat too! ◻︎