THIS COLUMN IS SUPPOSED TO GIVE YOU some “secrets” for enhancing your meet-going experience, but if you’re reading Track & Field News you’ve obviously already achieved nirvana, so what’s possibly left to tell you? (Insert smiley face here.)
Seriously, even though most of us do think of track & field as an entertainment as good as it gets, why not consider ways to make it even better?
Here, in no particular order, are 10 ways — some perhaps obvious, some off the wall — to increase your enjoyment of the sport (much of this material appeared in my column of July ’02):
1. Don’t sit close to the track
Sitting down close, even at the finish line, is — just like center court or the 50-yard line — way overrated. If you really want to watch races develop, or follow the field events, sit high up.
Even consider sitting on the backstretch, near the 1500 start. That’s an amazing vantage point, drawing the cognoscenti. You get a perspective that allows you to watch the drama play out all the way up the homestretch.
2. Think of the sport as field & track
Unskilled announcers and poor visual aids make this a tough one, but if you can, learn to enjoy the ebb and flow of the jumps and throws. How? Chart the event yourself, if the data is available.
3. Bring a non-fan to a meet
Not only will you have the chance to create new followers, you can also boost your ego by being expert-for-a-day. Cultivate your kids/grandkids, if you’re of an age. But be sure to choose the meet wisely and be prepared to leave early no matter the age of your guest. It doesn’t take all that long for many meets to take on a “is it over yet?” persona.
4. Join or create a fantasy league
“Owning” athletes is a real kick in the pants (and sometimes in the head).
5. Volunteer to work a meet
The sport gives lots to you; give something back, even if it’s just raking the pit. Better yet, think about becoming an official, a commodity we’re woefully short on in most places.
6. Combine going to meets with tourism
No matter where you live, or how little time you have, there are always things worth stopping to see on your way there and/or back.
7. Take in both ends of the sport’s spectrum
If you like high school track, with all its purity, camaraderie and unfettered emotion, step all the way up to an NCAA or USATF Championships. Be blown away by the athletic talent those at the top end exhibit.
Conversely, if you’re jaded by years on the DL Circuit, go and watch an elementary-school field day. The sight of those uncoordinated little critters giving their all will bring tears to your eyes.
8. Forget you’re a T&FN reader when you watch track on TV.
This is not a slam at the tube folks, because they really do try hard. But they’re pitching the sport at a wide demographic, one that’s not remotely track savvy. Be thankful for what you get and revel in the fact that you understand the sport better than 99.99% of the populace.
9. Go out to dinner with other fans after a meet
If you enjoyed the meet the first time round, you’ll enjoy it even more when you rehash a race, or fight over what strategy might have helped Runner A beat Runner B. Do debates: did Devon Allen really deserve his false-start DQ at the World Championships?
10. Keep subscribing to T&FN
This last is obviously a bit self-serving, and comes from a biased source. But I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe that we continue to bring joy to all those who follow us. ◻︎