PERHAPS OUR MOST FAMOUS (or was it infamous?) cover ever was May of ’91, which featured a starkly empty LA Coliseum and asked the question, “What If They Gave A Track Meet And Nobody Came?” Twenty years down the road, the potential for an even scarier headline is there: “What If They Didn’t Give Any Track Meets?”
Oh, I don’t mean high school or college meets—those continue to roll along, as do big meets in other countries.
I’m talking about that incredibly endangered species, the U.S. meet for athletes of international caliber.
Do you realize that the month of May has come and gone, and on none of the four Fridays or Saturdays in the month was there a meet that would have stirred the souls of the ticket-buying public? But the lack of options for fans is only a small part of the problem. Athletes are also getting short shrift. A poster who goes by “West Coast Tiger” had this to say on our message board recently:
“While the elite fields for Pre are a great feast for the American track fan—as are no doubt similar fields a week later in NYC—we have a major downside to this for American track athletes.
“With more spots going to international athletes that leaves far fewer lanes or entry spots for other U.S. athletes. This particularly hurts pros getting ready for the Nationals with no domestic meets to run in. With the death of the Home Depot meet, Modesto, and others, we have a developmental issue that needs addressing.
“Too much of our domestic schedule is tied too close to the collegiate system and once they enter Conference and National meets it eliminates competitive opportunities for too many. Sure, some can go to meets outside the U.S. but many of these meets cap the number of Americans they want in the fields so it realistically only serves a couple dozen or so US athletes who mostly would prefer to be at home training and racing close by leading up to Nationals.”
If this doesn’t sound like the kind of problem that USATF’s Project 30 should be addressing, I don’t know what does. The pumping up of Penn with the USA vs. The World relays is fabulous, and I’d like to see more meets enhanced that way. Trouble is, where do you even start in the crucial month of May? What meets are there to enhance, what with the NCAA now locking collegiate competition into a pretty rigid schedule, and people taking off weeks before the Conference and Regional weekends?
With USATF apparently kissing off Millrose (see p. 47), allow me to suggest that Indy needs to talk to prime sponsor Visa and simply forget trying to stage any kind of “series” indoors and toss all those resources into the important side of the sport, and generate significant outdoor opportunities.
There was a pleasant surprise in late May with USATF’s High-Performance meet at Oxy (see p. 26). We need more of those (like Tucson’s Elite Throws meet the same weekend), but why was Oxy such a well-kept secret? Not only was there a lack of buzz leading up to this meet, it was positively in stealth mode. Early in the week we were sent a set of the entry lists, but told that it was “absolutely not for publication.”
Please don’t make us print a cover asking why there are no meets.