Last week, I went to a baseball game (Mariners, DUH, because I root root root for the home team). I don’t even like baseball, and I still paid $7 to sit in the nosebleeds and cheer. As I sat eating my hotdog and getting the scoop on the latest baseball gossip from my baseball guru friend, Karl, I was thinking about why baseball is so successful and why track is so “boring.”
I came up with a few ideas.
1. Baseball is a team sport. It is a lot easier to get behind a team than it is a player. Year after year, star players come and go, but the team doesn’t change. As an I-only-go-for-the-hotdogs fan, keeping up with star players sounds like a lot like work. But I can always have my team: The Mariners. And I can root for them with knowing almost nothing about baseball.
2. EVERYONE played baseball. It’s the thing to do. Go play catch with your dad in the front yard to get ready for the Saturday game. At the game parents would obnoxiously cheer from the sidelines (side note: dad did less “cheering” and more “PHE! Quit picking the flowers in outfield!” He was also shirtless). And then afterwards you’d grill out at the local park and reminisce about that time you hit a line drive straight out of the park to secure your team as the 8-9 year olds Division II Town Champions.
3. Food is involved. I don’t know about you, but when I hear baseball, I think Food. Not just any food, but the best food: Hotdogs, Ice cream, Pretzels, Peanuts, and Beer.
4. Singing is encouraged. That Peanuts and Cracker Jacks song, Hey batter batter batter SWING, and general heckling of the batter. Everyone likes cheering.
5. Jumbo Tron. Everyone’s life goal is to take a selfie of themselves taking a selfie on the jumbo tron. This goal cannot be achieved without said jumbo tron. I squeal with excitement just thinking about me being out there for the rest of the Mariner’s fans to see.
6. Gimicks. There is no downtime in baseball, just time for weird games with the audience. Spinny bat races are always a crowd pleaser. And everyone goes gaga for a free T-shirt, regardless of the size or aesthetics.
7. Baseball Caps. This marketing ploy is brilliant. It’s simple, useful, classy, and says: I’m-a-for-real-fan-because-I-spent-money-on-apparel. Plus you can collect them if you don’t show monogamous loyalty to one team.
How do we apply this to track? Track is more constant entertainment than baseball. Horseracing and Nascar are wildly popular. It is not the fundamentals of the sport, is the sporting event itself that is the real problem.
1. Make teams. Elite track and field should have teams. These teams should have a home stadium where half of their meets are held. This team should have a color and mascot that doesn’t change. Simple is better for the non-runner-nerd fans. We are starting to see teams forming with the Nike Oregon Project, The Bowerman Athletic Club, and The Brooks Beasts—these teams just need some hype and identity.
2. Everyone runs track. But it doesn’t have that nostalgia feeling because youth track meets are a nightmare. I love track, but I would rather pull out my hair than sit through a 6 hour disorganized shit show of 1000 heats of the 100m. Make youth track the enjoyable thing families do on Saturdays.
3. Get food involved. Everyone loves an excuse to eat food and drink beer. Just like hotdogs and baseball are a happy marriage, track needs a hand held food to claim. And, no, a Kale chicken wrap, does not cut it.
4. We need track cheers! Like the “Whoop! Whoop!” but more of them.
5. Jumbo Tron. There should be a jumbo tron in every major stadium, and fans should be on it. Plus I’ve heard kissing-cams are excellent relationship starters.
6. Gimicks. Winners should give out T-shirts. Why isn’t there a MPH radar detector on the track? And the crowd should be allowed to try to run top speed past the radar detector, so they can test their skills against the pros. And a Granny shot put toss—where you have to throw a shot put granny style--sounds fun.
7. Apparel. Accessories seem to be more successful, but hats and scarves are taken. We may have to settle for singlets.
8. Road Races. With increasing participation in road races, we should capitalize on this. Every meet should start with a general public road race. Winners of each age group (plus friends) get to cheer from the infield.
Lastly, like all sporting events, it should only last at most 2 hours. It should not be amateur hour out there.
I just want everyone to love track like I do.