Happy Track Season! It’s an Olympic year, and the excitment has begun. It took me a minute to get excited, but I’m over the moon now! It was this years, women’s 100mh race at Kansas Relays that brought me out of my “when is track season going to start” funk. Again, a bit late, but better late than never! That inspiration came from 2004 OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST (she deserves all caps), Joanna Hayes. I had the chance to see her race in person back at the Millrose Games in 2008, and was so excited to see one of my favorite track and field athletes in action. Of course, by now we all know she’s blazing a trail back to Olympic glory! After knee surgery, giving birth, and 3 years off the track Joanna Hayes is making her colleagues take notice. If that doesn’t make a track fan excited, I’m not sure what will! But again, it’s an Olympic year and it feels like deja vu all over again!
In my very first blog post on WTS I listed the Top 10 things about average track fan, highlighting what the average track fan does not know about our beloved sport. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen more than one blog posting this year mentioning the fact that the average track fan only knows of track and field during an Olympic year! Here we go again! It’s a shame that our biggest stars, Allyson Felix, Tyson Gay, Vivian Cheruiyot, Meb Keflezighi, Adam Nelson, Silas Kiplagat, and of course Usain Bolt (see, I didn’t just name all US athletes!) are mainly recognized in their sport every 4 years. The irony is how much track and field thrives on a local level. In my area, there are numerous youth track teams, that compete on national and international levels. I personally hope that we’ll see Tyson Gay’s Gillette commercial even after the Olympics are over. Ok, maybe I want to see it for more reasons that he’s a track star, but I digress.
But here’s the thing: we can’t just sit back and call ourselves sports fans and not acknowledge the most popular of all Olympic sports in the off-years. American men, women and children sit in front of the television nearly every Saturday and Sunday (and a few nights during the week) to shout, beg, scream, cry and jubilate over their favorite teams and athletes. It’s definitely an American pastime. There we sit, resplendent in our favorite team’s jersey, with a bowl of popcorn, a plate of chicken wings and a cold one at the ready. Couch potatoes, former athletes, current athletes, and wannabe athletes (like myself) plan our weekends around the NBA, major league baseball, the PGA, and of course the NFL. How many of us have skipped a church worship service, because our favorite NFL team had a game that would start before the church service was over? Let’s not even get started on those who watch the game on their smart phone while still in church. Lord, help us all! How many of us cheered and tweeted about Tiger Woods’ victory at the Memorial Tournament this past week? Even after his personal disgrace, his fan base still cheers for his comeback. Can we do the same for track and field?
Many of you reading have heard about track star, LaShinda Demus’ comments that someone recently commented to her track and field was a dying sport. I don’t know if it’s dying, but I do believe it is malnurished. Imagine if you only watered a flower you enjoyed every four years? It might survive on rain water and some other nutrients it might glean from surrounding plantlife, but it definitely wouldn’t flourish. Have we forgotten the spectacular victories of Florence Griffith Joyner? Michael Johnson? Jackie Joyner-Kersee? Are the social and political breakthroughs of Jesse Owens and John Carlos lost on this generation? Do we only care about the spirit of the Olympic Games, and not the international family of athletes that make up those Games? I cannot believe that we are so easily distracted that we can only pay attention for the 9.xx seconds it takes for Usain Bolt to run the 100m dash, but we can watch 3 consecutive NFL games on the same Sunday?
Mr. and Ms. Sports Fan, and your little Sports Fan children, with your dog reluctantly wearing that Jerome Bettis jersey you stuff him into, where were you when track and field season began? Did you know it had already begun? Did you know that track and field has an indoor season? When I wrote that first blog on Women Talk Sports back in April 2011, I was nervous that I would sound like the lunatic my friends say I am. But, I posted it anyway, hoping that a few would read it, and find his or her own truth in it. Mostly, I hoped people would read it and say, “yeah, that’s so messed up! I’ll be watching the next track meet! Or better yet, I’ll go out and support the athletes competing in the next meet in my area!” Perhaps wishful thinking, but I dream big. However, since 2012 is actually an Olympic year, and the track and field season has begun, I hope you will read it again, and understand why track and field is such an amazing sport and should be supported, and nurished!