|Dr.J. on Running||
PreviewPublished March 4, 2002 in The Syracuse Post-Standard.
By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
"We are indeed a part of a new millennium," proclaimed Walter Eaton during the opening ceremonies of the 2000 New York Public High Schools Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) indoor track and field championships. Eaton, the assistant director of NYSPHSAA, was celebrating the successful Internet broadcasts in near-TV quality video of the two consecutive championships.
Although the live webcast of the 1999 championship ushered a new era in sports broadcasting, the road for Internet sports broadcasting and the relationship between track and the media remained rocky at best. As most of the Internet companies that sprouted during the dot com boom withered away, traditional media coverage of track and field took another plunge into uncharted depths.
Last weekend, the 168th Street Armory in upper Manhattan hosted the USATF National Indoor Track and Field Championship. Ten runners from the Syracuse Chargers Track Club competed for national honors. By the end of the meet, the Chargers had placed third in the men's distance medley relay behind the Nike Farm team and the New York Athletic Club, second in the women's distance medley relay behind the Westchester Track Club, Lubert Lewis finished fourth in the 800-meters in 1:48.14, and Mike Platt ran the masters mile in 4:31.
Needless to say, television did not show any part of the meet live. One network set-up a number of oversized, overpriced, cameras to film the event and condense it into a one-hour tape-delayed show that aired a day later on cable. This attitude continued the NBC Olympic tradition that considered track and field competition too sophisticated for its up-close-and-personal audience.
Next Saturday, Eaton and the State meet return to the Carrier Dome. Television cameras will pay a token visit to grab flashy footage for the evening news. The Internet will be there for the fourth consecutive year to broadcast live video coverage of every lap of every race to a world-wide audience.
However, the struggle does not end with a symbolic victory of the new medium over the old one. That same weekend, two additional track meets threaten to dilute the coverage of track and field. Both the Nike Invitational in Landover, MD, and the National Scholastic Championship in the Armory in New York compete for the best in the Nation among high school athletes, awarding the winners unsubstantiated titles of "National Champions."
Despite our inability to affect television coverage or influence meet organizers, we can still give young athletes the gift of our presence, to support them in competition and celebrate with them in victory. So, best wishes to Ashley and Lauren, Tracey and Laurel, Dan and David, Kevin and Alex, Dominic and Brian, Lopez and Chris. May the home court advantage bring you gold.
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Syracuse Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.