>Recently Mary Wittenberg, head of the New York Road Runners Club, wrote a guest column at Universal Sports in which she talks about track’s “Big Tent”, comparing the phrase’s political meaning of “gathering and embracing many different points of view and constituencies under one umbrella to pursue shared goals”to track’s fragmentation along many events and disciplines.
Today Dr. Norbert Sander, head of New York’s Armory Track & Field Center, seconded that thought. He also indicated there’s more than one way to look at the “Big Tent” idea:
We should try to bring these three groupings: high school, college, professional, on occasion, under one competitive roof. Show high schoolers what collegians are doing and show the pros what the collegians are accomplishing. One could make the argument that the interest of the public began to wane when we began paying athletes to compete. Likewise, as in the case of the Millrose Games when collegians began to leave Madison Square Garden the number of spectators dropped markedly.
He’s absolutely right, of course. Those times we bring all levels of the sport together are the springtime relay carnivals, and they are wildly popular. What passes as poor attendance at Penn, Drake, Texas, Mt SAC, or Florida would be cause for great celebration at almost any other meet. As popular as the Ducks are in Eugene, none of their home meets drew more than the multi-level Oregon Relays. I also think the USA’s once-great indoor circuit began to dry up when deep fields of collegians were no longer available.
It’s hard to sell people on diversity, but in so many ways it is our strength. The same can be said for the USA.