Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Don't stop the music, Katy Perry, Sleepless in Seattle, and Kentucky Fried Chicken...

With everything going on since returning from Daegu, including the start of the collegiate cross country season, writing recaps for both Northwest Runner and Track & Field News, work-related issues, the end of the international track season, and a pulled back muscle that resulted in two trips to the doctor, I never really had an opportunity to close out the world championships.

Well, here it is (finally)…

PLEASE DON'T STOP THE MUSIC…

During dead periods between races at the world championships at Daegu Stadium, music was played over the public address system, along with video highlights, the better to keep fans entertained and occupied, hard to do, especially during the morning sessions, which were primarily stacked with kids bussed in (left/photo by Paul Merca) from the local schools so as not to make the stadium look empty.

Even then, especially during the lunch hour, when the heat and humidity were at its highest point, many of the kids attending the morning sessions were found in the stadium concourses playing cards or games with their cell phones instead of watching heats of the 200 meters, except when Usain Bolt was on the track.

For the most part, the folks in Daegu did what they could between events to keep fans in the meet, using many of the things those who go to professional sports events around the world take for granted, including video shots of random fans, kissing couples, babies, and the ever present animation of Sarbi (left/courtesy Daegu 2011 organizing committee), the rasta dog and official mascot, demonstrating his technical prowess in each of the track and field events.

This made me think about the last few seasons announcing indoor track meets at the University of Washington's Dempsey Indoor facility, where I've heard grumbling, particularly from some officials, that the music played at the Dempsey makes their jobs more difficult.

Taking their cues from meets around the world, where music is part of the experience of attending a meet and realizing that Husky indoor meets are just as much an entertainment option for folks wanting something to do on a winter Saturday afternoon, the UW coaching staff got proactive and made the decision to make music a part of the fan experience.

One argument that always gets overlooked is that the fans--yes, the ones who actually drive hours to the Dempsey from Oregon, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, and even Nevada and California--actually liked being entertained.

The hard-core track and field fans will always be there, no matter what. They're the ones who have their conversion books handy, and are surfing the 'net with their smartphones looking for results and talking smack on the message boards.

It seems the marginal fans are the ones who get the short end of the stick. They're the ones who have to endure umpteen heats of the 3000 meter run, countless 60 meter dashes, and endless 400 meter races, not to mention they can't eat inside the facility, and have to step outside the building if they want to enjoy their own sack lunches (that is, if they brought something; otherwise, it's a hike to upper campus, the intramural building, or to University Village).

If certain track & field officials had their way, there would be no music between races, making the Dempsey a library between events.

I get that there's very little room for everyone at the meets. I get that an official might get distracted at the music when they're watching a 35-pound weight or a 16-pound shot fly in their direction, or that an athlete can't hear the official give instructions at the line. I get that in certain areas of the Dempsey, fans are literally an arm's length away from athletes trying to warm up for their events. Although the argument is flawed, I also understand to a point by the officials that the meets are for the athletes.

When the Dempsey was originally built a decade ago, track & field was almost an afterthought, except for some out of the box thinking by the family who donated money to build the facility, overriding the wishes of the former athletic director. Track and field fans were not given much thought at all.

Most of the spectators are very tolerant and understandable, not to mention grateful to the University of Washington that there's a world class facility that they can go to in the winter months to watch many of the country's best track and field athletes.

The athletes love having music playing at the Dempsey. I've had several non-competing athletes from the University of Washington say that they enjoy playing DJ at the meets when they're not running.

But kill the music and take away part of the atmosphere? Forget it!

That's the fastest way to alienate a fan base in a sport, which as Ken Goe of the Oregonian wrote back in June, "is (a sport) run by participants, for participants. It exists in a bubble of self-absorption, even while wondering what happened to the fans."

If we don't allow the fans to be part of the track & field experience, sooner (and not later), there will be no fans coming to meets.

MUSICAL THOUGHTS FROM DAEGU…

To those of you who follow the blog and myself via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, yes, I do set aside some time to read your posts on my timeline. It is appreciated, and helps give me an idea about what the readership is thinking.

Two songs regularly played over the public address system between events made me laugh out loud (or LOL in internet jargon): Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night", and LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem".



In both cases, it made me think of Facebook/Twitter posts by followers of the blog.

Seattle Seahawks/Sounders FC team photographer Rod Mar posted about having to explain this line from the song to his daughter:

"Last Friday night
We went streaking in the park
Skinny dipping in the dark
Then had a menage a trois"

I also had a flashback to a post written by a Washington State University athlete, who simply wrote, "Kitty Purry" in her comment about attending the Katy Perry concert in Seattle in July.

Several times during the meet, particularly when athletes were marched out on the track for their events, "Party Rock Anthem" was played in the background.

The only thought I had while LMFAO played was, "I'll bet any amount of money that (hammer thrower) Britney Henry would get pumped up to throw right now!", after she tweeted about how she reacts whenever the song gets played.

OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM DAEGU…

Did you know that there's a chain of coffee shops in Daegu called "Sleepless in Seattle"?

I saw at least two of those, and in fact spent an entire morning (the penultimate day, while the men's 50k walk was happening three miles away) having my usual grande mocha with whipped cream and a pastry, while editing and posting the recap of the University of Washington's cross country race against Seattle University, watching the Oakland Raiders/Seattle Seahawks preseason game live online (thanks to a Facebook follower for sending me the link to watch the game for free!), and generally avoiding the walk at all costs.

Two of the more entertaining tweets during the walk came from Ashley Ryan, who is a traffic personality on several Seattle radio stations, wondering why no one in Seattle has ever bothered to open a coffee shop using that name, to which I replied, "Probably licensing issues".

Universal Sports' Joe Battaglia, who was sorely missed in Daegu by numerous folks covering the world championships, tweeted during the men's 50k walk, "(Sergey) Bakulin leads this racewalk by over 2 minutes. He has time to have coffee with @paulmerca70601 at Sleepless in Seattle and still win"

Battaglia also came up with several other witty remarks while covering the race walk remotely from New Jersey, most of which are available by following him on Twitter.

In keeping with themes from the 206, there was also a bar just two blocks from my hotel called the Seattle Cocktail Bar, conveniently located near that bastion of Korean cuisine that was a source of late night dinners after evenings at the track, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Given the food choices at Daegu Stadium that Karen Rosen wrote about here, Kentucky Fried Chicken was a good option. Besides, it was open 24 hours.

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