Archive for Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Opinion: Something for everyone

April 24, 2007

When I was a child, there were only three sports that people seemed to care about -- baseball, basketball and football.

The "Big Three" they were called, and only they were able to elicit the kind of passion and pandemonium we see throughout the sports world today.

There's no doubt that a big reason for the trio's standing in society came from the exposure the three sports received.

Baseball was still widely accepted as America's favorite national pastime, football was in the infant stages of the Monday Night Football craze and basketball was benefiting from future pillars like March Madness and the glory days of the NBA, starring such greats as Magic, Michael and Larry.

It made sense. We didn't need more.

As the years have gone by, things have changed in a big way. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue that those three remain at the top of the list. But they have company now.

Soccer and hockey have huge national followings. One-time recreational sports, tennis and golf, now find their venues filled with fans and draw large television audiences year round. Even sports famous for their cult followings, such as beach volleyball, auto racing and even lacrosse have became major players in the widening world of sports.

For my money, track and field is the best of the rest.

Before I began my career as a sports writer, my experiences with sports outside of the big three were limited. I had played golf and tennis, become a die-hard hockey fan and even dabbled with some soccer and volleyball. But throughout my days as a high school and college journalist, I was lucky enough to cover my favorites -- the big three.

Today, I'm just as happy to cover a track meet, as I am a basketball tournament or a football game. It wasn't until recently that I discovered why.

Track has it all. The sprints and hurdles are as exciting as the final few minutes of a basketball game. The relays and distance races draw on strategy and game planning the way a football coach would draw it up on a chalkboard. And the field events are every bit as entertaining -- in both drama and length -- as a nine-inning baseball game.

I guess that's what appeals to me the most. At one moment, you can be standing in the infield watching a group of runners dash 100 yards in 11 seconds and be mystified. Minutes later, you can be on the opposite side of the field watching someone heave a javelin 150 feet and be just as impressed.

In addition to entertaining those who attend the meets, it's that kind of variety for the athletes who participate that makes track and field so enjoyable.

Maybe the kid who stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 235 pounds can't run as fast as the 5-9 sprinters or jump as high as the hurdlers and high jumpers. But that doesn't matter. There's a place for him on the track team.

There always will be.

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