Track and Field: "Turf Wars" Good For The Sport

Red ShannonFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2010

Lately I've noticed a subtle, yet steady escalation of good, old-fashioned "homerism" in my daily Track and Field readings.

Whenever an American track meet of national (or international) scope comes around, like ants on honey, the banter begins as to which venue is best.

Randal Tyson or Gilliam. Icahn Stadium or Franklin Field.

Indianapolis or Sacramento. Eugene or Des Moines.

I've even engaged in the fray myself.

Things reached a new level mid-week as Ken Goe's deft volley was answered by Lance Bergeson's swift return.

And then, a neutral judgement by "referee" Elliot Denman.

I must say, even with the excitement of the recent NCAA and USA Championships and Saturday's Prefontaine Classic on the horizon, these turf wars really got my juices flowing.

They demonstrate that someone cares, and that a competitive spirit is still alive in our sport at the foundational level.

As writers, we joust with our words, but our cyber-skirmishes are only small battles in a larger war. At stake in the grander scheme are the potential rewards of prosperity and pride as our communities vie for the privilege of hosting the big meets.

And let's face it—in this era when American Track and Field is struggling to find itself—the big meets are awarded to the proven venues. Experimentation is a luxury the decision-makers cannot afford at this point.

The lesser facilities are left to play catch-up.

A truth exists in almost every aspect of life: Competition breeds excellence.

And excellence sells.

Theoretically, the higher standard pulls everyone else up. As facilities and organization improves, the meets become more fan-friendly, the turnstyles spin, the purses increase, the quality of athletes and competition is elevated, and the whole community benefits and becomes more involved. And then, the process perpetuates itself.

Eventually, instead of just a handful of worthy sites, a network of world-class venues emerges across the country.

Sounds like a far-off dream doesn't it?

Maybe it's just the "offseason," with no global championships to occupy our attention which causes us to retreat to our territorial loyalties.

Perhaps it's the residual flow of springtime testosterone levels.

Naw, it's just the competitive spirit; the very essence of sport.

And sometimes, that's all it takes to make a dream come true.