Can we do anything else to alienate sports fans from the sport of track and field? The high school governing body in Florida is certainly trying, as they will become the first state to record and report measurements in the field events, using the metric system. Coaches in Ohio are considering the same.
Several decades ago, many signs on public highways gave the distance to destinations using kilometers. It was never accepted by drivers, and thus the effort was abandoned. Why would the powers to be feel that they could help our sport by adopting this method of measurement in the United States?
Imagine the response by the sports world if the following occurred: The quarterback is on the 4.57 meter line with two minutes left in the game. He completes an 18. 29 meter (20 yard) pass to his favorite wide receiver and moves the ball to the 23 meter line. Successful passing has been the key to this team, because the usually accurate field goal kicker has missed attempts from 18.29, 13.71, and 15.24 meters. In addition to this, the number one running back has been held to 68.58 (75 yards) meters after being injured on the 2.435 meter line early in the game. How long would there be interest in the sport if this ridiculous scenario were true? In addition to the form of measurement that was used, the football coaches have decided not to keep score or if they do, they will save their best players, by not allowing them to participate in the game.
As track coaches, we need to help our sport grow, not come up with ways to distance ourselves from our fans. We know that using the metric system in the running events did nothing to make them more relevant. The American sports fan knows that if may be three miles to the post office or that a football field is 100 yards long. Five kilometers (3 miles, 188 yards, 2.4 inches) or 100 meters (109 yards, 1 foot, 1 inch) means nothing and is confusing. The same holds true for track events such as the 1500 meters; therefore, when comparing this distance to the mile, one needs to add 17-22 seconds to figure the time. That is according to my track and field calculator, a slide rule device, manufactured by Metrac-Quick Enterprises, in 1976.
The decline of interest in our sport by the media and the public can be attributed to many things, including the implementation of the metric system. The next time that you attend a meet, remember the following
1) If electronic timing is being used, the 100 meter time is 10.76; however, if hand time is done, this 10.76 is rounded up to 10.8.
2) An allowable wind measurement for record purposes is 1.9 metrically or 4.25 mph.
3) A 12 lb. shot weighs approximately 5.44 kilograms.
4) The high jumper who clears 1.83 meters jumped 6 feet.
5) To understand how fast a sprinter would run the length of football field (100 yards), subtract .85 seconds from their 100 meter time. If an athlete runs 15:32.4 in the 5,000 meters, they have just completed three miles in approximately 15:00.
6) If you attend a collegiate meet, in most circumstances, there will be no score kept, and many of the top athletes may not compete, saving themselves for the “big one.”
I don’t know about you, but without my Metrac-Quick Enterprise-produced track and field calculator, I am lost. Even with it, I am mentally worn out trying to remember all the rules and conversions. Add sitting 6-7 hours watching a meet, with no score being kept and star athletes not running, and you have lost hundreds of fans who started out being interested in our sport. Please don’t let this happen on the high school level.
Maybe I will just forget this once-simple sport that has been made so complicated, and walk across the street to watch a baseball game or another sport that is much easier to follow and understand.
Unfortunately, many former track fans have already made that decision.
Yours in track,
Read more Rod O'Donnell article on RUNOHIO - www.runohio.com
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