As not seen on TV
Big Apple clout might bring attention to men's Olympic marathon trials
Posted: Friday February 13, 2004 12:56PM; Updated: Friday February 13, 2004 1:03PM
By most standards last week's men's Olympic marathon trials in Birmingham was a show worthy of prime time -- or at least a couple hours on a sports cable network. But it wasn't shown on live TV and, as far as we can tell, even on tape delay. Shame on USA Track and Field officials for failing to properly sell their goods.
If you know anything about the sport, the trials were entertaining. You had a course looping tightly through downtown streets, a howling wind, snow flurries at the finish and the pre-race favorites -- Alan Culpepper, Meb Keflezighi and Dan Browne, all relative marathon novices bringing with them 10,000-meter speed -- surging over the closing miles to finish 1-2-3. So why did this event get so little publicity? And what's the answer for a sport that makes headlines only at the Olympics or when a drug scandal erupts? The message from New York Road Runners officials, who attended the event and who oversee the New York Marathon, was to bring the trials -- the men's or women's -- to the Big Apple before the 2008 Olympics.
It makes sense to stage a race in New York, especially if the city is picked to host the 2012 Summer Games. That remains a long shot (the IOC will announce its decision next year) and Road Runner officials aren't pinning their offer on whether New York lands the Olympics. "There are several scenarios that could work, from holding the trials races as part of the 2007 ING New York City Marathon, as a separate race the day before on Marathon weekend or even putting on the trials in the early spring of 2008,'' said NYRR president and CEO Allan Steinfeld.
New York officials were impressed with the fan-friendly criterium course in Birmingham, and may consider that set-up for an Olympic trials race. There's nothing wrong with breaking tradition -- the Boston Marathon administrators deserve kudos for announcing a separate start for the elite women in their race in April. "We feel very strongly that we could be the best choice for many reasons, from spectators to TV, to the athletes,'' said NYRR spokesman Richard Finn. "This has nothing to do with Birmingham. They put on a great race. They had great results. [But] New York is a logical place to hold this kind of event. We [have] an advantage over everybody because there is so much media here. It is just part of our strategy to elevate our sport to the front pages of newspapers and bring it to the public."
It might be wise to let the New York Road Runners officials take up the charge. The Big Apple exposure certainly wouldn't hurt.
Mike Fish is a senior writer for SI.com.