Running Shorts posed an interesting question in a recent post entitled “How to make running more popular than baseball.”
Do you ever wonder why kids grow up wanting to be Michael Jordan, but not Ryan Hall? Or if distance running will ever be able to match the popularity and advertising budgets of MLB?
The article then goes on to speculate how showcasing events online through new media or making races more spectator-friendly can lead to an upsurge in popularity for running.
Interesting ideas, but they’re based on the flawed assumptions that more popular equals better and that professional athletes who can be idolized by the masses are a necessary ingredient for attracting the masses.
This connection to athletes and spectators is vital in creating a growing and loyal fan base. … “There is an obvious connection between the masses and the professional athletes, some of whom began as mid-packers.”
Bigger Is Not Better
For all the millions and millions of baseball fans out there, how many of them actually play? Maybe they played in little league or scraped up stickball games when they were kids, but I would speculate that the vast majority of adult baseball fans are spectators — and that spectating does nothing to advance the sport.
Sure, it brings in billions of dollars of revenue and gives people something to talk about at work the next day. But it also creates problems like the Barry Bonds steroids scandal.
Is this what we want for running? As it is, running is already plagued with its share of blood doping and other scandals. Fortunately, if you Google “running scandal” you find lots of scandals, but nothing related to running until you get to the bottom of the page. Try the same thing for “baseball scandal” and you get pages and pages of examples of exactly what we don’t want to happen to running.
Do Not spectate, Participate!
The other downside to the media glitz and high profile image of professional sports, like baseball, is that it actually reduces family participation. Kids no longer want to play ball with Dad. Dad isn’t good enough anymore.
They’ll sit on the couch or in a stadium and watch a ballgame with Dad while he drinks a [few] beer[s]. But instead of playing ball as a family in the backyard, Mom and Dad shuttle their kids off to endless T-Ball and Little League games in hopes that they can be good enough to make Varsity in high school, and then play ball in college.
And while Junior has dreams of getting drafted and growing up to be just like Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa, Mom and Dad continue to watch from the sidelines.
I think the beauty of running is that it isn’t spectator-friendly. The only way to enjoy running is to participate! And through participation, we turn an individual endeavor of striving to achieve milestones of new distance records and PR’s into a community event where it’s more about supporting each other than competing against each other.
I don’t expect my kids to grow up being active and fit because they want to be just like Usain Bolt. But I do hope that in time they will emulate my commitment to running and physical fitness because I can set an example for them that may show them how to live happier and healthier lives.
And it is in this way that Running gives each of us the opportunity to be better role models for our kids and our families than Barry Bonds could ever be.