SPORTS

Track and field can put sports in perspective | Andy Baskin

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Call it the confessions of a sportswriter. Until four years ago, for me, track and field was a way for football players to stay in shape and punishment for other sports. The go-to line for any coach I played for growing up was to make my team run if we did something wrong.

I may have already lost many of you because I am writing about track and field. I would have walked out the door with you just a few years ago. I’ll also let you know that I do have skin in the game because our son competes in track and field events.

This is not about my family. This is about watching and rethinking the definition of success through athletics. We are so trained to believe that winning is everything. This sport is different. Winning doesn’t mean getting first place.

At no time have I ever felt the joy of success by coming in fourth place. Yet, if your time sends you to regionals or states, you can share in the euphoria.

Success in sports is often defined by beating another team. Here it can also be defined by beating yourself. It’s winning at your own expense.

We often say the adults destroy the game, no matter what game, for the kids. The beauty of this sport is that a time or a distance is hard to argue. A coach trying to set a lineup can do so by looking at a number. It’s not a gut feeling or a matter of politics. It’s harder for the adults to mess this up.

The variables in other sports I see from parents in the stands that trash coaches and referees are hard to find. One time at a seventh-grade long jump, my fire was lit. I watched an official measure the jump from the wrong spot. It wasn’t a striped official, it was a teacher. Before the blood started to boil, another teacher walked over to the other and corrected the issue. The issue was solved before colorful language could be transmitted from my brain to my mouth.

Yes, the sport can have some conflict. Sitting at the state meet, which was held May 30 to June 1 in Dayton, it was hard to see some field events because they would not allow fans to stand along the fence. If that was the biggest issue then bravo to the staff.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association state track meet returns to Columbus next year following construction at the Jesse Owens Track and Field Stadium.

Gender equity is not an issue either. The boys’ and girls’ events run side by side. I have never once thought gender creates special treatment.

Looking at the Catlin Clark mess in the WNBA right now makes you wonder if that league can understand success. They have a player bringing positive attention and money to the game and the hate from some veterans is a horrific look.

It’s also not about gender. It’s about being an athlete. Glancing through the OHSAA program, the competitors for seated events are the same as those that are lucky enough to not need two wheels.

While the state has champions based on three levels, it doesn’t matter if you pay to go to high school with a check or through your taxes. The events all have the same space and the best in the state doesn’t care about a school’s address.

The balance between an individual sport and being a part of a team is in play here, too. You can have the best of both worlds.

I am lucky enough to compare sports for a living. We rarely notice when players shake hands before a game. It happens all the time before tip-off in basketball. When was the last time you thought about it? I’ve watched kids compete week after week against the same schools and athletes. I guess I just notice it more in track and field because it happens all the time no matter what team you are on, sportsmanship lives here.

Track and field is not what I thought it was. A stopwatch and or a tape measure defines success. It’s tough to argue with them.

If you reached this point in my column, it might be the most time you thought about a sport that runs around the outside of a football field.

I know I see things differently than I did before. Maybe you will too.


If you have a suggestion for a column idea for Andy Baskin, send him an email at columnists@cjn.org. He can be heard on “Baskin & Phelps” weekdays on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland at audacy.com.




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