Here at P2E, we have a lot of ideas on how to grow and improve our sport. Some of them are no-brainers (e.g., gambling, eliminating the 200m) that we often preach about on the pod. Others are of the “half-baked” variety. These tend to be a little more outside the box and/or not quite fully developed. That’s not to say they are not the impetus of monumental change. It’s just that we haven’t given them proper attention to address potential holes.
During this time of quarantine, I’ve listened to a bunch of our old episodes in search of these half-baked ideas (thank you 2x speed; no Steve, I am not a psychopath). I’ve decided to grade some of my favorites based on potential improvement and/or growth to the sport of distance running. A couple don’t have much of a runway, some require major adjustments, and others are a slight tinker away from catapulting distance running into the premier sport of our generation. Let’s begin.
Hosting a Race at Halftime of a Football Game (Episode 9) A-
This idea comes from our first guest and P2E favorite, Morgan McDonald. If we are having trouble getting fans to track meets, why not bring the track meet to the fans? Let’s take one of the college football stadiums that also have a track and race a mile during halftime of a big game. It’s a quick enough race to fit in one heat of each gender and it’s a distance that non-track fans understand and can appreciate. I’d also keep the field limited to college runners attending schools in the same conference of the home football team. The patrons may never have heard of any of the athletes, but because of the school logo on the runners’ singlets, we’ll have tens of thousands of drunk fans with a rooting interest for or against each runner. The atmosphere would be electric and could maybe convince a few people that drinking and cheering while watching sports is fun to do at all types of sporting events, even a track and field meet.
Collegiate Runner Draft (Episode 23) D+
I can’t even call this one half-baked, as the oven is still pre-heating. But I think there is potential here.
A couple months after collegiate outdoor track nationals, a “draft” is held where the professional teams “draft” athletes. It’s a three-to-five round event where teams “pick” runners. Now I’m not planning on getting rid of the free market and binding runners to random teams. I just want to create more hype and more buzz about where a runner signs post-collegiately. As such, the selecting team will only draft runners that they have already made secret informal agreements to sign. An annual event would make the selection of the pro team a bigger deal (e.g., NFL draft is a bigger deal than a drawn out NFL free agency). The end goal of this is to create more team loyalty among track fans as they switch their allegiance from a school to the team their favorite college runner just signed with.
Going for a Long Run should Let you Skip the Line at the DMV (Episode 23) B
Michael laid out this concept to reduce the congestion in DMV waiting rooms while encouraging Americans to be healthier. The premise is simple: After checking in at the DMV, if you leave to go for a long run, you get bumped to the front of the line upon your return. Initially, I decided to include this preposterous proposal in this post so that I could make fun of Mike. Unfortunately, I’ve realized that this is kind of genius. People would start running – which is good; people would spend less time waiting in line – also good.
Turn a Horse Track into a Running Track (Episode 24) A+
I didn’t want to write about gambling since we discuss it on every P2E episode, but I simply couldn’t resist. Picture a bustling horse track on race day: Miller Lites being poured, money exchanging hands, cheers of total elation, and wailing cries after the loss of a life savings. It’s a beautiful scene. Riley Masters wants you to take this spectacle but replace the horses with humans. We’re talking heat after heat of half miles, miles, and 5ks run by real life human beings. The patrons will analyze the weekly mileage, previous race performances, height/weigh etc., all of which is available on a standard betting card. They’ll watch the runners warmup to see how snappy their legs look and place their wager. It’s just like horse or greyhound racing but without PETA protesting outside. What’s more is that you don’t even need the fastest runners as most fans won’t care how fast winning times are. This creates more income opportunities for the financially starved lower-tier professional runners.
Make XC Nationals Better (Episode 37) – B; B+; A+/C
The ideas were flowing in Episode 37. Some were so solid that I don’t even know if they could be considered half-baked.
The only way to get a casual sports fan interested in team scoring at a cross county race is to have a scoreboard that can tell them what the hell is going on. At D1 nationals last year, the team scoring was updated every 2k. That’s simply not good enough. I’m no scientist, but there must be a way for scoring to be updated more frequently than every 2k. Can’t we have sensors on the bibs that calculate how far away they are from the golf cart leading the pack? And then some fancy calculator can translate those distances into real-time scoring? If real-time scoring is too much to ask for, we need scoring at least every quarter mile.
Why are we starting the races during the middle of the day? What other sport holds their championship during the middle of a Saturday? Push the start times into the evening and give people a chance to schedule this into their day.
Who thought it was a good idea to race 5ks and 8ks all year only to change the distance of the course for regionals and nationals? That sounds like it could have been a P2E half-baked idea that got a hard F when we took two minutes to think about it. Runners know that the 2k difference for the men and the 1k difference for the women absolutely matters. I don’t care if its 5ks and 8ks or 6ks and 10k, but just pick one……… On the other hand (transition from fully formed idea to quarter-baked idea), we could throw out the standardized distances all together. It’d be badass if each course could be anywhere from 2.5 miles to 10 miles. It would also make roster depth crucial as teams would need both shorter distance and longer distance specialists.
Loosen Sponsorship Rules and Give Athletes More Opportunities to Make More Money (Episode 39) A
We talked to Coach Mackey of the Brooks Beasts about how to get more money to the athletes. I may not be smart enough to articulate what specific rules need to be changed, but I know there are too many restrictions on an athlete’s ability to become represented by a multitude of sponsors. For a sport in which so many professionals are making such little money, runners’ singlets should look like NASCAR rides.
Increased Penalties for Doping (Episode 51) – B; A
Quick lesson on punishment theory from my days studying criminology: People break a rule when the punishment for getting caught ( x ) the chance of getting caught < the benefit gained for breaking the rule. With doping, I’m not sure how you increase the chance an athlete gets caught. Cheaters always seem to be ahead of the testers. But you can increase the punishment for getting caught. Two ideas from Steve:
1) Increase bans from 4 to 5 years, especially in the year leading up to the Olympics. Imagine the Olympic Trials are 12 months away and you doubt you can make the team. Why not pump a little extra oxygen into your blood? If you get caught cheating, you miss out on the Olympics. If you don’t cheat, you miss out on the Olympics. If you bump up the punishment to 5 years and create the potential for an athlete to miss multiple Olympics, you may scare off some Russians (and other athletes) from cheating.
2) This is another quarter-baked idea, but I love it. Steve suggested that after you get caught doping once, you are on probation from collecting prize money. Any prize money you earn gets put into a bank account that cannot be touched for 10 years. If you don’t get popped in that 10-year period, you get to collect your money. If you do test positive, say goodbye to all cash accumulated in the account. That money can instead be dished out to the athletes who missed out on their paydays due to the cheater cheater pumpkin eater.
And that concludes round 1 of the P2E half-baked idea scorecard (the cutting room floor has enough material for a round 2 and a round 3). Now it’s up to the USATF and IAAF (or whatever it is called) to bring in the P2E Think Tank to develop these babies into big winners.