Thursday, December 17, 2015

On Sports and $

In the span of less than 6 hours I have seen much regarding edurance events, the sporting world in general and the effect of money on it. To be honest I'm not really sure where I am going with this or what points I am trying to make here. Maybe as I go I will figure that out.
Here are the primary things I will discuss moving from local to global.
1. Maggie Valley Moonlight Run Discontinued
2. Bear Wallow Beast Discontinued
3.Beach to Battleship Iron and half Iron Distance races Sold to "Ironman"
4. Jose Mourinho "stepping down" at Chelsea

Locally, two very popular WNC races have been discontinued for 2016. The running community is grumbling of course. The Maggie Valley Moonlight race was a great event with a long history. At one point it had as many as 2200 running in it I believe. Back in the 80's races were far and few between in the area. Over the last 15 years the number of races, running races especially, has grown to the point of absurdity to be honest.  From the standpoint of an event timer, you would think this is a good thing, but in many ways it is not. Charitable Organizations make money from putting on LARGE events that draw lots of people in. The more people who participate the more attractive it is for a sponsor and those sponsors are willing to give more goods services or money to get themselves in front of the participants.  As the size of the event grows it becomes more efficient at generating money, The Promoting organizations see that and start reinvesting to make the event grow larger and larger.  As a race grows everyone in the community takes note and just like in a giant feeding frenzy everyone comes in to take a little bite out of the giant chum ball of money.  Meanwhile race officials have more and more responsibility to the sponsors of the race.  The really big races honestly have as much if not more obligation to the sponsors in terms of time and attention than the actual course logistics. Supporting the massive promotional juggernaut that in turn provides bells and whistles for participants can become a huge job in terms of man hours.  Making a big race bigger and also viable for the people who produce it and the charities it promotes is sometimes a very thin line to walk.  In this new era of all sorts of charities putting on all sorts of races, the market for a runners interest is overly competitive.
This thin line is being looked at harder and harder by charitable organizations who are trying to raise money for their cause. Often, they see that they could simply do something else and get more bang for the buck.
This is nothing new, The Asheville Citizen Times decided to stop the tradition of it's half marathon and 5k. In 2013 they decided to add and promote a full marathon... and in Asheville, lets face it, that is silly. Running 26.2 is hard enough, never mind throwing all of our hills into it. Apparently is was such a poor decision that in 2014 they threw out the perfectly good 5k and half marathon because it was not generating the amount of charitable income it needed to be a viable use of time going forward.
The Bele Chere 5k was of course the victim of the discontinuation of the Bele Chere Festival. One of those silly color runs swooped in to replace a run on that date. Those and "spartan runs" are an entirely different thing that could be discussed at some point... but that is for another post on another day.
    Also in 2013, the residents of the Ramble decided that they did not want the Hoi Polloi running through their lovely gated community and that fine event fell by the wayside as well.
At any rate, each of these large events became in one way or another victims of financially motivated decisions.

 The Bearwallow Beast was my favorite event to time. From it's beginning I happily worked with CMLC to get this event off the ground and time it for them. It was a grueling 5k with an unbelievable mountain top finish complete with a fantastic little party row of tents with food, fine local beverages  and live music by Brushfire Stankgrass. (A fun and talented local band, I highly recommend that you go see them if you can ;-)  )  The Beast never had more than 250 people and that fact rather blew my mind. In my opinion it was the coolest race in Western North Carolina.  It was like my beloved Shut in ridge trail run only far shorter, thus less brutal and there was a legit party on the top of it!!! I mean how can you beat that? Sadly because it did not grow, it simply didn't make sense for them to continue it.  Most events start and end in rather boring places and follow fairly mundane routes.  This one did not, so it is sad to see it go.
  Moving to the region, today an event that I helped to get off the ground did not "go away" but instead was sold to another company.  Back in 2008 I still worked as a franchise of Set Up Events. One of my roles for the company that year was to be my good friend Jeremey Davis's right hand man for the inaugural Beach to Battleship Iron Distance race.  We worked well together and the communities of Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington really got behind us. That first year was an adventure and it was really fun to put out fires on the fly so that the participants had a seamless and great day out on the course.  That race was Jeremey's baby for sure and I was glad to have helped him start it up.  Today it was made public that the event had been sold to the Iron Man Corporation.  Many local triathletes have screamed bloody murder and shouts of "sell out!" have filled cyber space... Once again it's just a financial decision as with all of these other events.  Set up Events grew a partnership with the Wilmington Community to the point that they would allow an amazing event to be produced in the area. The Charities involved want to keep making more money and to do that they brought in the folks that own the name of the event distance to take over production of what was, in my opinion, the best non "IDOT" event in the world. The world wide race series funnels it's winners to the grand-daddy of them all (The IM Kona in Hawaii) which is the world championship of long distance triathlon.  The Average Triathlete actually prefers to race in "IDOT" events because they *think* they have a chance to qualify for Hawaii. In truth, nearly 95% of the people who sign up simply don't have a prayer of earning one of these spots at any given race regardless of how hard they train. BUT the atmosphere around one of these official races is quite a scene. The scene and the sheer size of IDOT races is worth the extra money you pay to do these things I suppose... But it terms of doing them in order to qualify... well IDOT and IDIOT only differ by an I... (tee hee hee i just thought that one up)  Concluding my thoughts on Beach to Battleship, Just like any wildly successful small tech start up business, the big brother company came in and bought up a valuable asset. It's just capitalism. Money at work on money at play.  Don't think for an instant that just because doing endurance events is "cool" and "for charities" that the bottom line is not still fully in play.
  Going out to the global stage. Jose Mourinho was basically Fired today at Chelsea FC. 
 " His three league titles, FA Cup, Community Shield and three League Cup wins over two spells make him the most successful manager in our 110-year history. " 
That is the official statement from the Chelsea organization. To be sure, this season has been
Disastrous for Chelsea but there is just too much money on the roster, and he is being paid too much for this team to be one point away from relegation.  With all these decisions that have been made about things I have just discussed, the phrase "What have you done for me lately?" is obsolete.  The only thing that matters really is, "What are you doing for me right now and what is your plan to do more in the future?"
   This means that races will come and go, things will change, (duh) So what can you as a Runner/Triathlete do? Not much really in the face of much larger concerns such as those just discussed.   All you really can do is figure out what matters to you and support that.  Is "going local" important? Then look at the charity being supported, the company producing it and the folks timing it.  See if that money is staying in the community.  Do you LOVE a race and want it to continue? Hype the thing on social media, get your fellow athletes in on it!  When a race is out there on face book or other social media constantly posting and in effect "bugging you to come play" it is annoying at best, and can sound desperate. But that is what the situation is really, they really need you to come run or the race dies.  A race can hit you over and over again with race updates and things like that but it does little to sway a person. You as an athlete can motivate your friends to participate in a particular event so get out there and spread the word about an event if you want to see it live and grow.
  There have been plenty of examples of big money coming into towns and trying to put on large events that fall flat on their faces because the locals refuse to get behind it. You the participant do actually have a voice especially when you combine yours with others.
 So, that is all for now. Have fun creating your 2016 training plans and race schedules! See you at the races!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the end of year commentary and perspective. I'll see you out there!