It’s time to pay some respect to track and field

Track and field is one of the most underrated sports taking place this spring. (Contributed)

Track and field is one of the most under appreciated sports taking place this spring. (Contributed)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

Track is, by nature, tough to appreciate. I get that. People watch basketball or football and the athletic brilliance is just easier to understand. It’s more relatable. Anytime we see LeBron or Russell Westbrook or Anthony Davis or some other alien freak athlete jump up and grab a 10-foot rim with their teeth, we can look up from our couches and stare at our ceilings and respect that awe-inspiring display of ability because we know there’s not a chance we could ever do that ourselves.

Watching people run around an oval? Not the same effect.

Allow me to break down exactly why track and field is so hard to appreciate, and then I’ll tell you why you should.

Reason one. No one understands how fast anyone is running. Outside of people who follow track or ran track, no one gets how fast anyone actually is. What does a 1:55 800 mean to a passerby? Probably nothing. It’s fast, sure, but how fast? It’s impossible to truly appreciate the sport until you try it, and few people have.

Reason two. Track is inundated with numbers. In every other sport, there are only two numbers that matter and they’re located on the scoreboard. Not so in track. Looking at a score sheet for a track meet can be a daunting task to the untrained eye.

Reason three. People care more about team sports than individual ones. High school track lives in the same nebulous world as high school tennis where the distinction between individual and team sports is blurred. Family members and friends care about individual performances, but casual fans want to watch a team compete and succeed as opposed to individuals.

Trust me, I get all this. When I tell people I love watching track meets, I’m always met with an eyebrow raise and some variation of one of these three responses. But just listen.

Aside from being the most elegant, natural and the oldest form of athletic competition, it’s the truest. It’s the simplest. Boil track down to its most basic principle. Can I get to from point A to point B faster than you? That’s it. No gimmicks, no plays. Line up and see who’s faster. There’s a beauty in that simplicity that you can’t find anywhere else.

Forget about the numbers, forget about the teams, forget about everything and just focus on the faces. Look at the face of a runner as they come down the homestretch of 400-meter dash, or a mile, or a two-mile and you will see the same thing. Exhaustion coupled with determination. Don’t take my word for it though, go see for yourself.