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August 27, 2013

For U.S. sports fans, track barely registers anymore

What we call track and field is referred to as “athletics” in the Olympics and other international competitions. The governing body is the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), with headquarters since 1993 in the scenic tax haven of Monaco.

The IAAF officially started to hold the World Championships for track and field in 1983. It was a quadrennial event through 1991, and then became a biennial event in 1993.

The 14th IAAF World Championships concluded a nine-day run in Moscow on Sunday. And as an American sports fan, here’s the question:

Did you notice?

We can still run across essays on the declines of boxing and horse racing as major passions for American sports fans.

Boxing might have been No. 2 behind baseball in the 1950s and a heavyweight title fight still could get America’s juices going into the ‘70s. Attention for horse racing is now basically restricted to the Triple Crown.

Football, and specifically the NFL, now dominates thoroughly the public’s interest. Basketball is a distant No. 2, with baseball holding on for dear life at No. 3.

Certainly, America’s sporting zeal changes through the decades, but it’s amazing for a high school graduate of 1963 and a certified sports nut of that era to see what has happened to track and field as a point of interest in this country.

That was a time when the Summer Olympics were little more than an excuse to hold the world’s greatest track meet. Now, television devotes much more of its main-channel focus to swimmers and gymnasts.

That’s because the Yanks win more and look really good in their suits in swimming, and those 15-year-old girls are so dang cute as they risk heartbreak on the balance beam.

Here’s all you need to know about the United States’ level of enthusiasm for track and field:

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