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Author Topic: The World of Swim Meets  (Read 1233 times)

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The EETicket Arachnid

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The World of Swim Meets
« on: January 22, 2011, 12:05:59 AM »
The World of Swim Meets
21 January 2011, 5:07 pm

(News-Herald, January 20) Sometimes love takes you into interesting new places. In my case, it has taken me to swim meets.

Swimming is not one of the bigger spectator sports. If the world of sports were a high school cafeteria, swimming would not be sitting at the table with the popular kids. More likely it would be back in the corner, sitting with just one or two other friends (all of whom packed their own lunch), laughing and carrying on and making fun of what everybody else was wearing.

Swimming as a sport is defiantly viewer-unfriendly. It makes no concessions to the uninitiated; if you want to watch, you really must bring an interpreter. I believe that swim teams could draw bigger crowdsóthey just donít care to.

There is an announcer, perhaps one of the most futile jobs in sports, because the average pool-area PA system works only slightly better than an set of empty coffee cans connected by 100 feet of heavy yarn. It is easier to find recognizable English words in the off-screen teacher voices in Peanuts cartoons. Once interpreted, these announcements turn out to contain only tiny nuggets of info on the order of ďSome people are going to swim a bunch for a while.Ē I have no doubt announcements in clear English with some actual informational content would help newbies settle in.

And settling in is the operative concept. Iím used to the habit of grabbing some food after a sporting event, but I have learned that itís wise to eat before a swim meet. Thatís because swim meets last anywhere between two and 147 hours.

Part of this is just a general lack of urgency. During actual races swimmers move like lightning, but between events the arena could be mistaken for relaxed open pool time at any Y, where some folks are just hanging out. This is what football would be like if coaches could call time outs for as long as they felt like.

And thereís diving, a sport that is unaccountably sandwiched into swim meets. There is nothing comparable in the sports world. It would be like pausing a football game between quarters for the golf teams to play eight holes. Because, after all, both sports are played on dirt and grass.

I hate to ostracize divers further, but they need their own separate event, on their own separate day.

Other issues are harder to address. For instance, telling the swimmers apart in the pool. Hard-core fans will tell you that they can identify Nathan swimming even though he is mostly under water wearing a scrap of cloth that you couldnít write his zip code on. But these fans have been watching him swim since he was three years old and have memorized the pattern of freckles on his shoulder blade. The newbie fanís best hope would be the swimmerís name tattooed across his or her back. This may be too much to ask.

There are lots of subtleties to study. Before the meet even starts, everyone knows who is actually fastest. Swimmers need extraordinary mental toughness both to face opponents who they know are better, while battling the water and their own bodies, alone. And swim coaches need the minds of chess masters to place the right people in the right event, because there are points to consider for the team win (though until the muffled announcement at meetís end, you will have no idea how that is going).

Much of this would be a concern for the casual swim fan, but making accommodations for the casual swim fan is like making accommodations at Leonardoís for talking snow men or refitting the Venango Airport for landings by spacecraft from Mars.

Swim fans are a hardy and deeply committed breed, usually with a personal connection to someone down in the pool. Someone may decide to go see one Venangoland football game just for something to do; people donít just wander into swim meets. The fans and swimmers belong to an elite group, and they donít appear to be in a hurry to let any shmoe off the street just wander in and join the club.

Maybe they feel that theyíve never been invited to sit at the popular kid table, so they have realized they just donít need it. Or maybe they like sitting in the corner where they can do things the way they like without apologizing to anyone. Iím just glad I have a native guide to help me enjoy it all.

Source: Venangoland

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