Lets use our imagination for a bit... lets imagine Ultra-Running was like the NFL.
Ryan Ghelfi and Ian Sharman have blogged and written about the need to introduce team scoring in ultra-running as way to make it more interesting, exciting, and perhaps more followed. I've enjoyed reading and following the discussion. While I don't agree with everything being thrown around, I feel lively discussion on any topic is beneficial for the sport. I love the sport of ultra-running, or should I call it MUT Running (what are we calling it these days in America?), so anything that might add to positive progression I am all for. So here is my idea's on how to get Ultra-Running to be as good at America's favorite sport, the NFL.
The National Football League (NFL) is the most watched and followed form of sport entertainment in the history of America. It is crazy to see the ratings of NFL games, especially the Super Bowl. Whatever people may say about leagues like the NFL, the reason it so popular is exactly because of the NFL. At some time in the past, a group of people formed the National Football League as a governing body to represent the sport they all loved. Whatever quarrels we may have with such organizations (especially now with the NCAA), they are the reason those organizations are so successful. Now I can imagine at the time, people were griping about how money can ruin the sport of football, and make it too big, much like we hear with ultra-running.
The NFL is made up of 32 teams. Each team is in an American city, with a mascot, colors, and all that fan connection stuff. Each team has a rich owner, a GM, head coach, assistant coaches, trainers, other support staff members, and then the players. These players, although they represent their team and city, also have sponsorship's that are not directly part of the NFL, such as Nike, Gatorade, Beats, Cadillac, and so on.
Let's imagine that there were Ultra-Running teams scattered throughout America - they would all be a part of the Ultra-Running League, or the URL. We would have the Bay Area Bombers, Boulder Flat Ironers, Silverton Hardrockers, Auburn Cougers, Bozeman Bozo's, Bend Slow Twitch Muscles Lynchburg Highlanders, Athens Ridgeateers, Flagstaff Lizards, Ashland Rogue Runners, Bloomington Bloomers, Ithaca Lakers, and many more cities with amazing mascots. So now there needs to be some rich person in each of these cities to initially finance a team, coach, and others things that are needed, like a few good stretching ropes and maybe a dry place to stretch, but that's not even needed. All the other companies like Solomon and North Face stay out of the team business; they just work on sponsoring individual athletes, kind of similar to Nike and LeBron in the NBA. But this is the URL, so Nike isn't the top company, yet.
Once the teams get popular it is all up to the fans to build it up so the URL can have million dollar television contracts on FOX and ESPN. This way the owners can pay the coaches and the runners huge salaries, but not guaranteed salaries because we wouldn't want to waste money on all the injured runners on the team. We'd just cut him and tell him to try out the Australian Ultra-Running League. Things would get real interesting and provide lively discussion on ESPN when international runners like Kilian come over to join the Ashland Rogue Runners. He went there because the owner wanted to boot Hal Koerner because he was on too many magazine covers and lost sight of the teams goals.
Storylines could be very entertaining for the fans - oh the fans. These fans are diehard URL fans. At one time they were even diehard ultra runners, but the URL branded every single ultra in North American and only kept the top-tier races for URL season. Since there were no more ultra races, the actual rate of ultra runners decreased because those kind folks got tired of running longer than 26.2 miles "just for the fun of it." Without belt buckles and aid stations, they just went back to spending that time watching Bryon Powell anchor ESPN. Needless to say, these fans continued to be invested in ultra running by attending all the URL events, and watching it on TV when they couldn't attend. The fan base was loyal to their local team, the Auburn Cougars so much so, that AJW's singlet was the most purchased singlet in the league even after he was retired from the URL for 10 year!
Here's to the growth of Ultra-Running in America! I'll join you and sit back and relax on my couch on a Sunday afternoon to watch the last 10 miles of the hotly contested 2040 URL Championship. If I'm lucky, my kids will be running for my local team, the Athens Ridgeateers.
*Note: I am in no way mocking anyone who is calling for team scoring in ultras, I hope it didn't come across this way! This is just a humorous bit, mostly mocking the NFL, and imagining a what a crazy world it would be if it was Ultra-Running instead of football. I realize this would not and could not happen with ultras!