I don’t know how many other Californians take Patriots’ Day off, but I’ll be camped out in front of the television instead of at my desk.
Once again the Versus network will be broadcasting the Boston Marathon live on Patriots’ Day, April 21, from 9:30 to 12:30 Eastern time, with a rebroadcast at 4 p.m. Eastern.
I’m a latecomer to watching marathons and other track and field events on TV. I have a recollection of watching Jim Ryun and Marty Liquori battle it out in the mile when I was a kid. Maybe it was on the Wide World of Sports.
Even with the explosion of sports on television, it’s a lot easier to find horse racing and car racing than human racing. ESPN runs coverage of poker, dominoes and spelling bees, but I don’t remember the last time I saw a track clip on Sportscenter.
With coverage so sporadic, you’re happy anytime any major running event shows up on TV, even if you have to listen to Al Trautwig‘s banalities for three hours.
To be fair, it’s difficult to do a decent job of broadcasting a marathon without a major outlay of cash. You’ll always get to see the front-runners, but you’ll rarely see anyone making a move from behind. There simply aren’t enough mobile cameras and announcers to keep an eye on everything.
Sometimes you get a break. NBC Sports had ideal conditions for the men’s Olympic trials in the marathon last November—a small field and a multiple-loop course. It streamed the race live on the Web, covered the leaders and pack-trailers with a split-screen, and ran a graphic with mile splits along the bottom of the screen. You can get a taste of the coverage from this YouTube clip:
However, the half-hour highlight show it ran later in the day was very unsatisfying.
And sometimes, the race itself overcomes the limitations of the broadcast. Remember Joan Benoit Samuelson running alone on that Los Angeles freeway? How about Berhane Adere sprinting past a celebrating Adriana Pirtea in the last 50 yards to capture the Chicago Marathon?
Every year a local station here in Sacramento runs about four hours of live coverage of the California International Marathon and it’s usually pretty amateurish. However, in 2006, we had a tremendous battle to the finish between Jonathan Ndambuki and Kassohad Kabiso. Click the video link under the photo for the last couple of minutes of the race. And yes, that’s Dick Beardsley lending commentary.
Watching the Boston Marathon on TV is fun, but I’m hoping that next year I’ll have to tape it. You can’t run it and watch it at the same time.