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 Dwindling spectator/media interest in sprints
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cmolburg

USA
29 Posts

Posted - 02/28/2007 :  07:35:52 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Probably most mushers have read the Alaska Daily News story about the drop of interest in this year's Rondy by the generl public and local media/broadcasting outlets. I had previously heard that Bill Kornmuller blamed it all on the Iditarod race, but can that be the sole reason?

Laconia (NH), to some extent is experiencing the same problem, but it certainly can't be blamed on the Iditarod. I think it is due to several factors inside and outside of the sport, but on the inside, when the Rondy was really popular, you had a long-running and fierce rivalry between a native Alaskan, Attla and a Massachusetts veterinarian, Lombard (in addition to challenges from other village mushers and teams from outside of Alaska).

Today, very few Alaskan natives are in the competition if any, and a Swede and Canadian have dominated the race in recent years. Although both have produced outstanding, record-breaking performances, a majority of the spectators don't seem to relate to them. They don't seem to give a damn who wins as over the years, much of the competition is made up of refugees from the Lower 48 and the Scandinavian and European countries.

And, of course, weather and urban growth has played a role, especially in Laconia. The Iditarod has never had to cancel a race because of its very nature. Similar to the situation in Anchorage, the Laconia championship now produces one "native" team, Keith Bryar III, as compared to years ago when the teams came from several surrounding lake villages in addition to the "outsiders." I think that has contributed to the diminishing local interest here.

Today I got a call from Roger Amsden, the former sports writer of the Laconia Evening Citizen which formerly produced pages and pages of news and features about the race in the 60s, 70s and 80s. He was doing a "dog" story for The Weirs Times, but was more interested on featuring the "type" of dogs used on teams today as compared to the "huskies" of the above mentioned era. It is apparent the Egil Ellis is having and impact on our race back here!

It would be interesting to hear from others who have observed this trend in their races and how the managers of sprint races can bring back the crowds of enthusiastic spectators and media coverage.

Cynthia J. Molburg

northome

USA
223 Posts

Posted - 02/28/2007 :  10:21:05 AM  Show Profile  Visit northome's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Cindy is on to something.

For many years I have been advising anyone on the Beargrease board who will listen to keep telling the story. The back story of John Beargrease is something that anyone can relate to. The heroic native man fighting his way up the winter trail to deliver the mail is a theme that resonates. Having a story to anchor a race will only attract interest.

Similarily, when I ran the ONAC, I got way more news print than my last place finish would warrant. I got it because I was a story. I had come to challenge the Open with a team of purebreds. Either I was nuts, or overly confident. Spectators waited for me to finish on Sunday, which was a lengthy wait, just to thank me for showing up. At the awards banquet while gratefully accepting my red lantern, I told the crowd that they were the luckiest racers on earth because they had the best fans anywhere, and that they should take very good care of them.

I'll give you an example of when I thought the sport started down its road to decline. Way back when ISDRA changed the limited classes from odd numbers to even. The rationale was that the speeds that were being run back then put too much stress on any individual dog, so to aleviate that, they gave him a partner. At that time I complained that the heroic lead dog was going to be a thing of the past very soon. I was not wrong. The public cannot identify a single dog by name for his fidelity and courage on the sprint trail. Well, maybe Mike. When I got into this sport, there were famous dogs who got recognition if not fame.

Anyway, this is only a small part of the question.

Al Stead
Northome Siberians

Ann Stead
Northome on Windhill
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Charok

USA
344 Posts

Posted - 02/28/2007 :  10:28:40 AM  Show Profile  Visit Charok's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I have a qustion. Since a good portion of races are because of mail delivery by dog sled, has anyone approached postal/government for historical backing?? Or is that just a pipe dream.

Judy Carrick
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Mystichusky

Canada
72 Posts

Posted - 02/28/2007 :  10:35:44 AM  Show Profile  Visit Mystichusky's Homepage  Reply with Quote
to me it sounds like it is time to get out that old book Stone Fox,again and headback to school,if you can reach the kids,you then reach the adults.My kid has brought the book home a couple times and told her friends about it and have even had them bring mom and dad to check it out.

On a defferant note I would love to watch any races on tv ,But I have never seen any broadcasted,or even know what channel to look for it on.

There is no day like a snow day.
http://www.freewebs.com/mysticpathshuskys
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mush in quebec

Canada
136 Posts

Posted - 02/28/2007 :  10:56:19 AM  Show Profile  Visit mush in quebec's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Maybe people don't relate because they have been sold to the history, fur hats, blue eyes huskys with fur, big dogs, and now, when they arrive to check the races they see a lot of skinny hounds, with no fur wich looks a lot like their pets ??? maybe if the sport was sold as the next evolution in canine sport, with new technologies on our sleds, nutrition, care, and..new looks, they would apreciate what's going on ... informations, informations..and promotion.

marc
www.levillagedemusher.com
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penrod

150 Posts

Posted - 02/28/2007 :  11:10:57 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
In general, sprint/distance are poor spectator sports. We all start and then disappear around a bend or into the trees. Many sprint races you will have some opportunity to see the teams, which I think would make it a better event than a distance race.

Only the diehard fans/other racers are going to actually follow a race. The average public shows up sees the start and then leaves.

I never thought about the "type" of dog thing but it makes sense. How many times have you heard "that's not a Husky" and that's for a distance dog wait until they see the sprint dogs.

To me, the spectator wants to see the race, not just the start. This is hard to do even moreso with a distance race. The Iditarod might be doing better because it does have the good story about it, the survival aspect...
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Charok

USA
344 Posts

Posted - 02/28/2007 :  11:16:20 AM  Show Profile  Visit Charok's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I guess I wasn't paying attention. This is about sprints. Sorry.

Judy Carrick
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funhog

344 Posts

Posted - 02/28/2007 :  4:52:00 PM  Show Profile  Visit funhog's Homepage  Reply with Quote
fur rondy has lots of places to watch the race. Some of them real convenient. they publish a map in the paper with a half dozen places to watch the race.

It was "cold" in Anchorage this year. I am not sure how many people want to stand in the "cold" to watch the race. "cold" being near zero.

the race has been canceled several times recently. I wonder how that has effected the race.

It's all about fun!
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snowfoot

USA
313 Posts

Posted - 02/28/2007 :  5:13:02 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I think allot has to do with the animals rights situation as well.
I contribute to a number of forums, some dog related but not mushing related, and some having nothing to do with dogs at all, and have had to defend even recreational mushing against information that appears to come straight off the SDAC web site. Sponsors don't want the negative publicity, even tho it may be baseless, and that could then trickel down to spectators not wanting to support what they feel "might" be animal cruelty,even if they know better themselves. Face it, the majority of the public is loosing its ability to form an opinion by themselves, based on observable facts. It's easier to let someone else think for you, unfortunatley.

http://community.webshots.com/user/musherpumpkin
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Blake C

USA
352 Posts

Posted - 03/01/2007 :  12:23:11 AM  Show Profile  Visit Blake C's Homepage  Reply with Quote
this is a topic I thought about starting last year after a less than positive experience with one local race... actually most of the board was supportive, and in agreement with our idea of granting/allowing a small but supportive race website space to help promote our winterfest organized by over a dozen local silent sports folks. We had an agreement that was mutually beneficial and our side promoted the race, talked to thousands of kids about the race, and even paid for tv ad that reminded the public of race date and our first ever event... The idea was to create some activity that families, etc could do on race weekend outside.... complementing the tried and true same old... Well, despite overall race board approval = almost none of the things race said they would do were done. They never even got around to announcing the kids dogsled rides we offered before race start just a few hundred steps from the race starting chute... we gave over 100 kids rides in the two hours before race start... Basically the dysfunction of One toxic board member (who has driven a number of very positive board members away from race) somewhat soured my attitude about the race and allowed an excellent opportunity to get more spectators/community support slip away. In the end, races are put on by mainly volunteers and as any group there can be resistance to change, big egos, and people who are difficult to work with - my advice - be open to new ideas, learn to listen, and step up and dont allow overbearing board members to sour the troops or squash new ideas...
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leslie fields

USA
18 Posts

Posted - 03/01/2007 :  08:44:24 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This topic has been discussed here at the Rocky Mountain area races which seem to be hit hard with dwindling numbers. I agree that having the race visible to spectators is helpful, but now thanks to new technology (tv cams) they are now more visible than ever. Also the weather has always been cold at a sled dog races, I don't think that these are factors in recent indifference.

I do think people are disappointed to see a pack of skinny hounds and high tech sleds when they were expecting huskys and traditional equipment, ditto sponsors and media. There may be an opportunity here to entertain spectators, attract new people (who are usually interested because they already own a husky)and let the recreational teams have fun. Create a "historical class", have teams/drivers in period outfits that would race a 4-6 dog trail.

Not having enough volunteers to help at the races makes our sport look very non professional. I think Pam Dunn, who puts now the Casper race, has solved this problem. Her race benefits a local charity, this year looks to have netted over $60,000.00! She has lots of help and having the race as a benefit seems to make it more "socially acceptable". It is THE winter event in Casper and therefore well attended!

snofields
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Old Geezer

USA
232 Posts

Posted - 03/01/2007 :  09:51:12 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
It ain't the dogs it's the people. As a spectator I hear the laughs, squeals and snorts about the spandex, helmets and plastic boots. Folks want to see fur ruffs and pak boots.
They don't even announce the names of the lead dogs at most of the races. We spectators go to see the dogs. DUH
Then at the awards ceremony Spandex king or Queen beat their gums drums but mostly never mention the dogs.
And lastly quit playing the same old crowd.
Even the Iditarod calternates routes every year.
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Rick Wells

USA
2 Posts

Posted - 03/01/2007 :  2:45:40 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This subject has bothered me for quite awhile. Racing where we used to race seems to be down by at least half. Fewer races, fewer people. I do feel like a lot of the points here are valid, but I think that a lot of the problems come from the personality types of those of us who run dogs. Most that I have met over the years tend to be very independent people, not very people oriented (Not to imply not nice or friendly, most are), but we have very different ideas about how things should be done. We often live in isolated places far from others who run dogs (at least in the lower 48), hence participation in race organizing is difficult. Also it is hard to find a person who can afford to put in the time necassary to organize a good race. I am not sure what the solutions are.
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sallydawson

USA
830 Posts

Posted - 03/01/2007 :  8:38:38 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Cynthia mentioned "village mushers" and "local teams". I know if I ever get to race within 50 miles of where I live, every student, parent, client and friend I have known for the past few years will receive a personal invitation to come cheer me on! (goodness knows, I need it)

Is it possible that when there were more spectators, they were comming out to watch people/teams that they knew personally? My guess is that mushers are having to drive greater distances (to fewer races), and are not able to bring along their own fan clubs; and there are probably less home grown teams for the locals to support.

Sally J. Dawson and the Mushing'dales
N1BCF; "RED HAT" Musher
Live each day as if it is your last
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Steve Bergemann

USA
237 Posts

Posted - 03/01/2007 :  9:23:14 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Great well thought out points made so far.

Many of us were lucky enough to see, meet or know the many great people who made this sport like Lombard, Attla, Gareth Wright and his family, Bill Taylor and family, Harvey Drake, Linda Leonard, Bernie Turner, Art Allen, and the list goes on. One area of concern is that not only do races not have a story behind them, itís that many of todayís people in the sport have never even heard of the people I mentioned or the great dogs in our sport, let alone the general public. Hopefully Sled Dog Central is changing that.

I would also like to point out to race giving organizations is that if your having say a sprint race and it lasts longer than 3-3 1/2 hours itís too long. Anything over that and the racers are getting bored, and the general public will be gone.

We all feel and hear the frustration at all levels. I guess the agenda that needs to be considered is how do all of us change that for the benefit of the sport.

Steve
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ChuckCubbison

USA
645 Posts

Posted - 03/02/2007 :  09:14:08 AM  Show Profile  Visit ChuckCubbison's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by leslie fields


Not having enough volunteers to help at the races makes our sport look very non professional. I think Pam Dunn, who puts now the Casper race, has solved this problem. Her race benefits a local charity, this year looks to have netted over $60,000.00! She has lots of help and having the race as a benefit seems to make it more "socially acceptable". It is THE winter event in Casper and therefore well attended!



I COMPLETELY agree. But in my mind, the biggest problem with anything like this is the stubborness and resistance to change among mushers. This past summer, I tried to convince the CMM board to move in the direction of making the races into charity events (by at least allowing the possibility that the race organizer could donate some proceeds from the event to charity), and I ran into very stiff opposition from some cranky members of that club. I found out the hard way that trying to make progressive changes in our sport is like banging your head against a brick wall.
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