Saturday, May 14, 2011

Swim-Off Hype: Foreshadowing The Future?

So a lot of the buzz on-deck here at Charlotte has been centered around the swim-off between Jones and Schneider. We won't get into the details. You know what happened. You know the stakes. You know the dilly, yo.

Fact is, that swim-off generated more excitement than I've seen in a long time. Of course, there was a World Championship roster on the line. Which is a big deal. However, a lot of the excitement centered just on the fact on the hype of it.

Think about it: How many of you stop whatever you're doing whenever a swim-off happens during a meet? Or you'll see the words, "swim-off required" in the results posting, and say to yourself, "Ohhhh, I can't miss that."

One interesting tweet from @Speed_Endurance mentioned that we should do these types of swim-offs more often. Specifically, at the Olympics. I got into a conversation with a few people about this during lunch today. Of course, the Olympic structure (eight swimmers per final) will never change. We can speculate all we want about the potential excitement generated that an "Olympic playoff" would create, but it ain't happening.

But there's no reason that we couldn't have a playoff championship structure (similar to the JAX50) each and every year. Swimming needs to have that "annual event" that's in the same location, same time of year, same name, same format. You could say that the national championships serve that purpose -- but do they really? I lose track how many "national championships" there are in the course of the year (short course, long course, YMCA, junior) not to mention that sometimes the biggest names don't necessary fully rest for these meets.

Swimming needs a Masters. Or a Kentucky Derby. Or a Wimbledon. Something that happens every year, circled on the calendar, that generates the same buzz and excitement and tradition.

We need an "every year" event bigger than the swimmers themselves.

1.) Dallas Stadium.

2.) Playoff structure. Elimination. Head-to-head races.

3.) Cash prize. Swimmers always need money. Money is exciting.

4.) A pair of literal "Golden Goggles" to the winner. Or something catchy -- like the Masters' green jacket.

5.) No corporate name, like the "CitiBank Swim-Off." Remember, you want a name to build tradition. Something that will exist in 100 years from now -- think: Rose Bowl, Kentucky Derby, etc..

6.) NOT during summer. Because you'd want to do this around the Olympic schedule. You'd want to hold it every year and get big names involved, no matter if it was an Olympic year.

7.) Something not dependent on the names involved. I cannot stress this enough. Wimbledon survives because it's Wimbledon -- and yes, tennis is also at the Olympic level. If you put all your marketing eggs into one basket (swimmer) and that swimmer decides to retire, or fails to show up -- what then? Instead of creating a smorgasbord of meets (since with swimming, it's tough to reach peak performance every other month) why not center the focus on one meet, each year -- and market the hell out of it? After 10 years, it becomes tradition.

8.) Name it after me.

9.) No lane lines. Seriously. Just once I'd love to see a meet with no lane lines. You incorporate the strategy of open water, the toughness of water polo, and the speed of fast pool swimming.

10.) Make it a festival. Every aquatic event, fundraiser, Hall of Fame ceremony, do it in one weekend. A celebration of swimming -- like the NBA All-Star weekend is. Instead of a "slam dunk" contest, you could have the swim-off playoff. Instead of the 3-point contest, you could have a 50m underwater race. Make it an aquatic celebration, with many exciting things going on, including interactive zones for fans to mingle with athletes -- and I think we could reach this "swim-off hype" year after year.

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