Column: "The Sports Trail": Sports events: do they know how to run them?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

by David McNeal

There is always someone who isn't working at a sports event that is positive things just aren't being done right. Any sports event.

Bring it down to the local level, where volunteers play such a huge role, and the mischief gets thicker. Carroll County had two huge events this past weekend, the Fat Tire Festival in Eureka Springs, and the Southwest Regional for Cal Ripken 10-year-olds.

Both relied on volunteers, and both had great results. But a question or two came up about both during the action, so here's the answers:

Q.- Why are they holding a Home Run Derby for the 10-year-old Cal Ripken kids on a field too big for them to hit one out?

A.- This is an easy one. The adults were using just 10 balls, the number of swings a batter got against the pitching machine, and didn't want to lose them in the woods. They also didn't want the kids chewing up the only field the teams were going to play on, so they moved the Derby to the girls' softball field.

But the big reason for keeping the hits inside a bigger park was so they could mark them. One hit over the fence would win, but if two went over, which one went farther? This way, the long ones could be marked.

The winning shot? Officials said it was about 230 feet, not bad for a 10-year-old.

Q.- Why play the Cal Ripken tournament on just one field, when two were used last year?

A.- How about, just nine teams were playing this year. One more and they would have used both fields.

Q.- How could the Fat Tire people plan such a strenuous event on such a hot day?

A.- Apparently, the person who asked this one hasn't been at any of the other five races in July. Anyway, it was fairly cool one year, but riders know it's July and the sun will shine.

You have to understand. These riders apparently are oblivious to the temporary or long-lasting effects of pain, injury, heatstroke, or exhaustion. They had a good time.

Q.- Can Eureka's David Renko and the Ozark Off Road Cyclists put on a great event?

A.- Oh yeah. From ORC President Don West of Fayetteville, to start/finish guru Steve Shepherd of Little Rock, the Fat Tire Festival was first class.

Riders said the trails were well groomed, but made disparaging remarks about flint rocks, flat tires, slashing limbs, jabbing stobs, and steep downhills. In other words, they loved it.

There was something for everyone, including families, who are allowed right on top of the action. Dave, from Solaris Rack Systems who helped sponsor the Fat Tire Festival, liked that aspect. And Chris Pitts, national trials team member and National Junior Champion, said the expert trials course at Harmon Park was tough.

Q.- Was it a great weekend, or what?

A.- You bet, even if it was hotter than a congressional committee that had just been lied to.

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