While I agree that witnessing a world record is an electrifying moment, it is also what has led to the demise of track and field as a "popular" spectator sport. The entertainment value is in the competition, not the resulting times, heights, and distances. No other sport relies so much on statistics to determine whether the contest was good. (Who ever heard someone describe a baseball game by the number of records or near-record performances that took place during that game?) Head-to-head competition, regardless of the era (and often regardless of the level of competitors), still reigns supreme. Want to see a crowd get excited? Watch a come-from-behind relay or two runners struggle down the homestretch -- at the high school, small college, or world-class level. The emphasis on statistics makes great conversation, but in the end, I'm afraid that the sport suffers because the only column inches provided in most local newspapers involves a world record . . . or a postitive drug test because some lamebrain bought into the idea that records were the only thing that mattered. Go back in the archives (start with the 1920s and 1930s) and you'll read some incredible descriptions of races. Other that T&F News, you won't find anything like that written today. Want excitement? How about the national duals between the US-USSR?
I've been privileged to witness several world records along with incredible performances. But nothing tops something like the Olympic Trials where third place is as good as first place. I'll never forget the anticipation I've felt in a head-to-head contest or the disappointment in two or three "equally good" runners who avoid each other. The sport needs to focus much more on the competition, and the athletes need to embrace it. Imagine NASCAR if drivers got to pick and choose their races and competition. Kudos to the NCAA for introducing the super-regionals concept. We need a lot more of it at all levels of the sport.