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Is that the guy from the Visa commercial?

Is that the guy from the Visa commercial?

Jake O'Bannon

Michael Phelps. Simone Biles. Usain Bolt. Kerri Walsh-Jennings. Ashton Eaton. Kevin Durant. Katie Ledecky. Ryan Lochte(gate). Hope Solo.

Do you know all of those names? If you're like me, you went 8-for-9 (which is a borderline "A", 89% if you're scoring at home.) You would have aced the thing if it weren't for Ashton Eaton. He's like the test material your professor didn't put on the study guide.

To fill you in, Ashton Eaton is the most recent gold medal winner in the Decathlon, defending his Olympic title from 2012. To fill you in (part 2), the Decathlon is an Olympic event made up of 10 different activities:

Day 1

100-meter run
Long jump
Shot put
High jump
400-meter run

Day 2

110-meter hurdles
Discuss throw
Pole vault
Javelin throw
1500-meter run

The winner is the athlete who has accumulated the most points at the end of the ten events, with the points being tallied by an intricate Decathlon scoring system. Last night, Ashton Eaton set a new Olympic Record with 8893 points. Crazy right?!

Not really. No one seems to care.

But I guess we're supposed to care. Allegedly, Ashton Eaton is the "World's Greatest Athlete." 

I don't think many people would argue that title. But I also don't think many people could answer the question, "Who won the Decathlon yesterday?" That certainly would not have been the case in 1976.

That event took place 15 years before I was born, but I still knew about Bruce Jenner's Decathlon World Record at a young age. Bruce Jenner was that dude in 1976 after winning gold (refraining from an insensitive Aerosmith joke here). Everyone was talking about Bruce Jenner the next day. The Decathlon was the pinnacle of the Olympics back then, and Jenner was the king. He even got to be on the Wheaties box when it was a big deal to be on the Wheaties box.

What's changed in the 40 years since Jenner took home the gold? Why does Gabby Douglas' hair get more attention than the proclaimed "World's Greatest Athlete" now?

The truth of the matter is consumers are going to direct their interest where the suppliers lead them. Over the past 40 years, less and less attention has been given to the Decathlon. As a result, the focus has shifted to sports that have more immediate pay-offs, like swimming (Phelps, Ledecky, Lochte), gymnastics (Biles, Douglas, Raisman), and track sprints (Bolt), among others. Just look at what was getting the most social media attention moments after Eaton's historic win.

What a mess! So, here's my pitch:

#MakeDecathlonGreatAgain.

I want to look forward to the Decathlon as much as I look forward to the 100-meter dash. And that's how it should be; the Decathlon is awesome! One person does all ten of those events within a 48-hour period. That's amazing!

So, this is how we #MakeDecathlonGreatAgain:

  • Start the Olympics with the Decathlon. Make it days 1 & 2, when everyone is excited for the games and most events are in qualification stages.
  • Devote one of the TV channels to the Decathlon for the entirety of the competition, showing every moment of every event.
  • Give the decathlon a full 2 hours of primetime TV time each night of the two-day competition.
  • Have occasional live Decathlon score updates on all the channels during the first two days.
  • Profile a different decathlete before each event; tug at our heartstrings a little

There it is. It's foolproof. Your move, IOC & NBC. #MakeDecathlonGreatAgain

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