What’s The Deal With Bibs?

By Paul Snyder

May 1, 2024

Track season wouldn’t be in full swing if there weren’t discussions about bibs taking place, with most folks falling into the “why do we still have to strap these wrinkled-up scraps of paper to ourselves” camp.

One of the core aims of this newsletter has always been to take a sober-minded look at the state of the sport and celebrate what works, question what doesn’t, and get into the weeds on topics that might otherwise get a passing mention. Sometimes that means playing the devil’s advocate. So without further ado, let’s talk bibs – track & field’s least exciting bit of equipment – and why they are so necessary!

The case for keeping bibs around is simple. You can rake in sponsorship dollars from the companies that pay to plaster their logo on the bibs. Oh wait… but the athletes don’t see any of that money despite wearing the logo across their torsos, at least directly. That money goes to the meet organizer. High-quality competitions are expensive to put on (especially if you don’t have Reddit money lying around), but there’s gotta be easier ways than slapping mini-billboards on your entrants.

Surely bibs are essential for fans and broadcasters to be able to identify which athlete is which in a crowded distance field, or during a sprint races lasting only ten or so seconds? But even the most eagle-eyed fans can’t pick out a name from across a stadium, and broadcasters – ideally – know what Noah Lyles looks like. And given that the sport’s governing bodies already regulate size and placement of logos on uniforms, how hard would it be to mandate that, on the pro circuit, you’ve gotta screen print your last name on your back like, you know, every other major sport?

Hip numbers, at least, play a nominal role in FAT timing and some of the higher-tech bibs do provide live positioning data that helps provide on-screen statistics that nobody really ever asked for. But in an age of technology where we can measure 90-meter javelin throws with lasers and set pace lights to dance around the track at varying tempos, the fact that we’ve constrained ourselves to covering a bunch of spandex-clad athletes in gravity-defying footwear in excess paper feels like it lacks imagination.

So maybe the deal with bibs is they’re still around today because they’ve always been around. That or track & field is quietly in the pocket of Big Safety Pin. Follow that paper trail, folks…

Paul Snyder

Meme-disparager, avid jogger, MS Paint artist, friend of Scott Olberding, Citius Mag staff writer based in Flagstaff. Supplying baseless opinions, lukewarm takes, and vaguely running-related content. Once witnessed televison's Michael Rapaport cut a line of 30 people to get a slice of pizza at John's on Bleeker at 4am. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @DanielDingus.