I will admit it.
I finally sat down and watched "The Hunger Games." I had to. I needed to see what created the stir. I needed to see why archery surged in popularity over the summer.
All I can say is I've been in the archery community for a long time and I've never seen anything quite like it. But if it took a movie like that to promote the sport, I'm all for it.
It's been interesting to see such a small, niche segment of the outdoors community seemingly explode over the last few years. There are lots of magazines devoted to the sport. There are plenty of TV shows. But now archery has crawled its way into the shadowy realm of politics.
We found out this week that Paul Ryan was allowed to pick his own Secret Service code name. The vice-presidential candidate went with "Bowhunter."
It turns out Ryan is a big proponent of the sport. In fact, he was recently dubbed the chair of the Honorary Board of the Archery Trade Association.
If that's the case, maybe we'll see more of what's cropping up in Alabama, if Ryan gets the chance to take the No. 2 spot. Thanks to a new park in the small, rural town of Heflin, the state now boasts six archery parks. That's right -- archery parks.
Similar to what the Pennsylvania Game Commission offers firearms shooters, the archery parks offer multiple lanes for shooting between 5 and 40 yards. But there's also an eight-target, youth-only range, where youngsters can hone their skills. There's even a 10-target walking range, plus an elevated platform that simulates a deer stand.
The best part of the park is the cost to use it. For archers under 16 or over 65, it's entirely free. For the folks between those two ages, all it takes is a valid hunting license or permit.
If this is the direction of archery in the United States, I love it. Pennsylvania needs to follow in Alabama's footsteps. Too often, we let the naysayers dictate our sports. Somebody will get hurt, they say. Or they'll claim it's too expensive. Or worse, they won't build it out of fear somebody will abuse it.
There's merit to those claims. We live in a tough age. But what happens if we don't build it?
Maybe your 8-year-old neighbor will never get to know the thrill of the sport. Instead, he'll grow overweight through the "safety" of his couch. A kid can't get hurt playing a video game, right?
Or maybe the sport becomes too expensive and too burdensome for the average person. Instead of being a simple and cheap hobby you can practice at the park up the road, archery becomes a sport of the elite and participation plummets.
That is what is so great about what Alabama has done. It faced the critics and now it has an extremely popular and beneficial program on its hands.
Archery's popularity is exploding. It's not all because of a hit movie or because of some politician. I argue it's just the opposite. Hollywood and Washington bow to the masses. They mirror our society. They give us what we want.
That means our message is being heard. Our sports are getting noticed. But our job is not done. There's more work to be done. There are parks to be built. It's time we get an archery park in Pennsylvania.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.