Archive for November 2011
I’ve made it a habit to run a 5K on Thanksgiving morning for the last few years. It’s a good practice to be in, especially if you’re interested in gorging yourself on turkey, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, two kinds of pie… you get the picture. It seems that where ever I have been on Thanksgiving morning, I’ve been able to find a 5K. This last Thursday, I had only to drive to the other side of Gurnee and run one that is in its 18th year. More on that later.
A good run anyhow is going to burn a ton of calories, and act as a preventive against future calories. For me, that 5K burns around 400 calories, but will keep my metabolism up quite a bit for the next several hours, so calories will be burned at a more effecient rate than if I had merely sat on the couch and watched football while stuffing myself with turkey, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and two kinds of pie. So bully for me for finding away to cheat the calorie system a little bit and gorge with relative impunity.
But running has become more difficult as I’ve gotten older, and a lot of those difficulties for me go back the 5K I ran on Thanksgiving morning in 2007. I chronicled the experience (or, more appropriately, over-chronicled it) on Thanksgiving 2008 when I started to make a habit of writing about running on Thanksgiving. The 2007 5K marked a dark day in my life as a runner, made all the more darker by my jackass stubborness–which is actually one of the benefits I get from running. This is pretty complicated–running makes you stronger in the legs, heart, and mind, but it can also turn those strengths of mind into weaknesses if you rely on them too heavily or overestimate them, which is what I did. I didn’t pay attention to my injury, and it knocked me out of running for almost 2 years. That coincided with turning 40, which I think universally is the great reconciliation with mortality, and I ended up rebuilding myself physically and mentally without really having that intention. But therein is where the writer appears: You have to go with what you feel, and go as far as you can with it.
The result has been that right now I’m stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been, and running with joy I’ve never felt. But I’ve also become hypercompetitive, taking 5K races seriously and pushing to consistently outdo myself and as many others as possible during the race. That hasn’t been so bad per se; I’ve topped myself out at 23:30 for the distance, and hit that twice in the last 6 months. I hurt my foot and was out of the race scene over the summer, but quickly regained my stride once things were sorted out. But I’ve also freaked myself out in the middle of races a few times, thinking that I’m running so hard that it’s not my legs or feet that will fail me, but my heart. It never pounds harder than it does at the mile and half mark, and I’ve panicked at that point a few times thinking that I’m pushing myself too hard and that I’m going to end up in the hospital, or worse. Some recent happenings at my school have exacerbated that mindset. We had a teacher drop dead at home last spring from a heart problem. He was 7 years younger than me, and in at least decent health. Another teacher just as young had a heart attack just three weeks ago. Thankfully, he’s okay. Nonetheless, those types of events land in your lap with a heavy thud and can stay anchored in your mind.
Finishing races and feeling no ill effects has been no solace. Getting a full physical and EKG has been no solace. I pushed all the way to getting a stress test at a cardiologist, thinking that once the expert tells me that things are fine, I will finally believe it and my mind can be at peace. So that’s what I did.
I spouted off on these pages in May, 2010 in regard to the damage football routinely incurs on our educational institutions. It started with the dirty dealings surrounding Ben Roethlisberger and branched off to the myriad ways in which football impacts a school, moreso than even standardized test scores. I never thought about returning to the short serial, having adequately vented my spleen, but I also never expected the shame of Penn State to explode the way it has in the last week. Not that anybody did. Even now, I’m not sure that I can wrap my head around how a man was allowed to act with such impunity and rape boys over the course of two decades (that’s a rough estimate of time–if Jerry Sandusky’s behavior was typical, he probably had been doing it much longer; what we see when things like this leak out is usually only a small part of all that has happened).
I ended Big Ben et al. by talking about impunity, and make no mistake: Impunity is the right word here. What other word can be used when a man was caught in flagrante delicto, yet who never had to deal with a significant consequence or even be accountable for himself? How can someone get away with that? Simple. You need only attach yourself to an institution’s most important, most public, most profitable program. Cling to it like a leach, get some results, and you become untouchable. And again, this comes back to football. Jerry Sandusky was cunning enough to exploit his football connections to create a personal pipeline that would deliver already disadvantaged boys to his lap (and again, make no mistake, the demographic for his The Second Mile foundation included at-risk boys who most likely would have little means by which to legally redress Sandusky for assaulting them).
If this situation wasn’t ugly enough, Happy Valley hosted thousands of jackasses Wednesday night who were seemingly okay with the bevy of administrative firings that have resulted (including university president Graham Spanier), but rioted in support of Joe Paterno–whose hands are as dirty as anybody else’s in this depraved depiction of corruption. Paterno has even said he wishes he had done more when he was made aware of Sandusky’s behavior. Be real: You can’t call for the heads of all the bad guys except for the one who has brought you fame and glory. For chrissakes, look at the price that was paid to win a couple dozen bowl games and a pair of national titles. Heinous acts were not only committed, but when they were reported, nothing was done about them. We don’t live in a fascist dictatorship in which those who hold power can do as they please, however skewed the concept of power may be. Anybody who knew anything about the assaults and failed in their legal and moral obligations must be made to answer for their crimes of apathy, even if one of those persons won 409 football games for your institution. For thousands of students to riot on Paterno’s behalf is nothing more that a mass display of ignorance, hypocrisy, and delusion that screams “We Care About Nothing But Football.” Those students brought nothing but shame on their school. Is this what coaches mean when they exhort their teams to “Just Win, Baby,” or “Win At All Costs?” Do those phrases translate to “Rape and Pillage With Impunity?”
This is what we can expect when football is placed on a pedestal above academics, above honor and integrity, above justice, and above human decency, when the football coach holds more sway than the university president or district superintendent and they both wink at each other about the ludicrous imbalance of priorities. This is what we can expect when we deify the addle-minded, judgement-impaired lunkheads who are stupid enough to sacrifice their brains to sate our bloodlust. What else can we expect when we push them to the top of our social orders, place them above the law, and put them in charge of our most important institutions?
To say this sickens me is textbook understatement. I’m not even sure I have the words to describe how I feel about Sandusky, Paterno, Penn State administrators, and thousands of Nittany Lions. This is to say nothing about college football, which I have railed on before on The Seeker. I hate 95% of it, and that percentage is growing. Since I can’t find the words, I’ll close with the end of Buzz Bissinger’s November 10 piece “Good Riddance, Joe Paterno” from The Daily Beast:
The entire Penn State coaching staff, too much under the influence of Paterno, should go.
And so, frankly, should major college football and basketball as it exists now, rotten beyond repair, as has been pointed out a thousand times. Totally disconnected from the academic experience, they are insulated kingdoms with their own rules and reigns of terror because of the money they make, trading in illegal recruiting and illegal gifts and illegal favors, and now, thanks to Penn State, alleged sexual abuse of children by a former coach who must have assumed he would always be protected. Just like a Mafia soldier.
Except that the even the Mafia has higher moral standards.
Long-time readers of The Seeker might remember Sgt. Danger, a.k.a. Nathan Geist. A former student of mine, he started posting on these pages three years ago when he was deployed in Afghanistan.
Sarge has parlayed his updates and other experiences into a book he is trying to publish. If you would like to check out his progress and help along the way, you need merely click here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1510600359/i-am-danger-i-am-prisoner
Good luck, Nathan, and as always: Thanks for being a part of The Seeker.