I’m doing my best. I’m really trying here. I brainwash my kids as best as I can. I’ve gotten them to start drinking the Track & Field Kool-Aid. All I wanted to do was get some stars up on their walls. I figured that my girls could get a Shalane Flanagan poster and a Jenny Simpson poster with all the other New Balance women and a Mary Cain one and Kara Goucher poster. You know, cover the walls with some studs. My son, I was going to get Galen Rupp, Evan Jager and Nick Symmonds posters. I’d have the major distance events covered. Then, I could sneak in some of my heroes onto their walls. If I could get a poster of Seb Coe, Steve Cram and Steve Ovett all together, like the picture below, I could save some serious money.
Same for the women’s Marathon at those same LA Olympics. Joan Benoit and Greta Waitz on the same poster would be pretty cool. While I’m at it I might as well get some posters for me! I imagine the walls around my treadmill could be decked out with a Kip Keino and Henry Rono (battling some Oregon guys preferably) an Eammon Coghlan poster (’83 World Champs would be nice) and maybe a Dave Wottle one. Oh! Definitely a few Kiwis too! Rod Dixon and John Walker would look great up on the wall. It would be hard to cut a run short with those guys staring at me.
We’re a few weeks away from kiddie track starting too. How excited would my kids be if I got them some Oregon Track Club t-shirts and maybe a few Brooks Beasts sweatshirts and some Oregon Project long sleeves? We could represent the local heroes too and buy a few NJ*NY TC jersey’s. Go big or go home. No more NY Giants t-shirts or Knicks gear at Track practice.
I ran into trouble, actually, I ran into nothing the moment I tried to make all of these things a reality. I had my credit cards out. I had my computer on. I was ready to strengthen the US economy. I was set to wallpaper a number of rooms in my house with pictures of the harrier pantheon. It was not to be. Sure, I can get a wall sized Andy Roddick mural or an incredibly awkward poster of an out of the pool but still soaking wet Ryan Lochte yet I cannot get one poster of an elite distance runner that isn’t named Prefontaine or Zatopek! Seriously. I googled. Alot. Runners names + poster. I clicked shopping. Nothing. Nada. I tried to hunt down kid sizes for Brooks Beasts TC and OTC gear. Zero. Zilch.
We have kept the stars of our sport off our children’s walls! We have kept all of these young runners (and potential fans) from decking themselves out to look like their favorite runners. Or maybe it is worse. Maybe, the young fans simply don’t exist. Maybe, Track & Field has been negligent for so long, that all we have now are participants. Maybe. It could just be that the shoe companies and the agents and the meet directors and the running magazines are deciding that little things like posters are a waste of precious resources. Maybe those that market Track & Field are incompetent or just don’t care. If 200,000 people are going to buy your shoes does it matter if they have Ajee Wilson or Dathan Ritzenhein on their wall or not? Does it matter if teenage distance runners know who Lauren Fleshman is? Does it matter if the 14 year old boy wearing your Dri-Fit pants does strides imagining he is Andrew Wheating and dating Emma Coburn?
Yes. It does. Those were dumb questions.
What came first though? Did we have young fans and lose them or did we never have them? Shouldn’t we at least try to get them or get them back?
I know that there are leagues and races and meets on TV occasionally but how about some posters? How about some kids gear that looks like the stuff that their (soon to be) heroes are wearing? How about we schedule meets so more victory laps get taken and autographs get signed and more pictures get taken with the kids?
Little things. Large amounts of little things.
A red and black Michael Jordan basketball, a home field blue Joe Morris Giants jersey, an Andre Agassi shirt, the Don Mattingly poster -these are the presents I remember. Hours of practice in the driveway with MJ’s signature on the ball I was dribbling with my weaker left hand, running straight up the middle on the playground and taking the hit and the pain as I pretended to be gaining a few more yards on my way to an imaginary 1000 yard season, spending too much time alone hitting a little yellow ball against a concrete wall in a bright green shirt in the hopes that one day I’d take centre court at Wimbledon, and the excitement that Opening Day in Yankee Stadium and the Holmdel Community Fields were finally here. Those are the links, the bonds, the sometimes silly dreams that always inspired serious work for the younger version of myself.
A connection. I was connected, in my mind, to Jordan and Morris and Agassi and Mattingly through a poster and a shirt and a basketball. Those objects were representation of the athlete and their work and their desire and their motivations and sacrifices. I’d like my kids to be connected too.
For now, the wall space is vacant. But, this prime real estate is still available. I’ll keep looking for these posters, these wall tenants. I know they are out there or at least, they will be. They will need to be exceptional. They need to be inspiring. Because I will have them up on my kids wall.
I’ll have them there so my kids can look up at them and up to them.
We need those places filled. We’ve got the people. Give us the posters.