by E. Garry Hill
IN MY EARLY DAYS AT T&FN, still basking in the glow of having lucked into a dream job—a feeling I still have after 40-plus years hard at it—I was almost brought crashing to earth by an idealistic young friend. He was at an introspective point in his life, full of insecurity, wanting to be a difference-maker.
He asked me, “Don’t you ever wish you had a more meaningful job? One that actually helps the human condition. I want my efforts to matter.”
This was a bombshell to drop on an impressionable young 20-something, eager to do the right thing and be a productive member of society.
For a moment I felt I was just being self-serving, but I quickly convinced myself that my job, this job, is meaningful. And I still truly believe that. More than anything else, I (and my compatriots here at T&FN Central) think that we bring joy to people’s lives. When all else around them might be crumbling, once a month—and now more, when you consider our electronic offerings—there’s your favorite bit of reading material smiling up at you from your mailbox.
Sure, track & field, like all sports remains largely play, but what was it they said about Jack and all that work?
Strangely enough, I’ve always felt that some of our best work comes when we’re not playing cheerleader. Rather, it’s when we’re casting the harsh glow of reality on things. We don’t run a lot of “negative” pieces, but we like to think that the end result is an overall improvement of the sport as all the players better understand the problems they are facing.
Perhaps our most storied downer came in the May ‘91 edition. That’s the famous issue with a stark black & white cover of an all-but-empty LA Coliseum titled, What If They Gave A Track Meet And Nobody Came? In one of our most ambitious bits of probing writing ever, we took a deep and harsh look at how the sport was falling on hard times. Anybody who had been at the numbing Nationals of ‘89 and ‘90, where both fans and athletes stayed away in droves, knew what we meant.
The sport in this country needed a wakeup call, and we sounded one. I’m not going to make the outrageous claim that that article saved the sport, because ’91 also marked the beginning of a World Champs every two years, and that did wonders. But I do like to think that we changed a lot of peoples’ minds on how things were run.
Similarly, in this issue you’ll find a long—make that very long—analysis by Managing Editor Sieg Lindstrom on the perils that would-be world-class athletes in this country face in trying to train to be the best in the world. As you’ll see, as soon as you turn the page, theirs is not an easy road.
All of which leads me to the proverbial 500-pound gorilla in the room. Do you still enjoy T&FN when we get into depressing reality? Do you like seeing us pointing out what’s so wrong in something that we’re sure you’d prefer to think of as so right?
I’d like to think that if we are to continue to have meaningful jobs—ones that inform and educate as well as entertain—you’ll welcome these sobering bits.
We think in the long run they’ll help you enjoy our wonderful sport even more.