WHERE’S THE SHAKING-IN-MY-SPIKES emoticon when I need it? 😳 I jest… Sorta. The blank page I’m about to fill will mark my first scribblings in this space as just T&FN’s third Editor ever.
Huge shoes to fill. For jangling nerves right up there with the first time I raced a mile. My time that day: 5:09. Just looked it up. I’d have sworn it was faster. 4:55 in the next meet. 10:10 in the 2M to wrap up that first, HS soph, season. Wasn’t a star. Had a little bit of talent. Fell in LOVE with this sport.
Enough about me. For now 😁 — though before I settle down in some future issue with a wizened-editor head shot, you’ll find here photographic evidence I used to race.
Back to this job. Over the last 75 years only two before me have occupied the T&FN editor’s post. Bert Nelson, the magazine’s co-founder with his equally track-nutty older brother, Cordner. Bert held down the position from the February ’48 inaugural edition through the December ’91 issue.
And then came Hill, E. Garry, who just passed the baton to me with the April issue. His stature as an expert, a chronicler, a shaper of incisive, deeply caring narrative and analysis for this sport is more evocative of Everest than his last name.
This is a moment for reverse-chrono commentary — and not with any smidgen of disrespect for Bert, who passed away in ’94.
Ya see, Garry eschews the limelight — which may strike some as at odds with his role as informative and entertaining stadium announcer at major championships, including 5 Olympics and 10 World Championships 1996–2016.
Mentioning gh’s reserved “we’re not the news” bent will surprise no one who knows him well. He learned that from Bert Nelson though I feel certain he’d have started with that bedrock credo all on his own.
However, I’d wager there are more than a few who think they know Garry that need to know this. The man works harder — continues to during the transition of handing the reins to me and Managing Editor Jeff Hollobaugh — than anybody in this sport. He loves what he does, cares for track & field that much. We’re all blessed to have his deep knowledge and body of work to draw on.
The fact is with Bert having worn two hats, editor and businessman, gh in the ME role for 20-odd years before his name rose to the top of our masthead shaped and guided the editorial content day to day, took all the issues to press through hell and high water as the de facto Editor.
Bert and Cordner knew “their “baby” was in richly talented hands.
Garry expects a high standard, knows what he wants for this little engine that could. And I can be an ornery cuss too. I am confident nonetheless we’ll make this transition work. The goal is to continue to deliver informative, compelling T&FN content for years to come.
Goes without saying, I am also personally and professionally indebted to the legacy of Bert Nelson. His vision, and Cordner’s, for a publication devoted to this sport, its athletes and its coaches, was a striking and original concept at the dawn of ’48. We staffers like to hope we still do it justice three-quarters of a century later.
As a college student about to become a working stiff — and by that time a rabid fan of the elite sport — I first met Bert in the stands at the LA Coliseum. The ’84 Olympic Trials were on and Bob Lord, a tracknut-extraordinaire neighbor of mine, made a brief introduction.
Bob had gifted me with a copy of T&FN’s Ron Clarke Talks Track book about 6 months earlier. He must have seen a run-jump-and-throw gleam in my eye. He made sure I shook hands with Bert Nelson.
No illusions. Bert surely just saw a Div. III distance runner kid that day. But 3 years later at the ’87 USATF (then TAC) Champs — on the field along the discus sector — Bob mentioned that T&FN was hiring. I snagged an interview with gh over an outdoor lunch at a Japanese restaurant. I remember the beef tataki was oishii! Garry was more interested in eliciting questions from me than putting Qs to me.
Six months later I started work as Staff Writer. Still here.
Wish us well.
(p.s. — Digital edition readers will not find my signature in the issue contents thumbnail photo for this column where gh’s could be found. My handwriting’s too scrawly. Instead an image of the name plaque from the desk of my late, beloved Pop, another hard worker and the Sieg Lindstrom who preceded me.) ◻︎