by Dante Zappala
The Valley is a skating rink. L.A. Fitness is a meat market. The river, with its plowed and salted path, is the place to run this winter. I’ve looped the drives so many times in the last month that I get dizzy thinking about it.
At times, I can get lost in it and turn the brain off. Occasionally I think about jumping on an ice flow. But, most of the time, I’m having a dialogue with the wind, for there is no single element that I battle with more. Snow? Love it – it’s a chance to play. Cold? Add a layer or two. Rain? I think I had a day off coming anyway.
On a frigid Saturday morning, we started the loop from Falls Bridge. Heading down the west side with my friend, Carmen, we glided with the wind at our backs. I’d probably never been so fearful. By the time we started making our way back on Kelly, we’d picked up the pace a little, as if that would alter the fact that we were going to have to face this wind.
As we approached dead man’s curve, the gusts were coming at us at 50 mph. This is not an exaggeration. At best it was 15 degrees out. This equals a -10 wind chill temperature.
But it wasn’t the cold that hurt the most. It was feeling that no matter how hard I ran, I could not move my body forward. I cannot remember ever feeling as pathetic as I did in the moment.
Later that weekend (and after two more loops on Sunday), I watched the Super Bowl. Like many Eagles fans, I rooted for the Seahawks. The Patriots are about as crass and easy to hate as the Cowboys. The Seahawks have the players and the attitude we wish the Eagles had. It was a no brainer.
I’d followed the Marshawn Lynch controversy all week, and I couldn’t have been more on the guy’s side. At the biggest event in sports, he made everyone deal with their relationship to ownership by making it clear that he was not the property of the NFL, the fans or the media. He would not be commanded – he wouldn’t give us the phony answers and fake smiles that function like cough medicine. We all hate it but we take it anyway because we think we have to.
He was doing figuratively what he had done literally and been fined for after scoring against Green Bay. And I loved every minute of it.
Inexplicably, by the end of the game, we were staring at a storybook ending for him (and me). He was going to take it to the house, defeat the company men, and win not just for the Seahawks, but for all the working people who are struggling for empowerment.
These are rare moments. The deck is stacked against them. But we were about to get Steinbeck instead of Walt Disney.
And of course – of course – it didn’t happen. I’ve read various theories about why the Seahawks chose to pass in that situation. The most plausible to me was put forth by Dave Zirin in the Nation. He contends that it was an effort to anoint Russell Wilson rather than Lynch by having him get the winning score. Even if that was not a conscious choice by the coaches, I can see how the bias can filter in.
Regardless of why it happened, it did happen, and if you were on my side of the fence on this, you were crushed. It was a 50 mph gust of wind that left us flat on our backs. But I wasn’t surprised.
I’ve been talking to this wind all winter. I periodically run along the drives either to or from work in Center City. No matter which way I go, I’m catching it in my face. It’s more of a shouting match than a conversation.
Despite this, I’m having the best training period I can remember. The mileage is steady. I’m becoming ridiculously efficient – exactly what I’m looking for in the marathon. But somewhere in my own subconscious, I think failure is inevitable. Why? Because it never works out the way it should. That’s how the world is, and I’ve come to expect it.
That’s an easy narrative to adopt. If we look for it, it’s everywhere, from the Super Bowl to the entrée we ordered for dinner.
But maybe the problem is not that we have these thoughts and maybe the solution isn’t shouting them down. The problem is in that we think we are entitled to fairness and an equal reward for equal effort. The solution is appreciating and embracing the moments when the world is unfair in our favor.
That moment might not be the Super Bowl. But the Eagles did destroy Dallas on Thanksgiving Day and that felt pretty darn superior.
For me, it appears in the most sneaky and unexpected ways. That perfect moment is when my youngest son raises his eyebrow for inflection as he talks unabashedly and joyfully about his thoughts.
I certainly want it to be the finish line at Boston. But with no promise of that, I’ll take those precious miles on the Drive when the wind finally shifts and the stride feels light. I’m rolling strong with defiance and I want to tell the wind then and there who owns what.
But it can’t hear me. I’m not running with the wind at this point. I’m trying to stay ahead of it.