years ago, there was a man who wanted to be a track
and field star. His heroes were the men and women who
could run the sprints in record time, who could hurl
the javelin and discus for tremendous distances, who
could pole vault higher than anyone before them, and
who could outlast their competitors in cross country
instead of getting out on the track and joining the
team as they went through the grueling work of disciplining
their bodies, he preferred to record the triumphs of
others. As a result, though he never fulfilled his dream
of becoming and track and field star himself, he did
gain a reputation for being the premier record-keeper
in the entire sport.
kept meticulous records, and could tell you the statistics
of all the leaders in every event. His record-keeping
included choosing the current heroes in the sport, the
top performers in every category of track and field.
His commentaries on each of these superstars eventually
became the defining account of their athletic career,
and when people wanted to know about a certain athlete,
they turned to the record-keeper's summary. Gradually,
he assembled a long list of clients who depended on
his meticulous record-keeping.
best accounts concerned Moses Smith in the two-mile,
Jesus Jones in the pole-vault, Paul White in discus,
Matthew Black in javelin, and Isaiah Green in the 100-yard
dash. But there were many others, and he faithfully
recorded them all in his record book.
day something unforeseen happened. He filled the last
page in his track and field bible. He stared at the
filled page for a moment, noticed that there were no
more pages on which to write, and slowly closed the
book. He wrote a letter to all his clients informing
them that there would be no more record-keeping. In
the future, he informed them, he would write articles
about the famous track and field stars of the past.
a while, his clients enjoyed his retrospectives. But
then they began to complain. "What about the new stars
in the field. Why aren't you telling us about them?"
His response was always the same: "The stars of the
past are such towering figures that no one will ever
surpass their records. Let's not overshadow their accomplishments
with stories of lesser feats from ordinary people of
focus on figures from the ancient days of track and
field eventually turned them into cult figures whose
exploits came to be worshipped. Their feats were inflated
posthumously until they became so great that no one
could ever challenge them. It didn't matter that many
of those feats had never really happened, or that new
stars were actually breaking the old records. The record-keeper
resolutely refused to admit any new gods into his pantheon
of track and field superstars.
time, his clients recognized him for a fool. They turned
to new record-keepers who were writing about the triumphs
of new track and field stars as they continually appeared
on the sports scene.
John W. Sloat 2003