A virus manifesto: Time to show why they call us masters and not slaves

LSU's unbanked track would have hosted USATF masters indoor nationals this weekend — until the danged coronavirus showed up.LSU's unbanked track would have hosted USATF masters nationals this weekend — until coronavirus entered minds.

Last Sunday, while waiting to run a slow-speed 100 at a San Diego all-comers meet, one of my friends asked me urgently: Do you think indoor nationals will be canceled?

She would turn 70 on Thursday, the day before the meet, and was looking forward to a bunch of medals as the baby of her age group. She considered me in-the-know. So I confidently predicted Baton Rouge nationals would go on. “It’s way too late to cancel,” I said.

Everyone knows how that turned out.

Since Monday, when the LOC wisely pulled the plug and later announced refunds of entry fees, I’ve watched my masters friends on Facebook (and via private email) express every sort of emotion. I grokked them all (even though I wasn’t entered). Originally, I was going to cull the best comments and post them here. But I’ve been overwhelmed at work and didn’t have time.

Besides, current events are coming at us like a freight train. Things are happening too fast. Hard to capture quickly changing sentiment — now shared by our Canadian masters friends (their indoor nats spiked).

By now, everyone knows how serious this crisis is. Cancellation of pro sports seasons and March Madness. Schools closing by the thousands. Colleges (including where my wife teaches) going to “distance learning.”

I’m almost as dim as I am slow, but I have some advice.

Let’s accept this ordeal the way we do every other setback in our track careers and family/work lives. With patience and rationality.

When injured, we rehab religiously. When at the upper end of an age group, we bide our time till we age up. When faced with adversity, we rely on maturity.

Same with this ulta-nuisance. Let’s do the right thing. Wash hands, keep distance and avoid crowds. And not waste energy with woe-as-me groaning.

My heart aches for collegians whose track seasons are lost. But I smile at how we take the long view — seeing ourselves running, jumping and throwing in five, 10 or 50 years. Talk about event horizons. How lucky can we get? Having a sport that transcends the Dow, the virus and everything but climate change.

We’re already role models as athletes. (Even I get cheers for being a geezer still wearing spikes.) Let’s be examples for modern maturity as well. Show the young’ns how to support each other (call Mom and Dad, check on your neighbors) and look beyond the gloom-and-doom headlines (even ones I write for Times of San Diego).

As I said at the dawn of the Net: Why do they call us masters? Because we’re not slaves anymore. Not slaves to fear. Not slaves to panic. Not slaves to depression.

We will overcome this. We will see track come back. We will outlive the couch potatoes and Debbie Downers.

Until then, let’s heed health experts, backstop our buddies and stay hopeful for our future.

In other words: Keep our heads down but chins up.

We’re all Italians now.

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at TrackCEO@aol.com or kens@timesofandiego.com. Story tips always welcome!

9 Comments on "A virus manifesto: Time to show why they call us masters and not slaves"

  1. Virus: We pray for healing and protection for all (including the health providers). We pray this brief self quarantine period solves the problem.

    Hopefully businesses can provide their employees a paid time away from work or somehow workout something where some employees can work from home … and I know this is asking a lot… it isn’t going to he easy for many financially during this period. Reminds me of the LA Olympics and businesses were asked to change business hours to accommodate the Olympics and help with the flow of freeway and street traffic …. or the Gas Crisis and people waiting in long lines every other day ….

    guess we all need a great deal of patience and continue to be kind to each other.

  2. Roger Pierce | March 14, 2020 at 7:59 am | Reply

    Well written Ken. We will survive. We have the rest of our lives to compete. I’m just 75 and was really looking forward to Penn 75+. 100m. Like for the past 35 years. !!!! Patience… carrying water,, chopping wood seeking enlightenment. … carrying water……

  3. Suzy Hess Wojcik | March 14, 2020 at 10:50 am | Reply

    We can still go out on our own to walk or train so all is not lost. Thanks for the encouraging words Ken

  4. Milan Jamrich | March 14, 2020 at 4:56 pm | Reply

    I am not panicking but just in case I bought 10 pairs of high jump shoes 😉

  5. Roger Parnell | March 14, 2020 at 10:06 pm | Reply

    Take care of yourselves out there. I am looking forward to seeing you all on the track when we reach the other side of this thing.

  6. william yelverton | March 15, 2020 at 12:06 am | Reply

    It’s about the journey, even if we can’t compete. But I’m hoping for outdoor Nat’ls. If not, it’s the Armory in ’21.

  7. Roger (and others): Only time I have heard for the replacement running of the Penn Relays is October 2020. That would make sense, as schools and universities would be in session, and rescheduling for May 2020 would be unwise (schedules around the nation are already set). Unfortunately, I can’t remember my sources, and everything is absolutely speculative at this point anyway.

  8. Mt Sac Relays might get canceled as well

  9. David Derrick Ash | March 16, 2020 at 5:31 am | Reply

    Thank you Ken. Well written as always. I came to Baton Rouge anyway. Was able to see some important people that are a part of my life. No cases here. Hopefully things will start to get better from here.

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