Through the Pages of Time

Story written by EPelle

How many times have you gone into your basement, dusted off the top of a plastic container carton and dug up a particular athletics magasine to find the result to a trivia quiz?

How many stacks of those magasines do you have available at your disposal to wade through for old time's sake?

I own a small collection of Track & Field News magasines - 86 to be precise, and have seven Athletics Weekly ones to add to the growing pile for good measure. Or was that good dusting?

I began subscribing to the monthly publication, Track & Field News, back in 1986. I used to read it from cover-to-cover, often memorising all the stats, results and records printed therein. I'd re-read the same issue the following three weeks until a new one arrived, so I had time to let everything sink in!

The issue above is the oldest edition I have, and was given to me as a gift by an old running buddy of mine - an Olympian who happened to also be one of my five other housemates. He'd ordered it from the Track & Field News archives, and it was a true treasure chest; the NCAA edition was relevant to my competition level at the time.

Many a face has graced the cover of Track & Field News, and many of history's fastest, furthest and longest marks ever recorded are in my basement. Collecting dust. Hardly visited. They lay stuffed under another carton of books I've already read and likely won't re-read any time soon.

I'm the proud owner of some of the most fascinating historical data in print - including programs and newspaper clippings from meets around the world, but I don't recall the very last time I was so inclined to open the books and re-live those old memories.

High speed connections and a world at my fingertips has caused me to stare at flashing photos and fancy graphics instead of looking at standard black print on white glossy pages under a dim light. Whereas I once used a yellow highlighter to recall an important fact, I now use a mouse click to bookmark that important result, that tidbit of information -- that "must remember" detail meant to give me appreciation of who did what, where, when, why and how.

I'm good on bookmarks - I won't need to lift another finger for a local, national, international or championship result anywhere around the world so help me God. Everything's nightly packaged into one folder visible on my laptop screen.

Feature articles and everything news-worthy has its place, too, as RSS feeds give me the first-hand scoop I need when events happen, names make the news, and the world should know.

Honestly, I can't recall when the last time was that I read an athletics article in magasine print, which has brought me to the question of the hour:

When does a collection hardly used turn into a bonafide junk pile?

I can see the terrific value of holding on to old magasines filled with more stats and information for trivial games than one can handle. Athletics magasines are data intense.

However, I realise that any stats, figures, numbers, names, places, times, dates or the like are readily available as quickly as I can tap the enter key and a server can take me to my requested page - to that spot among hundreds I have saved for such an event as trivial awareness.
Meanwhile, the cobwebs continue forming along the edge of my carton along a wall in a dark room. Inside that space are eight piles of 10 magasines in yearly order - July 1984 at the top, April 2003 the final of the subscription mail pieces I have ever received from Mountain View, CA, USA - home of Track & Field News.

I've grappled with the thought of nicely parting ways with the magasines, but conscious has held me back on my only serious attempt. I've donated issues to fans new to the international scene - people eager as I was to read physical print back in the day.

I suppose only thing keeping me from tossing them all together is that there is a market for such treasures - there is a price on Carl Lewis' head, so to speak. Then again, it feels completely unnatural to sell off undefinable treasures - splits, paces, times and honours - when those exact details are what made the sport interesting to me when I took it up 21 years ago.

The other compelling reason I have not thrown out my aging newsprint is that Track & Field News calls itself "The Bible of the Sport."

Funny, but it feels that, by some supernatural occurance, throwing out history will be a curse of never being able to repeat it - quite to the contrary of the principle of one's not knowing his history making him doomed to repeat it. Knowingly parting ways with one of those magasines seems to be akin to leaving a Bible near an open fire with gasoline tipped over without a lock.

Oddly enough, no matter how quickly I've been able to pace my way through results around the world - one mouse click at a time, it seems nothing truly has taken the place of previously having waited an entire four weeks - 30 whole days - to appreciate what athletes had accomplished nearly two months before the results hit my post box. I couldn't appreciate clicking on results three days old - let alone 10-times that amount - nowadays.

Therefore, it seems most prudent to hold on to the memories as long as I have a computer. The day computer results turn into the next best invention to trick me out of reading, I promise to take a day, open that clear plastic rectangular box with a blue top, and try remembering who this guy named Michael Johnson was, and what was so special about some hot night in Atlanta.

Until then, it'll be click, click away until my fingers turn numb.

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