— Sam Mussabini
Featured, “Chariots of Fire”
Since returning to newspaper work four years ago, I have not ungraciously ridiculed someone else — at least, not knowingly or that I can remember — in print.
Nor do I intend to start today.
As I get older, I find such practices to be as uncaring as they are unnecessary. It’s a little trait I picked up thirtysomething years ago from a former boss — a wise, level-headed and patient man who took a chance by hiring this brash, over-confident young kid fresh out of college back in ’77.
In spite of the mounting stresses common to the offices of most newspaper editors — including his — he always maintained a cool and calming air about him. These days, I try to emulate his ways and deeds in all I do.
Whether I’ve been successful, or whether I’ve not, is a judgment best left to others.
But sometimes it’s just plain hard to bite your tongue or to refrain from assaulting the computer keyboard with angry fingers bent on retaliation and immediate self-gratification, when you feel like you’ve been done wrong. That’s when cooler heads must be mindful that maybe your perceived assailant was just trying to help.
Here’s the scoop ... remember that term? Perry White and Lou Grant lived by it. Today, it’s about as extinct in newsrooms as Tyrannosaurus rex.
In the Friday, March 7, 2014, edition of our newspaper, we ran at the top of the front page a story on the 1,000-mile route of the coming Run Now Relay. By now, most are familiar with this inspiring initiative. To honor the victims of last year’s terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon, and to promote awareness of two people-minded nonprofits, 26 local residents will run a relay from Cleveland to Boston just in time for this year’s marathon.
It is being planned by some key community volunteers, most of whom are running advocates and each of whom was touched by last year’s tragedy. Among those in the running community, the unprovoked attack on Boston runners — and their loved ones — went deep and straight into broken hearts.
A couple of days after the Relay story ran, our newspaper received an email from someone I assume is a running enthusiast. To my knowledge, he is not a Relay participant. But, he took us to task for using in the news article the word “jog.” After reading with interest his concerns, I revisited the story. In it, our staff writer used the words “run,” “running,” “runner” and “runners” 25 times — by my count — and the word “jog” was published twice.
Here’s the emailer’s brief message: “In the article, the word ‘jog’ is used. This is not a jog and these aren’t joggers. It is offensive to runners to be called ‘joggers.’ After all, it’s not ‘Jog Now Relay.’”
He closed his message with “Thanks!!”
To the messenger’s credit, he provided his name. I won’t use it here because his email wasn’t intended as a “Letter to the Editor.” It was tagged simply as an “FYI.” If he wishes to identify himself later, that’s certainly his right.
As I suggested earlier, I don’t think he intended any harm. Rather, he wanted our newspaper to understand that apparently among some runners — and I don’t know if this includes the entire running community — it is politically incorrect to describe “runners” as “joggers.”
On this, I’m not sure of the rules. Maybe it is insulting to runners. My concern, however, is how do “joggers” feel about it?
Keep in mind the email’s wording, “ ... It is offensive to runners to be called ‘joggers.’”
I might be out of step on this one, but is this a slam — intended or otherwise — against “joggers?” Is this messenger slighting joggers ... because they don’t run as fast or they’re not in a competitive sport or they’re not as dedicated to their chosen form of exercise?
I’m giving this email writer the benefit of the doubt and will “assume” it is not his intent to disparage another group of health enthusiasts. To me, if you’re taking the time, pouring the sweat and exerting the energy to pound the pavement — whether by walking, jogging, sprinting or running — then you’ve just about earned the right to be called whatever you want.
If you prefer the label of “runner,” that’s fine. More power to you, and to all runners. All are to be admired for their tenacity. But to suggest it is “offensive” to share the spotlight with “joggers?” Sorry. I’m not ready to go there.
Personally, I’ve been running ... er, jogging ... er, walking very, very fast ... er, whatever ... since the mid-1980s. Sadly, I don’t have a trim waistline to show for my troubles, but my vitals like blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and triglycerides are a whole bunch better than in my pre-motion days.
I’m not fast and I’ve never won a 5K, but my physical endurance for doing yard work is off the charts; at least, for an old geezer in my age group.
I once “jogged” a marathon distance. It wasn’t an organized event. It was just me, the track, a Saturday morning and my stopwatch. It took well over four hours and I even had to walk a couple of laps. My legs felt like rubber and my hamstrings were cramping like nobody’s business. But I finished it. No medals. No cheerleaders at the finish line. Just me. I’ll probably never do it again. But if I do, people can still call me a “jogger” if they’d like. No worries.
People should always feel good about their achievements.
Runners who run well should swell with pride. Runners who don’t run well, but who feel good about their finish, should do the same.
Joggers who jog for a reason should beam when their mission is accomplished. Joggers who jog like rabbits and joggers who jog like turtles are in the same class that I call noble.
And walkers who step to the beat of anybody’s drum give true meaning to nature’s least expensive prescription, the one called “... get moving!”
Once I asked my doctor what I’ll be doing for exercise when I turn 85.
“You’ll be running,” he answered with a reassuring grin.
I guess he meant jogging. But I wasn’t offended.