typing penguin copyI never thought much about eras. I understand that time moves on and things change. I don’t use a rotary phone anymore – or even a “Princess” phone for that matter. I don’t have to check my oil every time I stop for gas – heck – I’m not even sure my car has a dipstick. And I don’t have tin foil on my TV antenna so that the picture is clearer. So, yes, I get it.

But I never thought of myself as having lived in – and through – an era until I was interviewing my friend and colleague Mario Fraioli and he kepted referring to “my era” as a writer. I don’t know that he intended it this way but it sure sounded like he was using the past tense.

Suddenly I felt like the fins on a 1959 Cadillac. I was no longer unique. I was emblematic of an era. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

I come from the era of print journalism. What I wrote was published and printed on paper. For 14 years at Runner’s World magazine, and 3 years at Competitor Magazine, my words were in a magazine. In the Runner’s World era you would read those words once a month, when the magazine came in the mail or you bought one on a newsstand.

If you liked the column – or didn’t like the column – you had to wait a month to like – or not like – the next one. If you liked the columns you’d wait eagerly for the next month’s magazine. If you were like me, even before I wrote for Runner’s World, late in the month you’d anxiously look in the mailbox hoping that the new magazine had arrived.

The good news for me, as a print columnist, is that I only had to have 12 ideas a year. Even a guy like me probably has at least 10 good ideas a year and a couple of more that aren’t all that bad. In my “era” it was pretty simple.



Not now. In the “digital era” writers are writing non stop. They are writing digital columns, blogs, Facebook posts, Tweets, and a whole host of social media outlets that I don’t even know about. [I have Instagram and Pinterest accounts. I just don’t know what they’re for]. If you like a writer you can read their current columns, their archived columns, their daily musings, and their pithy 140 character observations.

It may be too much of a good thing.

In another era even the most fervent musical aficionado would be lucky to hear a Beethoven symphony once or twice in a lifetime. These days, you can buy – or download – hundreds of performances by great orchestra with great conductors and compare them side-by-side. You can actually get tired of listening to some of the most important music of all time because it’s available.

And maybe that’s true for writers. Maybe too much of a good thing is too much. Maybe being able to read, see, hear, email, text, and touch your favorite writer [or athlete or movie star] lessens the impact of their message.

I’m not going back to a rotary phone or to changing my own oil but I am going to find a place in this era that is comfortable.

Waddle on, friends..





  • Toni Reavis says:

    John, In the days before rabbit-earsTV, much less the ubiquity of satellite and internet communications, the stars of sport like Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Jesse Owens became larger-than-life heroes because they were seen almost exclusively in our mind’s eye via the written word or on radio. Today, we are bombarded by endless visual representations of our sporting interests, to the point where our heroes don’t seem to grow as large anymore. I, for one, am glad to have been born in an era when the world was still big and mysterious, rather than small and all too comprehensible.

    T. Reavis

  • Barkershop says:

    John, Congratulations on your upcoming retirement. I was wondering if you will still be having “Penguin in the Park”. That is a wonderful race I have done only once. Actually, I participated in the 2012 event and went to the packet pick-up for the 2013 event and fell in the parking lot at packet pick-up.(Never text and walk at the same time! 🙂 I messed up my knee really bad, and couldn’t participate. I cried all the way back to Lincoln!

    I do hope that Penguin in the Park continues, because it’s a wonderful event for a wonderful cause.

    Sue Barker Lincoln, IL

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