Going to Penn
By George Kochman, III
You hear it next. Rumbles of thunder in the distance as you’re struggling to get that last interval in before the lightning chases you off the track (and if it weren’t for the AD’s and the lawyers, you’d be out there in the middle of the tempest, turning quarters with your friends.)
Quiet afternoons pierced by a starter’s pistol and your teammates’ cheers as you race your conference rival in a dual meet that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, but absolutely everything at that moment.
You hear the crowds assembling outside. Some hint of steel drums in the background of a staccato beat being played over a radio next to some trinkets advertised as from an Island south of where you are. You hear the cry of “Stick!” over and over and over and over as scared teams go through their sacred last rites on Locust Walk.
You see it. The green of spring replacing the brown and gray of winter. Those flowers you never named starting to poke through the loam and reacquaint your most complex sense with the most complex of colors.
Flashes of a baton here and there, repeated over months. Your team’s lucky baton (blue or red or silver or yellow) soon to be replaced by those generic, but oh so cool half-red, half-blue ones that will signify the stage you will occupy.
The bodies moving up and down the street, pressed into one another as they wait in line on the shady side, waiting for that first glimpse of the madness, the chaos, the excitement.
And then you step inside. Not into a stadium. Those are for modern day creations like Super Bowls or NASCAR races. No, you’re going back in time – a hundred years or more. You’re entering a Field named for a Founding Father. With all the history behind in, inside it, around it. You’re on a special journey that few people can ever take. A few more steps will allow you to time-travel into the present, where times are actually measured in hundredths of a second, and the future is impatiently hopping in the exchange zone.
You burst into the sunshine and your senses are overwhelmed. The smells, the sounds, the sights all come crashing to you at once. You’re instantly elated, swept up off your feet by more than 50,000 other crazies who descend on this city every spring for a ritual that conjures up the great celebrations around the world. Flags flying, people cheering, old men taking tired bets on the far turn.
For the next few hours you’ll turn off your rational brain, put your thoughts on hold, and let your senses party. You’re at a Carnival, after all.