SO YOU'RE MISSING out on the biggest race of the Olympics. Okay, maybe not, but what you are missing out on is the biggest moment… for my father.
When they scheduled the surgery a month ago, it was the first thing out of our mouths. August third? Are you fucking kidding? That’s exactly when track and field starts. My brother and I went online, sick to our stomachs, telling ourselves, as long as they’re not running the 10,000, but of course they are, it’s happening early Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after they cut into my father’s spine and attempt to fuse it with three new cadaver bones in his neck.
For almost a decade now, my father has been looking forward to this race. It was late 2002 or early 2003 when he first told us of the golden-haired choirboy from Central Catholic named Galen Rupp. Rupp happens to be a Portlander, like us, and since his first race he’s shouldered the expectations of the small but passionate community of people in America who care about running. People like my father. People, I suppose, like me. Here he was, finally, the boy who could do what Steve Prefontaine could not: medal in the Olympics and stay alive. Prefontaine, who occupies the same kind of psychic terrain as Che Guevara. Who lives on the walls of hungry teenagers. Whose arrogant pre-race chatter has been silk-screened on t-shirts. Whose mustache continues to make Nike millions. Who has his own rock. Being compared to one of the only martyrs in American sports cannot be easy, especially when you look and behave like Galen Rupp.