Ride of Silence



Crooked Tan Lines #13: July 19, Before The Ride Of Silence

Maybe it was just Dallas.

Or so I, and the many other runners and cyclists I hung out with, thought. Maybe it was Dallas' "football-at-all-costs" mind set, plastic surgery, personalized licensed plates, and glass buildings.

It was true what "foreigners," what people were sarcastically called when they moved to Dallas from other parts of the U.S., saw. There are only two important things on Sundays in Texas' gateway city: church in the morning, and "The Game" in the afternoon. Or, as local legend says, "There are two religions in Texas. The other is football."

The sixteen weeks of the sport has so permeated the local culture that it appears in the Dallas newspaper 52 weeks a year, as well as on the local TV news. The pig skin rules, unabated, with no end in sight. There is no battle for first place in Dallas' hierarchy of events and new items. It is football, of all levels. Basketball and baseball make up the second tier. Then it appears to be golf, NASCAR, bass fishing/hunting, horse racing, soccer, and ice-hockey in the third tier they way they show up in the paper and TV news. After that, fourth tier running/biking/swimming might be so far down the list as to be on the floor, or buried beneath it, in last place.

This is not a good thing because of that mindset mentioned earlier breeds other unhealthy, unnatural, and sometimes illogical patterns of behavior such as neglecting the rights of others on the road way.

Unfortunately, due to their status and the conditions and locations fostered upon them by the City Of Dallas government, runners and cyclists have become rivals competing over the same basic rights afforded to neither. Where they should be linked together in their common causes of traffic control, facilities, and execution existing laws, they disrespect and fight against each other for and on the same small turf allowed to them to share.

Even more worse is the respective sports have problems internally as well. The two running stores servicing Dallas (there are others, but they total a small amount of the community pie) are bitter rivals that stop at almost nothing to see the other fail. The same goes for the areas two bike stores. At one point in the 1990's if a runner of one store went to the rival store's event, it was considered an act of defection. The runner was brought before the store manager, and if not fired from his position on the store running team, then at least reprimanded and shunned by the rest of the team.

Dallas has the reputation for being the worst place in the country to bike, according to one of the cycling industries magazines. That behavior is also reflected to runners and the running community at large, as well. Dallas was also noted in other magazines as one of the angriest, vainest, and unhealthiest, and as having the worst drivers. All those different magazines, editors, and writers came to the same conclusions. When you think about it, adding those things together, who would want to bike or run there at all.

Nevertheless, where it was stubbornness or a genuine admiration for their respective sport, the local cyclists and runners persevere, despite the conditions, despite the odds. I use the word "local" liberally because a large majority were actually transplants, cyclists or runners from other areas of the country who transplanted to north Texas for college, a job, or relationship. As best they could, they thrived, developing races, training groups, and places to train. They created their own local champions, teams, clubs, stores, and infrastructure. The aerobic scene in DFW is definitely 1980's home grown.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper's world famous institute and clinic is located just a few miles north of downtown Dallas, amid streets filled with traffic and stores for the well-to-do. He is credited with creating the running boom with his book "Aerobics." He has since created a sprawling campus on prime real estate that is internationally known. The Cooper Aerobics Center is the gold standard for health clubs, despite the feeble attempts of other health clubs (a fancy name for gyms to lure a higher clientele and charge a higher fee). But if one wishes to join Dr. Cooper's healthy society, one must first get on a waiting list, and then pay dearly with cold, hard cash.

Cooper especially influenced the world back in 1969 with his book. However, despite being cited and referenced as the "Father of Aerobics" world wide, he did little to filter down to the local population's way of thinking. Fried food, real butter, and lots of it, still reign in Texas. One only has to visit the annual state fair held in Dallas to get a "taste" of what passes as food, or what the dietetic society annually condemns.

Further, the number one activity isn't an activity at all. It's watching the local pro, college, high school, junior high, and even Pop Warner football teams, the bane of runners at those levels as well, loose. It's truly amazing to see how the local economy and productivity is influenced by whether, say the Cowboys (Ugh!) win or loose, and play at home or away. The NFL sees a spike in Super Bowl viewership (and related sales of NFL gear) when the Cowboys, or "Da Boys" as they are affectionately called by locals, play in it. Tortured runners and cyclists constantly joke about using the main highways (75 Central Expressway, the north-south toll way, I-30, and I-635) to train on during games because they are usually deserted. In fact, if one wants to do anything in Dallas that normally involves a crowd, it is suggested to go during a pro football game; dinner, movie, shopping, the gym, all are available without crowds or lines during a Cowboy game. As stated earlier, this isn't necessarily a good thing.

During a Cowboy game, it's not unusual to see life as we know it come to a halt in Dallas as people, men AND women, crowd around TV sets as if watching world history unfold. Maybe it's the second coming of Christ? No, sadly, it's the Cowboys playing. It’s just football.

It becomes obnoxious (even without Jerry Jones' cowboy twang and his plastic surgery pulled back face) drowning out other activities while doing nothing to make the area healthier, or contributing to the welfare of society. The sad part is seeing thousands of people being duped into an empty way of being.

It's against this standard where the size of your SUV is your status, runners and cyclists are regarded as geeks! Not man enough to have played or watch a 100-yard game of grid iron. However, college statistics show that those who participate in aerobic sports (running, swimming, biking) have a higher average GPA than any of the big three sport's players: football, basketball, or baseball, with football having the lowest scores. But there's a bonus! As their GPA's go, so does their discipline problems reports the statistics. Ask any college recruiter for verification. It's also fact aerobic sport athletes work harder than team sports such as football because they are year long sports, not seasonal like their team sport doubles.

Dallas is a sprawling landscape of 1-3 story buildings and strip malls with too many tanning salons, mapped over homogenized neighborhoods. From Plano to Cedar Hill, from Forney to Arlington, and all points in between, there is no difference between the neighborhoods, developments, and other pockets of real estate. In fact, the only difference at all is only minor among the overly rich in Highland Park. Such is Dallas, sadly bland, without character or characteristics to set it apart. It could be Kansas or central Montana, innocuous.

I arrived on Memorial weekend, 1983. The "US Festival" played on the radio as I drove through states and into the Dallas city limits. I had never owned a pair of sunglasses before then.