That Old Feeling

It was made of aluminum foil and it was three feet tall and, every April, I wore it on my head. With the final whistle of the regular season, I’d drag my desk chair into the closet, stand on the seat, and retrieve it (oh, the shimmering silver glory!) from the top shelf in an annual reclamation process, one performed with great anticipation and responsibility. It was a symbol of hope. Of faith. Of a nineteenth century decorative punch bowl.

It was a homemade Stanley Cup, and it marked the height of prophetic accessorizing.

Between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, I lived and breathed hockey. I wore my prized “The Great One: 99” t-shirt until it was a shred of fabric begging for mercy. I watched every televised Blues game on KPLR 11 and listened to three times as many games on KMOX. I read hockey books and hockey magazines and hockey newspapers. I spent hours on the driveway, shooting pucks at a plastic net and (occasionally) through our garage door. I was at the rink every Tuesday and Friday morning, playing pick-up before tearing off my skates and shuffling to the opposite rink to watch the Blues take the ice for practice. I loved it. All of it. I was a hockey nut.

And then, life happened.

Years passed. I grew up. I grew busier. More serious. I’d miss a game, and I’d brush it off. I’d miss two games, and I didn’t mind. My plastic hockey net broke, and I never got it fixed. I canceled my subscription to The Hockey News. I packed away my Stanley Cup hat and blushed whenever people reminded me how I used to wear it to the games. And to the mall. And to a Mother’s Day brunch.

Yes, really.

“I was that guy,” I’d tell people, shaking my head. I was embarrassed by my former passion, and thus when I retired my tinfoil Stanley Cup for the last time, I packed away my zeal with it. Sure, I was still a fan, but I was no longer a fanatic. My enthusiasm for the sport had been tempered by time. The old me—the superfan me—had faded away.

And then, on Sunday, I met Martin Brodeur.

“Uh… That’s… That’s Martin Brodeur,” I stammered, grabbing Tom’s arm.

I felt a flutter of excitement. It felt familiar.

“Who?” he asked.

“Martin Brodeur! The New Jersey Devils. Future hall-of-famer,” I gushed. “Three-time Stanley Cup champion. One of the greatest goalies in the history of the game! I had his poster on my wall when I was a teenager.”

Another flutter, more familiar still.

“I’ll take your picture with him!”

“No!” I was horrified.

“Yep. C’mon.”

“No!” I was giddy.

He began walking toward Brodeur, phone in hand, primed for action.

“Excuse me?” he said, addressing The Legend.

Brodeur turned.

“This girl would like a picture with you.”

I zombied my way to Brodeur’s side.

He smiled.

I smiled.

Snap! Snap! Snap!

And just like that, all the devotion and excitement and passion of my superfan days came flooding back. I remembered loving the sport. I remembered listening to the crackly, static-laced broadcasts on KMOX. I remembered crying when Steve Yzerman scored from the blueline in double overtime. I remembered why I would never forgive Mike Keenan. And I remembered the earnest fervor that motivated me to secure a three-foot tiered aluminum masterpiece to my head.

I remembered being a fan.

It was like that song—I’m imagining Frank Sinatra’s performance—“That Old Feeling”:

Once again I seemed to feel that old yearning
Then I knew the spark of love was still burning
There'll be no new romance for me, it's foolish to start
'Cause that old feeling is still in my heart

I may have hidden away the superfan version of myself, but she was still there. I loved hockey. I still do.  

Last week, I ran my first good workout in seventeen months. I realized it was also the first workout I’d run with Jake in about as long. We met at the track in Webster, lugged our gear to the bleachers, and ran a two-mile warm-up before starting our repeats. We talked, laughed, joked, and cheered each other on. Then we embarked on an exploration cool-down run through the streets of Webster Groves. It was just like old times—like, The Lola Papers old times. And that old feeling—lightheartedness, hilarity, challenge, uncertainty, and potential all balled up into one—that feeling I had forgotten or inadvertently stored in a mental closet, returned.

And I ran a heckuva workout as a result.

I needed more than the proverbial “change of pace.” I needed to immerse myself in the very environment in which my love of running was first cultivated. I needed to be reminded how the sport romanced me in the first place.

Even our favorite activities can become monotonous once they tumble into the dicey category of “routine.” When we take pleasure for granted, we revoke the pleasure itself. Things we used to anticipate with eagerness become humdrum and everyday. “I get to” devolves to “I have to.” Privilege unravels to burden. The honeymoon ends, so to speak. But it doesn’t mean the fire is gone.

It just needs to be rekindled.

What made you fall in love with running? Was it love at first sight? Was the relationship slow to evolve? Who made the first move—you or the sport? Go back to the location, the time, the memory of your first metaphorical kiss. Have fun again. Be a superfan.

And, at the very least, get a picture.

Amy L. Marxkors

Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story.  Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.

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