Good afternoon, Budapest (and Europe). Good Morning USA! It’s August 25, 2023, day 7 of these wonderful World Outdoor Championships! The crowds and athletes are magnificent, and the volunteers and officials are wonderful. Meeting fans from all over! Restores my faith in
The world needs this right now.
For a time, after I caught COVID twice and required two heart surgeries, I wondered If I would make it to my 14th World Champs.
In one of my heart surgeries, I told my surgeon, Dr. Gemeli, about Marcell Jacobs, the Olympic sprinter. He found it enjoyable, and it calmed me down. I am a lifelong storyteller, as was my father, as was my mother, as was my grandfather. It is a family condition.
From Goteborg to Budapest, a wonderfully diverse journey. I have visited 72 countries now, including Hungary, my family’s homeland.
Walking around Budapest, walking around the stadium, people make me smile. I find myself tearing up sometimes, not in sorrow, but in the joy of living. After heart surgeries, one has a sense of a higher purpose, the gift of life, and the responsibility to share that love of life.
I learned at De Smet High School and Bellarmine Prep that while I was on a work scholarship, I had a gift of education and that I needed to share that knowledge, which has provided me with a higher purpose for all of my last 50 years.
While I lost my mother, Marilu, in 2016 and my father, Stan, in 2020, I hear them each day. My mother’s gentle words and my father’s colorful use of profanity echo in my head each and every day. Watching them for my 64 years (they were married 57 years), showed my what lifelong love was all about.
Seeing long-time friends, making new friends, and enjoying the excitement in the eyes of the teenagers seeing this world for the first time reminds me that athletics can bring us all together.
In the final analysis, I see this world as one big village; more brings us together than separates us.
As I walk around the stadium and soak in the atmosphere, I can hear my grandfather, Adam Eder, who was born in Austria-Hungary in 1892, speaking to me and my brother, Brian, about his country, moving to the USA at 7, and living in a house with no heat. Eighty years after his little brother froze, I could feel the pain and loss in his voice as we walked; it is something that I have never forgotten. Hearing Hungarian reminds me of Grandpa Adam’s gentle conversations with me at 13 about his homeland and worrying in the Great War if he was going to shoot his cousins who fought for Austria-Hungary. Coming to Budapest, I feel that the circle is being completed.
I had a Hungarian professor, Istvan Moczy at Santa Clara University. I took twelve classes with him, European studies and Russian studies. I would visit his office, and he would tell me of his leaving Hungary during the bad times. I knew he was in his office, as (this was the 1970s) when I would see this gray cloud of Central European cigarettes come wafting over the office wall. Dr. Moczy was thoughtful, elegant, and incredibly precise. An engineering student in Hungary, he took a History Ph.D. in the US. His History of Science class opened my mind to a whole new world of thought.
Years ago, he wrote a letter to my son, apologizing for his assigning of Dostoyeksy, Turgenev, Gogal, and Thomas Mann to me as Adam read those books voraciously from my bookshelves. In visiting Hungary, I think of this man who changed my life and helped me understand that with knowledge comes responsibilities. That is why I ask each taxi driver about Hungary, Budapest, Central Europe, and their views of the world. We must always learn. We must always listen.
I speak with my son, Adam, and tell him what I see of our ancestral homeland. The poor young man has heard many stories about his great-grandfather, and his grandfather, and our colorful ancestors. When Adam wants to get a point across, he refers to the history of Hungary or Europe for me to comprehend. Our coded language, using European novelists, German historical figures, Russian novelists, and Hungarian history, confuses some but gives me comfort. I feel like I am honoring my family and my dear history professors.
My brother, Brian, who co-founded RunBlogRun with me, texts each day. He checks on me how I am doing in the heat and the humidity. Covering World Champs is quite demanding; late nights of editing, enjoying the sessions, and coordinating with our team of writers, both here and remote, take all of my skills.
My girlfriend, Kathy, who has heard my stories many times, shared a severe thunderstorm with me yesterday from Wisconsin via Facetime. I was worried about her and her granddaughter, Fiona. All was okay, just hail, torrential rain, and thunder, part of a Wisconsin summer. Hearing her voice each day reminds me of my life in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, where I call home.
But for the next weekend, I am in Budapest, Hungary, and I find comfort and solace in seeing 30,000 fans each day celebrating athletes who run, jump, and throw to define their athletic existence. I am compelled to tell their stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them. I stand on the shoulders of some great people and colorful relatives as I am a storyteller, now in Budapest.
Storytelling, like goulash recipes, can be shared from generation to generation.
Athletics can and does change lives.
Never forget that!