I enjoy running primarily for the conversations—with myself and others. While alone on the road, I can think through a pile of research, plan a syllabus for a new course, or have an imagined discussion with a colleague wherein every point that I raise is clearly articulated, logical, and profound.
Of course, the intellectual ground that I gain while running slips away by the time I have breakfast. But for that brief slice of my day, an article is written, a course is brilliant, and my interlocutor is thoroughly convinced.
Running with other people, however, is more likely to leave me with something tangible. For example, earlier this summer I was running with a friend when we started talking about the Steelers. Sure, the Pirates are playing meaningful baseball for the first time in two decades. But we opted instead to reminisce about the Steelers' 2006 Super Bowl season. Somewhere along the way, my friend recalled the curious account of a fan who nearly died from a heart attack during a particularly stressful playoff game.
Now, I'm all for a great sports story. I really am. But this one had all the markers of an urban legend. So when I arrived home, I checked the all-knowing Internet, and lo and behold, discovered the story of Terry O'Neill. And as luck would have it, I was also preparing to assemble a short article on religion and football for the Marginalia Review of Books. When MRB Editor-in-Chief Timothy Michael Law invited me to write this, I had intended to concentrate on the college game. But O'Neill's story had captured my attention, a prime example of what it means to be a "fan," a word derived from the Latin fanaticus, "possessed by a deity."
So if you suffer from football possession, check out "Steelers Nation and the Seriously Religious Side of Football." If nothing else, you'll learn what a "yinz" is. And you might be surprised to find out what George Washington and Franco Harris have in common—in Pittsburgh, at least.
If football isn't your thing, I still highly recommend that you give Marginalia a try (the site, on Facebook, and Twitter). It is an ambitious project. And this fall, I'll be joining Joseph Williams of Rutgers as an editor of their Modern Christianity section. We're still working out the details, but one thing is for certain... there will be podcasts.