guest blogger: Fred Lorz

Posted: July 24, 2021 in Uncategorized
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Cheater. Such a damnable word, is it not? It is pinned on any unfortunate soul who dares not follow convention, who dares to bend arbitrary rules set by people with no better sense than a common smithy or White Wing. Yet it is a label I endure. For reasons as unexplainable as the north winds, some self-appointed stookies called me a cheater and it stuck.

Oh sure, they insisted I violated a regulation. However, when another competitor committed multiple, blatant abuses in the very same event they turned a blind eye. Why? I wish I knew, but it is easy to suspect jealousy was afoot. Although the closest any of these officials came to exercise was exercising their privilege, I suspect I was punished for being resourceful in ways they did not have the shrewdness to imagine. “Oh, you think that was clever? No, good sir, it was not. You are a cheater!” With that one word they snatched away my chance for immortality like an urchin nipping an apple from a street cart. They might as well have branded a giant C on my buttocks.

Let me ask. Did our revolutionary soldiers “cheat” when they abandoned the traditional rules of war in their fight for freedom? Just because they ambushed the redcoat scallywags instead of marching in formation like open prey did not make them cheaters. Did Marconi “cheat” when he took full credit for the discovery of his wireless? Just because he chose not to publicly acknowledge that people before him proved invisible waves were capable of mysterious wonders did not make him a cheater. Did President Hayes “cheat” when he won the ’76 election with less popular votes than that upstart Samuel Tilden? Just because a few states interpreted election laws in ways favorable to Hayes did not make him a cheater. They are heroes who are revered!

Let me ask. Why are they celebrated while I am not? More to the point, how did Tom Hicks escape the fate which befell me? Because if ever there were a cheater, Tom Hicks was it. Through and through. You wonder how I can make such a bold accusation when I had the same charge leveled at me. Let me tell you.

It was 1904. Hicks and I competed in the harshest of all endurance contests at the Olympic Games, the marathon. Conditions were rough. The thermometer read 90 degrees. 90 degrees in Saint Louis compares to Hades on a Sunday. We started the race in the afternoon at the height of the heat. The course was mostly dirt and the dust kicked up by passing automobiles made it difficult to see, much less breathe. I jumped to an early lead and 26 miles later was the first to cross the finish line. What a feeling of accomplishment! I pray someday you experience such bliss. As part of the celebration, I was photographed with Alice Roosevelt, the president’s daughter. People were impressed with Fred Lorz. From bricklayer to marathon champion! But before they hung the gold medal around my neck a charge of cheating was brought forth. Self-righteous men harangued me until I admitted to one minor discrepancy along the route. Then faster than Wild Bill could draw his Colt I was disqualified. The gold medal – my gold medal – was awarded to Tom Hicks. Even the comely Alice looked upon me with disdain.

Let me ask. How is that fair? Perhaps a few details may help explain my confusion. You be the judge and tell me who is the real cheater in this tragedy. Tom Hicks did not complete the race unaided. He was assisted, dare I say prevented by his trainers from laying upon the ground at mile 16. Had they allowed Hicks do what his ragged body demanded, he would have been finished. For the remainder of the race he was given doses of rat poison mixed with brandy to keep his exhausted nerves stimulated. Alcohol during a sporting event! What a mockery! During the final 10 miles he admitted to seeing visions. He was barely able to walk, much less run. As he approached the end his team grabbed him under each arm and kept him aloft. They dragged him across the finish line while he barely shuffled his feet in a pathetic deception to appear like he was running. Trust me, he looked more like an dockside vagrant than an Olympic champion.

Let me ask. How is this not cheating? What grave offense could good old Fred Lorz have committed worse than that? When my body screamed for relief, did I ingest questionable substances in a sad attempt to enhance my natural ability? I did not. I used the tools the good Lord provided. I turned to my wits rather than chemicals. I took advantage of this miracle age in which we live. I simply hopped into one of the dust generating automobiles for a short 10 mile ride before rejoining the race. Was that not ingenious? I realize everyone harbors their own opinion, but to me it seems no different than what our brave patriots did to gain independence. We each took stock of the situation and tilted it to our advantage. They had Lexington and Concord; I had Saint Louis. Unfortunately, history does not agree. I must live with the knowledge that all these years later Thomas Hicks is the name people recall when they think of the great marathoners. And what of me? I guess I am just another Tilden.

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