Friday, August 11, 2017

My Reflection on the Passing of Bob Shor by Chris Puppione

I have enjoyed a pretty blessed existence, in that much of my life has remained steady despite my occasionally turbulent tendencies.

Perhaps that's why I felt an odd connection to Bob Shor (Michael Lucid photo) across the last 20 years. He was always there, and he knew what it meant to be an explosive personality, yet truly gentle at the core.

Bob was nothing if not furiously dedicated, and I understood that. I also understood what that kind of commitment can do to a man.

It can make you appear strict. It can make you appear compulsive. It can make you appear inflexible.

Truthfully, however, that kind of dedication--which is truly devotion--is so striking, many do not know how to respond--not even the man from whom it emanates. Bob was indeed complex, but his mission--his vocation--was quite simple. He was a man who believed he was here to serve others, and there is no greater calling than that.

Over the years, I came to see Bob for all of his immensity. Make no mistake, despite the slight frame, we all recognized him as a large man. We were not so much with him, as we were among him. He commanded that much space, and he deserved it--because space is given with an air of respect.

And while many of us witnessed his fire in many public moments of "educating" an athlete who may have taken a misstep, I do hope people watched more closely between the races, during the staging, in practice sessions, and away from the starter's perch.

Did you ever have Bob whisper you an encouraging word when he knew you needed it most? Were you that first-time youth runner who needed track to be your safe place? Or that foolhardy young coach who thought he'd seen it all only to have reality drop on your head like a 16-pound shot?

Yeah, I was the last one.

I had the chance to watch Bob interact with the kids of Santa Rosa Express and other youth clubs at USATF meets, and I can tell you, he was like a grandfather to all. When I heard of his passing, I did a search on social media of his name to see how far the news had reached, and even the NCS great Aisha Margain--from the East Bay--posted a noted about how much she adored Bob Shor.

Look, make no mistake, Bob was tough, but its a tough that was rare and a tough that we will miss. Despite all the gruffness, he was the one my boys at Cardinal Newman lovingly memorialized for eternity with their epic "A Day in the Life of Bob Shor" sketches on our van rides home from meets.

He was a local running icon--and that is undeniable.

In the last few years, I would take some time at each meet Bob was starting to visit with him. As I said, I felt a kinship there. He knew I was a pretty excitable guy as well--believe me. But we both loved our sport, and we loved it because of what it does for the kids we served.

No one has served those kids better than Bob Shor, and I guess I just wanted a little of that magic to rub off on me. And I believe some of it did.

Bob had an incredible speech he would give before most races, and generations of kids have internalized it, I am sure. The part that lingers with me now is just a snippet from his well-rehearsed monologue. It was when he was reminding the athletes that he would not fire the gun until they were all perfectly still.

"...not JUST you, but EVERYBODY..."

It is interesting how that phrase strikes me now. Perhaps sentimentality is luring me toward a different understanding, but it does strike me as something that is very central to the sport of running--and that is community.

It is not JUST about you, even though running can be regarded as an individual sport. You can run on your own, but it is more enjoyable with EVERYBODY there with you.

Bob has always been there for you. He has always been there for EVERYBODY.

So when the kids stand behind their blocks, or take two steps back from the line, we will respect the space that is created there. We will know that this empty space is where Bob would be, giving his final instructions before the kids take another shot at discovering just how great they can truly be.

Godspeed, Bob.

3 comments:

Kevin McCarthy said...

Well said Chris! My son (now in his 20s) sent me text upon hearing of Bob's passing and added one snippet that stuck with him. "Not JUST you, but EVERYBODY!"

Brien Farrell said...

He had the voice of Moses. He could be heard across the track. But it was not the volume that gave him authority and respect. It was his devotion to track and field and everyone connected with it. He was about kids, their improvement and love of a sport that brings people together through sacrifice, hard work and a lot of fun. Thank you Coach Puppione for reminding us that there are heroes among us.

Chanman195 said...

Great post, Chris. When I read the line, "Not JUST you, but EVERYBODY!" I heard Bob's voice in my head saying it. Sort of surreal.

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