Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Gun Lap Way

Read/Watch 'em In Order #98

Jimmy Dillon is an engineer who wants a job actually building a bridge he designed. But to get that job, he first has to win a race.

Back in the day, it wasn't unusual for businesses to have their own baseball teams and give men jobs because they were good ball players. In this case, the head of an engineering firm is really into track and field, so he has hired a couple of top-flight sprinters as soon as they graduated from college. So Jimmy and his arch-rival Brayton are both asked to run in a race known as the Golden Mile. Whichever one of them wins gets the prime job of building that bridge.

Jimmy's boss is kind of a jerk in this regard. And Brayton is a jerk as well. A year earlier, he had "accidentally" brushed up against Jimmy during a race. Jimmy ended up with a fractured leg. It's only now that he's ready to run again.

This is the premise of "The Gun Lap Way," by Daniel Winters, the next-to-last story in the February 1949 issue of New Sports Magazine. The theme is one of rediscovering courage--of Jimmy willing to out-run Brayton and fight him for the lead despite the painful memory of that broken leg.

But there is another sort of courage invovled as well. Jimmy tolerates his jerk boss because his job represents security and a relatively secure future. Jimmy has a job offer from another guy--a skilled engineer who appreciates Jimmy's own skill in the field. But that job would be a risky one. If it flopped, Jimmy would be broke and unemployed.

So when the race begins, Jimmy has to find a double-dose of courage within himself to both compete with Brayton and make the best life decisions.

I know my summary makes the story sound corny, but it's well-constructed with good characterizations, endowing the tale with real emotional backbone. What this story and other stories in New Sports Magazine share is the idea that a sport can be more than a game. That the work, courage and willingness to compete inherant in any sport really can teach us life lessons. I remember once reading that Dwight Eisenhower credited playing sports at West Point with teaching him important things about self-discipline and teamwork.

So both "The Gun Lap Way" and the other tales in this magazine rise above merely being corny or contrived, both because the writers were talented and because the lessons being taught really do apply to real life.

You can find this issue online HERE.

Anyway, we have one more tale to go. We'll finish up the issue with a basketball story.

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