These Lifestep machines are a waste of time. The Stairmasters are harder, better for your ass they say, and if there’s one place I need work, well, it’s the stomach, but the ass is a close second. Why do they have the Stairmasters at the other place and not here? Might as well do 24 minutes. They say anything under 20 doesn’t give the heart that good workout; got to get the old ticker thumping. Should’ve brought the Walkman. There’s something wrong with this one; the step is short on the left. Knew there was some reason nobody was on it.

Twenty-three minutes to go!

Who the hell needs to be told that? “Yeah, way to go, you’re one twenty-fourth of the way there. Only 24 more time segments like the one you’ve just gone through and it’s over.” No, wait. One twenty-fourth, one already gone, 23 left; 23 minutes to go, of course. The crazy things the mind gets stuck on while the body is working. Watching the Super Bowl again would more interesting than walking the stairs for 24 minutes.

Not a bad Super Bowl, actually. Wouldn’t want to see it again, though. Key was not expecting it to be a good game. AFC keeps sending those wimpy Bills. Stomp ’em, stomp ’em, and stomp ’em again, harder each time. Couldn’t even make it respectable; kept dropping passes in the end zone. “Next time send us a real football team–if you can find one.” Knew the Cowboys would blow ’em out. Who would’ve thought rooting for the Cowboys and Jimmy Johnson would be tolerable, much less fun? Still, it wasn’t a game one could pay attention to. Just sit back and watch the NFC romp again. On that level, even after it got unwatchable it was still watchable. That Leon Lett, hotdogging it, stripped of the ball at the goal line. Good to see that. That weasel Sterling Sharpe of the Packers did the same thing and away with it when the all right back up into his hands–lucky stiff. Leon Lett, not so lucky. Maybe what happened to him will keep kids a little more honest. Whatever happened to sportsmanship? Hate to sound like such an old fart–especially in my own head–but it’s not right, showboating into the end zone with a 52-17 lead. What’s he thinking? Wish it had meant something–if the Cowboys had trailed by, say, four points at the time. But who am I kidding? The game is meaningless these days; it’s the spectacle, the event that packs the significance. When the contest gets that big, the players are an afterthought; it’s us who are important, really.

League knows it, too. Bringing in Michael Jackson at halftime. Here comes that long boring stretch. The only song he had time to finish was that lame “Heal the World.” Still, take that! In Living Color–no more rebel halftime show for you guys. And forget it Riddick Bowe. Even if they had scheduled that championship bout at halftime, he can’t compete with Michael Jackson. Besides, 2 minutes, 19 seconds, and then what?–30 minutes of ads? Madison Avenue would like that. Bowe can’t compete with Mike Tyson, and he’s in jail. Tyson whips Larry Holmes, and the instant he’s out of the picture the division is overrun with Holmes clones. Where’s the new Tyson? Silly question. Only one like him, and the women of the world thank the gods for that. Tyson now handing out weights at the prison gym. Once in the spotlight of the world, now left alone with his duties and his thoughts. Wimpy workout of my own today. No stamina; should’ve had something to eat. Miss that warm. tingly, inflated feeling in the arms. Maybe some curls after this on the way downstairs.

Nope, it’s the event, not the game these days in the Super Bowl. Everybody tunes in to see the new ads to have something to talk about tomorrow at work. Funny how heavyweight title fights are like the meeting of the fight tribes. For the Super Bowl we’re one big tribe, called together. Electronic camp fire. Crystal Pepsi, new tail design on United jets. Planet Reebok, Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny, and Martin Martian. Have to see that one again. Too fast. Made for today’s generation, the way kids process more visual information faster than we do, what with all their practice on Nintendo, just as we did better than our parents. Kids playing Nintendo all day long. Ode to joystick. There’s sport in that. Good or bad for them in the long run? Maybe good, if they can understand Nike ad the first time through. Not so different from chess, really. Kasparov going to play that Brit this summer. No more Karpov, three-time loser–the Buffalo of the chessboard. Those Lee commercials were the best. Guy swallowing that canary. The whole world trying to wear skintight clothes, and they find a way to market baggy jeans. Funny culture, all on display for the big game.

Beep beep beep.

Oops, time to speed up. Drifted off there. Still, all downhill from here, after that long steady stretch. Speed up, slow down, and then just keep the pedals moving during that boring cool-down period at the end. Halfway home. Like the Bulls. Legs moving, but not going anywhere. The whole season so far like that last game against the Blazers last year–seeing how much they can get away with, or without, as the case may be. Still, win against the Jazz last week. Is Michael Jordan thinking like this when he’s out on the court? Doesn’t seem like it. Stacey King is, though. Just a few more minutes and I can sit down again. Mmm, that Whopper’ll taste good on the way home. What’s Michael thinking? Here’s Michael Jordan, getting ready to take the last shot, dribbling past Craig Ehlo. No, too distracting. I’m not a running a commentary when I’m lifting. No, Here’s the mighty Boomer, preparing to move up a weight in his chest press. No. Think of doing it and doing it right. Probably just does it. A good slogan that. “No slogans.” Liked it at first. More I think about it, the less I like it. “No slogans” is a slogan; “Just do it” is Zen. Michael in the zone. Himself, the defenders, the rock, and the hoop.

Like that night playing pool at the bar. Closest I’ve felt it. Tunnel vision. It was like a bubble descended over the table; the room was an enclosed environment, and I controlled everything that went on within it–the balls, the chalking of the stick, my walk, yes, even the eyebrows on that guy. Cock of the walk he was. Thought he was playing in front of 18,696 paying customers at the Stadium. Showed him. Ran the table from six balls down. After, pride, elation, release. Fully earned. Not like that sinking the eight ball on the break. Hit it with topspin, came back off the left bumper, back bumper, right bumper–Southern Cross pattern–and straight toward the far left corner pocket, with only the eight ball in the way. Click, drop. Nothing to do but smile. Pure luck. Like the guy who makes it from half court, or who shoots a hole-in-one. All of us out here looking for that perfect moment.

Cool down. Mop the old brow. Must be getting in better shape–hardly breathing hard at all, and not sweating as much as before. Who’m I kidding? Probably look pretty much the same as now in a year. Still, no guilt after a full workout. Like taking the escalator up the stairs at Washington after doing the Stairmaster. Fully deserved. “No thank you, no exercise for me out in the real world; I got all my exercise in an artificial environment.” All sports artificial, basically. Who needs my more real-life competition? Still, it’s there–all the world a sporting proposition. Must be extra tough for athletes–no separation between real and artificial worlds. Arbitrary games, win or lose, but other people are watching how you move, what you project, what you mean. And if we worried about what we mean?

Lean back; arms out; legs almost straight at the bottom of the step; try to do this last minute perfect. Strange, these fashions. People wearing clothes they would have been laughed off the streets for if they’d worn them out ten years ago. Hear the thump of the techno music and the claps from the aerobics room. The chirping clangs of the bars on the machines downstairs. The grunts and the thuds from the weight room. The pop-squeak of the racquet balls. All of us bouncing, bobbing, lifting, swinging, stretching, running. A little more or a little better than yesterday. Shooting basketballs and billiards. In the game, thinking our thoughts.