“If you ask my wife if I want to see the record broken, she will say no. If you ask me, records are made to be broken.”
That was famed U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz’s response to the New York Times shortly before Michael Phelps went on to win six gold medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, preserving Spitz’s record of seven gold medals earned during a single Olympics. Four years later, though, Phelps set the record with eight gold medals at Beijing.
Ultimately, Spitz was proved correct. Records are meant to be broken.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so strongly about it, though, until our current winter of discontent. As of this column we stand on the precipice of regional immortality: a mere four tenths of an inch from claiming the all-time snowiest winter in Toledo history, according to the National Weather Service in Cleveland. The record, even as I write this column, remains the 73.1 inches of snowfall in the winter of 1977-1978.
It’s almost a given we will break the record as early as next week. Perhaps even the morning of this column’s publication.
But it’s not just about breaking the mark.
And as any parent with school-age kids will tell you, we’ve earned the record. With every snowflake that’s fallen. With every ice scraper worn to a plastic nub on icy windshields. With every body-numbing blast from wind chills on par with the surface of Pluto. With the 15 or so days our kids have stayed home from school. We deserve the record.
Years from now, I want people to reflect on this unrelenting winter as Toledo’s benchmark of frosty misery: “This winter is bad,” they’ll grouse to friends and family over a warm dinner, “but it’s no 2014. Now there was a winter.” This will be followed by quiet nods of understanding from the those who shared the pain of the Great Winter of 2014.
But our collective suffering means little without claiming the title of “Toledo’s biggest snowfall.” We’re in second place now. But who remembers second-place finishers, other than those who came up short?
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning enjoyed a record-setting run this season, only to come up woefully short when it mattered most in the Super Bowl. I suspect he’d trade all of his 2013 records and accolades, including the MVP award, to have the Lombardi Trophy as NFL champions.
The truth is, we like winners and we like our records. And we especially like our records when they’re close to being broken.
A divisive figure such as Barry Bonds taking sole ownership of the record for all-time home runs from the beloved Hank Aaron in 2006 was a moment the nation followed. Some cheered, some jeered — but most of were caught up in the chase and were only too happy to debate the circumstances and the legitimacy of the numbers.
But there’s no debating this winter. It’s been miserable, by any measure of Toledo standards.
To those of us who have survived this hell on earth — if hell’s lake of fire was 90 percent covered in ice, and its denizens were weeping, wailing, and chattering their teeth — the all-time snowfall record for Toledo would make this winter more bearable. Unless, of course, we end in a tie with 1977-78.
Misery might love company, but not when it comes to records.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.