the Author has ask to remain anonymous....but rest assured they are someone we are all familiar with, and have reasons to do so....
Have we grown to become soft, fragile, in our personal lives and in society? I ask myself this question as reaction has unfolded since the tragedy on October 16th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Sunday’s Indy Car event was anxiously anticipated for a great number of reasons and there were many storylines to be excited about. It was a juggernaut of a motorsports weekend with many major events taking place. The NASCAR race in Charlotte was an inconvenient distraction, the Korean GP a predictable exercise in technology, and Moto GP in Australia a razors edge two wheeled duel. What I most looked forward to, was the looming race in Vegas as thirty four drivers readied their carbon fiber chariots in preparation for battle on a speedway that had the capacity to provide an epic season finale.
It was an event that would challenge their courage. It was an event that unfortunately took tragedy to remind the world just how special and unique these drivers are.
Spartacus, Flamma, Emperor Commodus, Priscus, Verus, Emperor Titus. These were but a few of the many gladiators that battled gloriously entertaining audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. These men were schooled fighters, they fought ferocious wild animals such as lions, and they battled treacherous warriors, degenerate barbarians and condemned criminals in violent confrontations. They exposed their souls and put their very lives on display for the sheer entertainment of others, garnering fame, winning money, prizes, acclaim and the adulation of their audience. These Roman Gladiators did this while putting nothing more than their trust in courage. Death happened regularly in these battles and it was a grave part of the sport. Honor was crucial to the gladiatorial games and the audience expected the loser to be valiant even in death.
Like the many drivers that lost their lives before him, there is no question Dan Wheldon died valiantly on Sunday afternoon. But we ourselves don’t treat these men with honor when we mourn them, when we cry for them, when we champion change. These men died doing exactly what we expected of them, they died entertaining us. They put their lives on the line while we sit in the comfort of our living rooms and in the stands. But now after this Sunday we cry. We reminisce and discuss how personable Dan was, how friendly he was, how infectious he was, how generous he was with the fans. These are not the traits of a warrior and it is insulting and disrespectful to ignore the magnificent feats he accomplished as such. Dan did not risk his life entertaining us to be remembered as a nice guy. We should celebrate him as one of the top combatants to have ever competed in a hundred year old event, the Indy 500, winning it twice and on the podium five times. A lion heart with 16 Indy Car wins and a series championship.
When I look at recent photos of Dan kissing the Borg Warner he won last May, or relive the horror of the Sunday afternoon crash I see one Dan. I see Dan the lion heart warrior. I do not mourn Dan. I mourn for his family, I mourn for his wife and two beautiful children but I honor Dan by celebrating the combatant and the warrior that he was as a proud and noble competitor.
Have we as Indy Car fans, as a society forgotten what these men do? Dan came to the speedway prepared to fight. A violent and dangerous game battled at speeds we cannot really truly comprehend. A gladiator who risked his life for fame, money, and acclaim, entertaining us and we adored him for it. Racing is a dangerous sport especially Indy Car. It is not for the weak or faint of heart. Tragedy hides at every turn. As fans we must respect that or we risk dishonoring those that risk their lives for our sheer entertainment.
Did Sunday prove to be that epic finale? Sunday proved that it takes tragedy to remind us how extraordinary these people are. If we can admit that is an impressively great accomplishment perhaps we are not as soft and as fragile as I originally questioned.