In the grand spectrum of sports history, my personal and professional view of February 18, 2001, will always be one of immeasurable devastation and loss. It was a day that paid witness to a single incident in a sporting event, translating into the top story for national and local news telecasts across our nation.
And, it was a story that dominated headlines for several days afterwards …..
As we sit here today, exactly ten years later, I can imagine all of us have seen the footage of Dale Earnhardt’s car slamming into the wall at Daytona International Speedway. I can also assume that nearly everyone knows where they were when first hearing of Earnhardt’s death.
Even if you have no interest, whatsoever, in NASCAR, you probably recall the moment you heard of this tragedy. It absolutely transcended the auto racing and sports-loving communities.
From the perspective of the typical American viewer, can we recall the first or last time we witnessed someone being killed on live television? Throw in the reality that the person killed was the most popular name in a thriving spectator sport, and the certainty of a day to remember “for all the wrong reasons” became a guarantee.
Be assured, this is NOT about memorializing the legend of Dale Earnhardt …..
His image has been exploited.
His death has been sensationalized.
His celebrity has been manipulated.
There is really very little to reveal about the tragedy that unfolded on the shores of Daytona Beach, ten years ago. I can’t think of a single original storyline to unearth. But, I can take this opportunity to share my most vivid realization …..
Auto racing is dangerous.
Traveling at speeds that, at times, exceed 200 miles per hour, is a wager with peril …. especially when the speed is reduced to zero, in a split second.
I honestly don’t know another way of putting it – Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and every other competitor knows the risks when they climb inside a machine that brims with nearly 900 horsepower. That said, these guys wouldn’t accept life any other way.
To a point, I think Dale Earnhardt was a little crazy. I think it’s a “craziness” possessed by Gordon, Johnson, Stewart and others, as well.
Have you ever been in a bad car accident? Would you be willing to go through it, again?
Say what you want …. but, while NASCAR’S best competitors aren’t nearly the size or strength of Ray Lewis, each of them reveals more GUTS, on a weekly basis, than #52 has ever sported on a given Sunday.
But, that’s the price to pay …..