Death Is a Part of Racing

Posted: October 19, 2011 in sports
Tags: , , ,

IndyCar racer Dan Wheldon’s death was a tragedy. A real life tragedy in the sports entertainment world where words such as tragedy are tossed around with the thought of a moron.

The 33-year-old Wheldon leaves a wife and two young children. He died Sunday shortly after suffering injuries during a race in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, Wheldon isn’t the first race car driver to be killed while racing and he won’t be last. Once again there will be cries wanting reform in the sport. Some critics will even call for the sport to be banned.

I’m not doing either. I’m simply stating the obvious.

Car racing is dangerous. The danger is a major reason for the sport’s success. I realize how insensitive that sounds, but facts are facts. Like all drivers and their families, Wheldon, a two-time Indy 500 champion, and his family knew real tragedy was lurking every time the green flag dropped. Obviously they accepted the possibility while enjoying the fruits of his success.

I can’t pretend to understand what drives someone to want to live on the edge that separates life from death. Obviously there must be an incredible mental rush, an incredible feeling of satisfaction to stare at death and win. We live in a better world because of these people . . . the explorers, the soldiers, the inventors and, yes, the thrill-seekers.

Car racing isn’t the only sport in this category. How many mountain-climbers have died before their time? Downhill skiing and boxing have taken lives. Athletes have died in other sports, but certainly there is no expectation of death in such sports as football and baseball.

In the wake of Wheldon’s death, his colleagues mourned with real tears and talked of how senseless it was. The sport’s leaders will be genuine is their efforts to tinker will the rules and equipment to make the sport safer. Incredible progress has been made over the years.

But many of these same people will fire up their engines and go racing again the next time the green flag drops. Fans will fill the grandstands, cheer loudly and feel the mental rush of anticipating the possibility of another spectacular crash.

Tragedy – real tragedy, not a blown engine or a flat tire – will not be forgotten, but it will be ignored.

At least until there’s another racing death.



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