Category: racing

Eyes Wide Open

I don’t remember how old I was at the time, and it’s certain that time and age have taken some details, but I was sitting next to my mom at the time. We were in the stands at Middletown, a half mile dirt track in New York. My dad was on the track racing.

In turns one and two he fell down. The bike moved in one direction and he went another. He slid on his butt sitting upright to the outside of the track where he hit a white concrete wall back first at somewhere near sixty miles per hour. His body collapsed slumping motionless against the wall.

I have retained an image of the crash, but no emotion. I have a vague recollection of being in a miserable hospital, and my dad being home for several months wearing a back brace and sitting on the couch.

I replayed the image in my head tonight when I watched Kyle Busch hit a white concrete wall earlier today at Daytona. Busch won’t race tomorrow as he is recovering from a compound fracture of his leg.

There isn’t a racer alive or dead that did not get on his bike or in his car without knowing he could be broken or killed before making it back to pit road. And every one of them is fine with that. They are a different breed.

It’s for that reason that they must be protected from themselves. My father’s injuries would have been different if hay bails had ringed the concrete wall on the perimeter of the track. Kyle Busch would be in the 500 tomorrow, instead of a hospital bed, if he hit a soft wall instead of a concrete wall.

The Triple Crown

First off, I know little or nothing about horse racing, but I am disturbed by the indignant abuse being heaped on Steve Coburn for his comments after his horse, California Chrome lost it’s triple crown bid.  I know enough that the triple crown is the gold standard for equine accomplishment, and even flirtation with the triple crown is on some level historic. The clear frustration of falling short combined with Coburn’s inarticulate rant have combined to obscure a rather obvious bit of bullshit.

Coburn’s point is that only three horses ran all three triple crown races, and advantage was gained by the horses  who were fresher for not having run all three races.  This is a perfectly logical point that validly calls into question the meaning of the triple crown.

In Coburn’s conception, the triple crown is akin to a championship to be pursued by a defined field of competitors under standardized rules, like NASCAR or even an NBA title.   Horses qualify to compete in the triple crown races, and but for injury are obliged to compete in all three insuring a level playing field of sorts.

I assume, though there responsive indignation has left this open to interpretation,  the opposing view is that the triple crown is an individual pursuit of historic glory, and that by sheer talent, ambition and audacity, a horse may take it’s place along side Secretariat and other legends by choosing to run and win all three races regardless or in spite of competition.  This is more like Jesse Owens or Carl Lewis seeking multi-gold, multi-discipline glory.

Each conception has it’s place, but let it behind defined by thought not blowhards.