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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Family Feud

Athens, NY—I have avoided fanatics since the tender age of 5½; a philosophy that was formed at 280 E. 21st Street one late October afternoon shortly after I had entered the first grade when the Dodgers—whose quirky Ebbets Field was located within walking distance of our apartment building—finally overcame hated Subway Series rivals, the Yankees, for their first-ever World Series championship.

“You’re a Brooklyn kid, and the local team finally achieves the impossible. So what were you upset about?” you ask.

You’d be upset too if you couldn’t sleep for three nights on account of incessant car horn-honking and rowdy partying in the streets just a few feet from your second story window. You’d be upset too if your mom wouldn’t let you out of the house to play while “the drunks” were still out there.

“But Ed, other than the words World Series what does your cockamamie half century-old recollection have to do with the Champ Car World Series?” you ask.

Well, certain modern day fanatics—an ubiquitous commentary writer among them—believe that the ongoing rivalry between the last two champions is great for the future of our beloved speed sport. Unfortunately, those advocates of the Chrome and the French horns haven’t really thought through the potential consequences of the Tracy-Bourdais War.

It’s bad enough when rival stick-and-ball squads throw bean balls, elbows, or punches at each other. Remember that prophetic Henny Youngman one-liner: “I went to a fight at the Garden last night and a hockey game broke out.”

And speaking of professional fisticuffs, the results of one well known intense rivalry is a brain damaged Muhammed Ali and a nearly blind Joe Frazier? Too old to duke it out any longer, the former rivals finally buried the hatchet a few years ago.

Most open-wheel sophisticates have long felt that NASCAR, with its rubbin’ and crashin’ festivals, makes a complete mockery of what we purists call motor racing. But at least those 3000+ pound cars are purpose-built to take their weekly trashings.

Without going into the gory details of the death and maiming of some of our heroes, suffice it to say that in a split second of wheel banging a Champ Car can be launched into oblivion. Heaven forbid that such an incident would ever occur between two drivers who were feuding at the time, let alone an uninvolved associate.

Of course, drivers are “volunteer” participants in this extreme and dangerous sport. Nonetheless, I’ll bet you can’t name one pilot who would not demand that his equipment include the latest safety devices. Furthermore, it is the primary job of the sanctioning body to mandate car/pit safety rules and specs and to provide a top-notch safety, rescue, and medical team.

So try to put yourself in any Champ Car driver’s place. Would you endorse the unnecessary additional risk created by an on-track war between two of your cohorts or would you rather just work within the normal parameters of your extremely dangerous chosen profession?

Incidentally, the owner of the Dodgers was obviously unmoved by the rabidity of his team’s fanatics and he relocated the team to Los Angeles in 1959 in order for it to finally be profitable; similarly, the New York Giants were moved to San Francisco.

So much for intense rivalries being good for the sport.

Road Rage! An op-ed feature by Ed Donath.

Copyright © 2005 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

Ed Donath Archive

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