Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"A lesson in sportsmanship that should be required viewing"

David,left, and his son, Matt

          Two lessons, actually.

          My good friend, author and journalist David Phillips, sent me a piece he did for iRacing on Will Power's graceful acceptance of his team's fumbling away the Champ car championship, "a lesson in sportsmanship that should be required viewing for anyone who ever dons a racing helmet.(scroll down for the video)

           There is another, stunning example of grace under the pressure of ill fortune.

          Al Unser Jr. was leading the 1989 Indy 500, two laps to go.  His father, Big Al, had won four times and this was going to be Little Al's first. ("Dad taught me everything I know.  Unfortunately he didn't teach me everything he knows.") Emerson Fittipaldi had been leading for most of the race, but Little Al had passed him with five laps to go because Emmo's tires were going off. 
Little Al and his dad, Big Al

          Emerson Fittipaldi went deep into turn 3 inside Little Al. Both drivers flat out, not lifting.  And Emmo, his tires graining, lost it, his car sliding up into Little Al ("I looked over and he was headed for my door!") knocking Al Unser Jr.into the wall at 220 MPH. 

           Fittipaldi hung on, got his car headed for home.  When Fittipaldi came around for his next and winning lap, Al Unser Jr. was standing clear of the oozing pile of junk that had been the Team Valvoline Lola Chevrolet.  Little Al was giving Fittipaldi a thumbs up sign to let Fittipaldi know that (1) he was OK, (2) no hard feelings; and (3) congratulations on winning the race.  

           When I told Little Al that I thought that was the finest gesture of sportsmanship I had ever seen, he said, "Yeah.  Broke my heart."

No comments: