February 21, 2001
8:07 AM   Subscribe

Yes, I'll admit it, I'm a Nascar fan, and although I never rooted for Dale Earnhardt (just yelled at him), I respected him and will miss him. But it's just plain sick that the racer that bumped him, Sterling Marlin, is getting death threats against him and his family.
posted by Sal Amander (27 comments total)
I just don't know what to say. Death threats? How many times had Dale "bumped" or "rubbed" someone? They all knew what being that tight at that speed meant. We can't blame any one of the MANY factors that lead to the accident. Especially not Sterling Martin. He had just as much a chance of hitting that wall and many other drivers on the way up as Dale did. Gotta feel for him. The survivors guilt must be incredible.
posted by Princess Buttercup at 9:05 AM on February 21, 2001

Why are people making such a big deal about this? Racing is a dangerous sport. Things like this are just going to happen. Accept it and move on.

Mountaineers are dropping like flies and nobody cares. Some sports are just dangerous. While everything should be done to sportsas safe as possible, any true fan should accept that death is a part of it.

My sympathy goes out to his family and close friends, but everyone else should just get on with thier life.
posted by bondcliff at 9:06 AM on February 21, 2001

Why are people making such a big deal about this? Racing is a dangerous sport. Things like this are just going to happen. Accept it and move on.

The main reason why everyone is reacting the way they are is because everyone felt that Dale Earnhardt was invincible. Logically we knew that he wasn't, but we never thought about whether he would die racing. After you see a horrible crash like the one mid-race on Sunday, you become numb to the danger of the sport when every walks away from something like that. Earnhardt's death was a walk-up call to the danger of the sport.
posted by Sal Amander at 9:22 AM on February 21, 2001

Oh ye gods... how sad. It has taken me until today to start to shake the nagging feeling of loss that was pulling at me, and now I read this and find it replaced with shame.

The contact was completely incidental, and I'm still not sure that, if there's any blame to place, it wasn't Dale's fault to begin with. I would be feeling thoroughly rotten, anyway, if I were in Marlin's shoes right now, wondering what I could have done different to change the situation. This does not help.

Bondcliff, people are making a big deal about this because, as one commentator on CNN put it, this would be akin to Michael Jordan dying on the court in the last moments of the 7th game of the NBA finals. Yes, death is more common in NASCAR than the NBA, but that doesn't mean we should be less sensitive to it.

Earnhardt was one of NASCAR's best drivers ever, arguably the best driver on the circuit at the time of his death. He was the bridge between the sport's humble roots and the current day when it's getting more glossy and popular -- one person said "Earnhardt was the last cowboy" in NASCAR. Many people, who otherwise knew nothing of the sport, at least new his name. And he did seem, at times, invincible.

It would not be going to far to say that Earnhardt, in a way, *was* NASCAR. Certainly there is no one there who will fill the same role he has filled for two decades, and there probably won't be for a while. The sport lost one of its brightest lights ever, and, regardless of the circumstances of the death, or its relative frequency, that is something to be mourned.

RIP, Dale. We will miss you.

posted by jammer at 9:51 AM on February 21, 2001

As someone currently stuck in the heart of NASCAR country, I can tell you that Earnhardt was a god to these people. I'd guess a good 10% of cars and trucks around here have some bit of Earnhardt decoration on their vehicles, usually that stylized "3". It's the Southern equivalent of Princess Diana dying.
posted by aaron at 10:49 AM on February 21, 2001

Amen Jammer!
posted by Princess Buttercup at 10:50 AM on February 21, 2001

"It's the Southern equivalent of Princess Diana dying."

This was partially my point. Why should anyone, other than her family and friends, be upset that Princess Diana died?

People should not get emotionally attached to celebrities.
posted by bondcliff at 11:04 AM on February 21, 2001

I was so proud of Metafilter, that of 30 comments to the initial posting about the fatal accident, none of them looked like bondcliff's posting here.

I am not aware of a single mountaineer who all but defines his sport, has been doing it for years and years, is arguably the most popular figure climbing mountains today, and in fact has transcended the smaller fame among the community of mountaineering enthusiasts to acquire recognition and even accolades for his excellence among people who know nothing about mountaineering. Maybe there *is* one mountaineer who's better than all the rest, but I haven't heard of him, and that's the point---the reason it's a "big deal" is because Dale Earnhardt was, is, a huge name, and he was loved by millions.

If you're looking for a direction in which to point that ever-vigilant finger of cynicism, then you're right to point it at celebrity culture, which offers "relationships" with rich, glamourous people we'll never meet but feel we know intimately. Very few of the people who loved Dale Earnhardt ever kicked back, had some beers, and talked about cars (or music or women or...) with him, but they loved him anyway, and that's why they're sad he's dead. When someone gives you something---in the case of celebrities, they give you entertainment, they give you a small part of *themselves*---some bond is formed. Even if it's all one-way. That's what celebrity is. That's what star athletes are. So many people enjoyed watching Dale race for so many years, it would be absolutely inhuman for them to, on Sunday, have just gone "Oh look at that, Dale's dead. Honey, who will we root for now?"

Show me a dead mountaineer known by first name and admired by millions the world over, and I will show you mourning masses, spontaneously erected mountains of flowers, and the attendant incessant media coverage...

... and in turn, the attendant, *utterly* predictable backlash, insensitivity, and dismissiveness by people who are just irritated in principle by tragedy and its aftermath---that negativity is as much an essential part of celebrity culture as anything else.
posted by Sapphireblue at 11:16 AM on February 21, 2001

They shouldn't. (The Diana thing was particularly pathetic.) But they do. It's just human nature.
posted by aaron at 11:18 AM on February 21, 2001

Sapphireblue slipped a post in. I was replying to bondcliff.
posted by aaron at 11:20 AM on February 21, 2001

Easy there, killer.

As I said, I can sympathise when anyone dies but I don't quite understand why people take it so damn hard.

I'm not talking about the average NASCAR fan saying "Man, that sucks. Racing has lost a good man." I'm talking about the people on the news crying their eyes out over Dale, the people buying Princess Diana memorial plates, the losers holding candlelight vigils over Kurt Cobain.

Now this guy dies and the news is full of stories about how it could have been prevented, what could have been done, etc. It's auto racing for crying out loud! It's dangerous. People are going to die. If you can't accept that fact you shouldn't be watching auto racing.

And about this "I was so proud of metafilter" nonsense. Why would you be proud just because everyone thinks the same way? This is a discussion forum. Occasionally people are not going to join in the circlejerk.

posted by bondcliff at 11:36 AM on February 21, 2001

Proud because *most* of the people here are able to quell their urges to be insensitive, tasteless, or just plain snarky, simply for the sake of proving their individuality.

We all know you're Your Own Man, so quit with all the damn trolling already.
posted by Sapphireblue at 11:44 AM on February 21, 2001

Why should I resist the urge to be insensitive? I'm speaking my mind. I'm saying what I'm thinking. I'm not trying to "prove" anything.

If you want a happy place where everyone agrees with everyone all the time, go watch the Today Show.

posted by bondcliff at 11:49 AM on February 21, 2001

And we are all duly awed by your rugged individualism. Now stop being a jerk.
posted by Optamystic at 12:09 PM on February 21, 2001

Funny how you attack me personally, instead of attacking my arguements, and then you call ME a jerk.

It would seem to me if I wanted to impress people around here I would just jump into the big ol' Pool of Happiness and start splashing around some sunshine.

I'd also have to quote that Zeldman fellow every now and then. That seems to be key.

posted by bondcliff at 12:18 PM on February 21, 2001

Yeah, I was outta line on that one. Sorry, I'm a bit cranky at the moment. Now, on to your arguments:

People should not get emotionally attached to celebrities.

Who are you to say what constitutes valid emotional attachment? If I want to get attached to my pet goldfish, or Dom Deluise, or whatever, that is my right and privilege as an emotional creature.

Occasionally people are not going to join in the circlejerk.

Does "not joining in the circlejerk" give you free reign to belittle or maginalize the grief that others are feeling? Having a contrary position on a debatable issue is one thing. Being snarky and holding yourself up as superior because you do not share the sadness of others is another thing entirely.

Why should I resist the urge to be insensitive?

Because sometimes, that's exactly what civilized, considerate people do. They shut their cakeholes and let people grieve, without feeling the need to save them from their own sadness.

posted by Optamystic at 12:37 PM on February 21, 2001

Getting back to the thread...

One of the worst things about the fans' backlash toward Sterling Marlin is that he probably won't be going to the funeral of his friend. He's leaning that way so as not to be a distraction and out of concern for his safety. The people who think he killed Earnhardt will probably slam him for that, too.
posted by gimli at 12:44 PM on February 21, 2001

This is not Dale Ernhardts funeral. I am certainly civilized enough where I wouldn't say these kinds of things if it were his funeral.

This is an internet discussion forum. This is where poeple speak their minds, or at least try to.

Now the (hopefully, no promises) last thing I'm going to say is just that "cakehole" has got to be one of the funniest words ever.

posted by bondcliff at 12:45 PM on February 21, 2001

Okay, I'll be contrary here...

I fail to see why risking one's life on purpose, in a fast motor vehicle, is somehow noble or worthy of adoration. I really don't consider this a "sport" in the true sense of the word. A contest, yes. One in which decreasing the safe margin for others to pass you is an essential tactic in order to win. In other words, drivers must intimidate other participants into avoiding attempting to pass them, with the threat of being hit and causing a crash, as part of the contest.

It seems that in car racing the danger level just keeps getting cranked higher and higher as the cars get faster and faster. What's the point, if not to increase the possibility of a devastating accident?

From what I've seen in other sports, when something about the way the sport is run causes increased death, then *people take measures to decrease the risk of death*.

Decreasing the speed of auto racing may not be a very exciting idea, but if you want less death and destruction, that's what's eventually going to need to happen.

And it won't happen. Because, cynic that I am, I see that the potential for death (participant or fan (by means of flying (sometimes flaming) debris)) is one of the biggest draws of car racing.

So I think it's a bit wacky for people to be so surprised and upset when something known for death and built for death results in a death.

People who persist in behaving as though they think they are immortal by taking unnecessary and serious risks of death are just waiting for their comeuppance. You can tease that tiger all you want, but you forfeit the right to complain when it bites off your arm.

And I think this is a very poor choice to make for anyone with young children dependent on them.
posted by beth at 1:22 PM on February 21, 2001 [1 favorite]

Getting back to the thread...

Thank you!
posted by Sal Amander at 1:28 PM on February 21, 2001

As I said, I can sympathise when anyone dies but I don't quite understand why people take it so damn hard.

The death of Dale Earnhardt is taking on Elvis-like proportions down here in the South. I don't think people in other parts of the country understand the mythological adoration that has been associated with NASCAR drivers, and Earnhardt was the most popular racer by far. In Jacksonville, on Monday, a NASCAR store was completely sold out of everything that had Earnhardt or his car on it by 2 p.m.

From what I've seen in other sports, when something about the way the sport is run causes increased death, then *people take measures to decrease the risk of death*.

NASCAR has made numerous changes over the years to increase driver safety. Cars today are built to break apart so that the force of a crash is dissipated, a change that's a great improvement over what things were like in the '60s.

I suspect that Earnhardt's death will prompt NASCAR to require collision dissipating walls in front of concrete, a change that will cost $1-$2 million to implement at each track.
posted by rcade at 1:53 PM on February 21, 2001

A note about whether or not racing's a sport: Try driving your car as fast as you can for [insert number of hours your average NASCAR race lasts. What are they, like 5 million laps or something?] while trying not to hit the people around you, or the walls around you.

It takes fast reflexes, great durability and intense concentration, in otherwords, athletic prowess.

I don't like watching it much myself, but the drivers are most definitely atheletes. They aren't leaning back in the bucket seats cruisin' downtown.
posted by cCranium at 2:52 PM on February 21, 2001

One thing that's going to be a political factor in NASCAR is that this year, the rules were changed to encourage more interesting races. Read that, the aerodynamics of the cars were adjusted so that there would be more drafting -- and it worked, instead of long spread out lines of cars they were bunched. And we got two accidents, one spectacular but minor, the other visually uninteresting but fatal. Did the rules change contribute to this accident? I don't think there's any question. We'll see what happens.

As for discussion forums, it's a fact of life: post a mournful thread about the death of X, and somebody will post somewhere in that thread that X wasn't that important and mourning X is [pejorative]. It's a fact of life that people will then get ticked off at being labeled [pejorative]. Then the person will post again defending their position and pretty soon you have a whole metathread going. This person is a troll [because the thread gets hijacked] but will never acknowledge it [because that would end the thread].
posted by dhartung at 4:37 PM on February 21, 2001

And then someone posts explaining the way that these discussions always go and then someone mentions Nazis and then the sun explodes.
posted by rodii at 5:04 PM on February 21, 2001

People blame Sterling Marlin because they need something or someone to assign blame to help them cope with the grief over the death of their cultural hero. Plus its just one of those young "redneck" impulses that more than likely is being overplayed by the media.

Had the scenario been reversed and it had been Sterling Marlin into the wall ... with a "its just racing" tap by #3...I doubt we would be seeing the same backlash.

One of the worst things about the fans' backlash toward Sterling Marlin is that he probably won't be going to the funeral of his friend.

Historically drivers do not attend the funerals of other drivers killed. Its one of those "bad-luck" mantras. Let's see if tradition follows this time around.

Heartache for the loss but celebrate the life that touched so many people.

posted by oh posey at 9:18 PM on February 21, 2001

just closing italics.
posted by cCranium at 6:23 AM on February 22, 2001 [1 favorite]

:) thank u...I tried...I'm so ashamed.
posted by oh posey at 2:01 PM on February 22, 2001

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