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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dale Earnhardt's death was before my time

Seven time NASCAR Winston Cup Champion, Dale E...
Seven time NASCAR Champion, Dale Earnhard: Wikipedia)
I never saw Dale Earnhardt drive a race car. He died in 2001, before NASCAR was a part of my consciousness. I'm a relative newbie; I didn't watch my first race until three years later.

Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of Earnhardt's death. I'm glad I wasn't a racing fan then. I don't know how that event would have changed me. I only know that if it happened today, it would certainly have a profound and lasting effect.

Since I have become a NASCAR aficionado, I have watched every race, seen all the up-close-and-personal interviews with drivers and have gotten to the point where I feel as if I know the people involved with this sport. There is a familiarity with NASCAR that no other sports enjoys. It feels as though we are close, personal friends, albeit a one-sided friendship, with these people who in reality don't even know us. If we died tomorrow, they wouldn't even be aware of it, let alone care. However, we feel such a kinship with them, that I can simply not imagine what it would be like to lose one of them. Yet that is what so many people suffered through thirteen years ago when they lost Dale Earnhardt.

I'm glad I didn't have to feel the very real pain that his loss brought to so many.

Almost every NASCAR fan had an opinion about Dale Earnhardt. I've read many of them. People either loved him or hated him. But it was all those opinions that gave way to his immense popularity. To end it all that fateful day on the last lap of the sports' brightest day, simply amplified the loss. 

While I understand the heartfelt raw emotion that was unleashed that day, I can't help but wonder if the wound will ever heal. Should Earnhardt's death be laid to rest or is it being exploited. 

What are your thoughts?