A family I never knew I had.

It’s been a little less than a week since the tragedy of the Wheldon accident and I’ve been a bit surprised about a few things and the following thoughts have become apparent.

The Unexpected Grief: I don’t know the Wheldons personally in anyway, yet felt much more grief and loss than I may have expected if and when the day came that an Indycar driver died while racing. Just by using the word ‘if’ in the previous statement makes me realize what a false sense of security had existed when it comes to Indycar racing. I’ve seen too many very ugly, flipping, twisting Indycar wrecks, only to have the vast majority of drivers escape with relatively minor-to-moderate injury and certainly life not threatened.

The Lack of Editorial Decorum: By both mainstream media and by other newer forms, much of what was thrown out by a relatively uninformed majority of media that reported on this event was largely wasteful (reporting of others reporting), harmful (endless replays of the crash footage), and opinion-based drivel. I will not link to the specific evidence here, suffice to say that NBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal, ABC’s ‘The View’, and GOOD magazine/blog, were all ignoring their significant lack of knowledge and leveraging the tragedy for little more than their own sensationalist gain. The reprehensible nature of this ‘death porn’ coverage shows zero respect for those most affected and the responsibility lies with those persons and their editors/producers who choose how and what the story is to fit their own narrow agenda. So far from quality journalistic reportage this was that my distaste for those certain media outlets is greater than ever before. In the wake of this putrid and trashy coverage, I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention that genuine and respectful reportage was done by some who chose to report the facts as they came, and not sensationalize the event. ABC/ESPN’s live race coverage was immediately and appropriately highly concerned and their follow-up reporting was proper by all accounts of those who follow this sport. ‘Beat’ writers such as Nate Ryan of USA Today, Marshall Pruett of SpeedTV, Ryan McGee of ESPN, and Jenna Fryer for AP all contributed in appropriate manners and their approaches are to be commended, but again, they are familiar with this sport whereas the poorest of coverage comes from outlets who have admittedly no knowledge of the sport, yet feel compelled to spew forth with sweeping opinion and scornful declarations which do nothing but more damage. 

The Social Media Family: Twitter and, to a lesser degree, Facebook have enabled a tighter Indycar community through rapid and voluminous communication. In the case of this tragedy, events can be openly discussed and the goodness of human nature was made evident with tremendous immediacy. So much outpouring of help and goodness toward the Wheldon family as a result of this tightness reminds us all of how a community (despite the lack of geographical bounds) is to respond in troubled times. In some ways, I believe we all have a basal need for community and now more than ever there are multiple avenues to achieve it. This, in my view, is a good thing and just being in ‘conversation’ via Twitter, blogs, Facebook and the like have allowed us all to better handle the grieving process we feel as the dedicated followers of this sport.

That last item has been especially helpful in the wake of Wheldon’s death as it is a surprising and newer dynamic to me. Very much in line with most familial dynamics, we can fight and bicker among ourselves, yet when an ‘outsider’ attacks our kindred, we are quick to band together against the ‘invader’ as was seen with our replies to the ill-informed opinions which called for many things to ‘correct’ the wrongs of our sport. I grew up in a very small family. Two parents and me. Many cousins, mostly distant whose sharing of live essentially only came at annual holiday gatherings or major family events.

So it with some surprise I found a deeper appreciation for this Indycar ‘family’ which, by one view, is made up of little more than strangers who are bound by enthusiastic common interest and adept electronic communication. What I’ve found though, behind the facades of blogs and Twitter accounts and Facebook groups and Flickr albums, are people. 

People who are generous, funny, kind, sad, concerned, happy, involved, angry, creative, old, young, wise, naive… people. 

I’m glad to get to know you all (in varying degrees) and appreciate all of our interactions. I hope we help each other more than we know. I aim to do my part to continue making this Indycar family a positive place for years to come.

2 thoughts on “A family I never knew I had.”

  1. We are all in this together. I always feel a bit special knowing how wonderfully close knit our beloved fan community is. I, also, never knew DW personally but having the instant access to so many heartfelt first hand accounts of the man made it feel as if the community lost a father/friends/brother/son. It has been a heavy week, its always nice to read a ray of sunshine like this. Thank you for sharing.


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