I follow a few sports these days. My level of involvement is nothing like when I was younger and started every day with SportsCenter. I used to pay attention to whatever sports were in season and make sure that I was following every story and knew what was going on. Which teams were leading, who was being traded, and whatever else was going on. These days I tend to pay attention to some of the league finales; the Super Bowl, the NHL and NBA finals, the World Series. Other than that I really don’t pay that much attention, with two exceptions. I have recently been drawn into cycling and I have always followed auto racing.
It’s been a strange year in cycling. There have been some great stories. Going back to last year’s Tour De France win by Bradley Wiggins, TeJay van Garderen’s emergence as a premier rider, Jens Voigt’s recent stage win in the Tour of California, and so many more great stories. There have been some dark times this year as well. Lance Armstrong. The further doping scandals and the never ending stream of riders confessing to past transgressions. It almost seems like every time there is a great story there are two more doping confessions. Just this week the celebrations start for the 100th Tour de France at the same time that another former winner, Jan Ullrich admitted to doping.
Auto sport has had a miserable month as well. Jason Leffler died while racing at a New Jersey dirt track. He was a talented driver that won driving NASCAR cars and trucks. He had also raced on dirt and started one Indianapolis 500. Saturday Allan Simonsen of Denmark lost his life after a crash in the first hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He had made seven other starts at the race as well as countless starts in all forms of European endurance and road racing. Two other drivers lost their lives on track as well. Just like cycling, there are so many great stories as well, but the cloud of tragedy has overwhelmed the positive lately.
So, with all of the dark clouds hovering over these sports why do I sit here watching the conclusion of the Le Mans race? Why am I looking forward to the Tour de France? It is the way that the two sports carry on. Simonsen’s widow specifically asked that Aston Martin continue racing. The race organizers hung his nations’ flag at half-mast behind the podium in memoriam while the race continued. Other racers around the world offered their condolences as they walked towards their own cars, set to strap in and race. The drivers are saddened each time one passes, not only for the driver’s family, but each passing forces the memories of other drivers that lost their lives as well. Earnhardt, Weldon, Petty, and so many others that have lost their lives racing. Yet each time the drivers get back in their cars, racing again. They do not race as if nothing is wrong. Far from it, they race knowing that something is very wrong, but they race anyway. They get back into their cars and they go back to work knowing that moving forward is the only way race cars can go. It’s the only way life goes as well, you have to pick up your grief and move forward. You can carry it with you, but you have to move forward with life.
The riders offer a similar lesson. Doping is the past of the sport. It’s the recent past, but it is the past. The riders that will embark on this year’s Tour de France will be the cleanest riders ever. They will also be the most tested riders. There have been lessons learned from the doping scandals. There are new testing procedures that far improved from the past. There is a Biological Passport, a medical thumbprint, of each rider’s blood. Any deviation will show an attempt at doping. Even as the sport’s leadership struggles with the past it has taken steps to ensure that the future will be more secure. None of that matters to the riders once race day arrives. They will have spent their year getting to that start line of the first stage and they won’t be worrying about doping, public relations problems, or Truth and Reconciliation committees. They will be worrying about the race and how they will ride each stage. They will be thinking about the strategy and the execution of the team plan for the day. The past is over. The extra drama around their sport doesn’t matter. The next peddle stroke matters. Covering the next attack matters. That’s a good lesson to carry over to life as well. The past happened, but it doesn’t need to distract you from what you need to do next. You need to concentrate on the now to succeed.
I think that’s the most important reason to care about any sport, the reminder of the life lessons each provides. Each fan finds a sport they can identify with and can find these lessons if they wish. It is why I love my two favorite sports. I love to watch the drivers and riders push themselves farther and farther. I love watching the race strategy of each play out over the contests. Mostly I love being reminded of these lessons on life. Ride like the past doesn’t matter. Race through the grief. Start the day knowing what you have to do and find a way to do it even if there are circumstances trying to prevent you from finishing. Do it anyways.
These are the lessons I try to keep with me as I struggle to lose weight and get in shape. These are the lessons that help me change eating and fitness habits. The past doesn’t matter. I failed to change before, but I will do it today. Regret at over eating yesterday doesn’t matter; I just need to eat better today. The past doesn’t matter and I need to keep moving forward.