I am continuing a long-disused series because I just learned about someone inspiring whom you don’t know, and I want to share.
In my earlier work, Theophilus, I talked about my favorite racing driver, Michael Schumacher. Today I am going to talk about another racing driver.
Before I do, Reader-land, I am going to rant about the respect and admiration we give to athletes, movie stars, etc. We hold them up, we want to be like them, wear their clothes, buy their movies, name our children after them, joke about not washing our hands when we touch Joe Greene’s hand, all that stuff. The question is why? Why do we give them more respect than we give our parents? Or our faith, if we would rather go to a football game on Sunday than get to mass? Why do we need to pay them millions upon millions, especially when there is such a push for social justice?
Because they excel at something we do not, and we are interested in that thing and live vicariously through them. There is nothing wrong with this, well, aside from the mass part. We are allowed to have interests and hobbies. Where we have to be careful is equating the skill and talent they have to all aspects of life. For example, skill at basketball does not preclude someone being an angry and vindictive person, who might cheat during a game. Looking at you, Grayson Allen. Or the second greatest of all time may cheat on his wife. Looking at you, Tiger. (For the record, Bobby Jones is the greatest of all time at golf.)
No, excellence in one thing doesn’t mean excellence in all. But it’s something to work to, right? A sly offhand comment about socialist millionaires. They never volunteer to give up their cushy lifestyle first. They just tell us what to do.
This adulation leads to complacency and possibly even arrogance. I’ll explain why. We raise them up so high that the sense of entitlement becomes strong. The perks they gain become entitlements, etc It’s important to find out about the whole person before idolizing them, or just recognize skill in that one area. I really enjoy Freddie Mercury’s music, but I will never advocate anyone to live like him.
So today I want to talk about a Scotsman named Jim Clark. You probably never heard of him. He died in a racing crash in ’68, at 32 years old. Percentage-wise, he’s the greatest of all time, even better than Schumacher. The point of this series though is to highlight the character. Clark was shy and unassuming, his whole life. Never married, that I am aware of, and motivated to work hard to succeed at what he did, and humble in victory. When he succeeded in having a career year never matched, he had a small event in his hometown.
Let’s explain. Today’s F1 drivers race 21 times a year and whine about it being too many. Jim Clark raced 8-10 times a year in F1, but he added in Australian single seat racing, British single-seat F2 racing, French single-seat F2 racing, touring car racing, oh, and the Indy 500. In 1965. 63 Races. And he won thirty-one of them, clinching the championship in all of them. So, twenty-one races versus sixty-three. In the days of barely any seat belts and driving 180mph. Today’s drivers complain about too many races, can you believe it? Jim traveled to four continents to race. This is what I mean by character, he didn’t whine or expect entitlements, he just went and did what he loved to do. He sure didn’t get paid the millions a year that the modern drivers make!
I guess it is a bygone era where we saw individuals work hard for their rewards, didn’t expect anything, and left the world a better place when they left. Volume does not equal virtue, but from what I gathered, along with the work ethic came a personal ethic. In interviews with his peers, Clark was seen as a gentleman and a gentle soul. He was gentle with his Lotus, going fast and pushing limits without thrashing the car around. Not harsh or demanding. In fact, a year he came runner-up in the Indy 500, the winner should have been disqualified for leaking oil. Clark and his team didn’t protest or complain. Can you imagine that in today’s times?
I am trying to find celebrities who have personal character on top of their skills at whatever they do. Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, John Wayne in a roundabout way, etc. It’s racing season so I want to share racing drivers. Jim Clark is a familiar name, but only now am I learning about the man. What can we learn? To be the best doesn’t mean to be the loudest, or the squeaky wheel, the most flamboyant, the most belligerent. Jim Clark might even show us a role model not only for nice guys finishing first, but wiping out the competition and having them thank you when your done.
It’s a good lesson in all things, especially for me. So I will remember Clark with a newfound respect and admiration, and hope in the future I will get a chance to meet the greatest of all time.