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By Paul Fenn
I'd not heard of the man when I first caught wind of motorcycle racer Marco Simoncelli's demise a few days ago. I've never been a follower of MotoGP, of motorcycle racing, or of any sport, including those I partake of.
But I do take note when a top practitioner in one of my sports is killed in active duty. It's 10% morbid curiosity, but mainly it's 'maybe I can learn something here so I don't exit in a similar fashion,' a sentiment perhaps grounded more in superstition than realism. So I watched the two clips of the crash - one angle shot by a TV cameraman, the other from the onboard camera of a following racer - several times and then several more times. I couldn't stop myself.
Through other videos and articles I began to learn things about this Marco. How generally beloved he was as a person. How he had a wild, outgoing, fun- hungry streak to him. How he had a stunner of a girlfriend, a crazy rug of Afro-Italian hair, really sweet-seeming parents and a great load of admirers, fans and mates, but also a few detractors among his fellow riders. I started to think about the path of MotoGP racing as a career choice, and the scalpel edge between life and death one daily inhabits in that sport of sports.
Something then snapped in me. This combination of plutonium nuts, uncommon ability, extreme sense of denial and smattering of insanity that is required to race motorcycles, it flashed in my skull, is worthy of the most excessive celebration among us humans. Billions of sheep admire the idle wealthy, the gorgeous, the famous, the extreme materialists, and, most awfully, the Snookis.
Me, I don't give a fuck about any of them. And I hate that so much of humanity has stupefied itself with such willful totality in the last couple of decades, choosing fluff over grit as hero fodder.
Being of certain age, I got tossed into a world that admired those who sweated blood to grab and hold their moment with all their energy, intelligence and focus. I grew up loving the ones who chose to run with the hounds of fearlessness - whether in sport, literature, personal belief or any other worthy human endeavour. They were the few who revealed nothing but pure, gleaming, beating heart when playing their hands - that quantity and quality of heart that upon seeing it untethered, you were forced into involuntary emotional membership in their moment. I grew up to respect most the ultra- gifted in all walks who didn't just surf on their gift, but located all they had within them to turbocharge it, take it kilometres higher. Those people whose difference blasts the mind the way a lump of gold found in a field of dirt steals your breath away. The most sensational of sensations.
How tragic and pathetic of anyone to give a damn about empty celebrity when the genuine conquerors are all around us, quietly, and noisily, getting their massive shit done, risking everything they can gather and putting it down on a daily basis to polish it, make it a half-hair better. They have exquisite rareness. They are the unusuals. They are coolness in the raw. Too few of us know this.
Marco? He had all of the above, and when that front tire of his strayed a millimeter too far into darkness, you could feel him refusing to even consider letting go. He put his knees and elbows to work, to pavement, calmly declaring, 'No chance, fear: I refuse to let you knock me down right now, I am busy racing here, now get the fuck out of my face.' How he very evenly applied the summation of all he'd ever learned and held onto, compressing it into that quarter-second of leeway between just fine thanks and not at all fucking fine, in what became the defining fight of his lifetime - that's what pulled me in and has kept me in, right to the typing of these very words.
I salute thee, Marco - and all the extremists in every area worthy of human endeavour. You are the true.