Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wisely Chooses Health Over Bravado

Whether it’s Rocky Balboa rising from the canvas to deliver the knockout blow, Curt Schilling delivering strikeout pitches while his foot oozes blood or Willis Reed hobbling onto the court to play in the NBA finals, fans love the tough guy. In literary conflict, it’s akin to  “man versus himself.” Now, not only is the competitor battling an opponent, he or she is waging battle with an impaired body. An injured warrior’s triumph is the stuff of legend.

With that said, let’s gain a little perspective. An athlete taking chances with his life is an entirely different matter than a wounded soldier’s victory in the life and death conflict of war where the fate of a nation may be on the line. NASCAR is not a death race. To that end, this fan applauds the decision of Dale Earnhardt Jr. to sit out this Sunday’s race at New Hampshire.

Now, more than ever, the public is aware of the consequences that come with repeated head injuries. The stories are numerous of retired football players who wake up not know who they are. Some find themselves in situations not knowing where they are. On more than a few tragic occasions, a retired athlete sought release from the pain by ending their lives. Think about that if you be tempted to laugh at or criticize Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s decision.

There’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity. No one will die even if Dale Earnhardt Jr. has hung up his helmet for the last time. Head trauma from another brush with the wall is an entirely different matter. It’s a race! 

Reading some of the derisive comments in the wake of Earnhardt’s announcement makes my blood boil. If you’ve seen the damage a concussion can do, and I have, you will better appreciate the decision to keep Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of a race car at New Hampshire. There’s a life for him beyond driving a race car, and he has experienced up close and personal the heavy price the sport can exact from its participants.

Because of who is he and what he brings to the sport- here’s hoping Earnhardt is back in a week. If the risk is too great, may he muster the courage to walk away. Beyond racing, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a man- a son, a brother, an uncle and a husband-to-be. Yes, fellow fan, there’s more to life than racing.