As with many others, I'm still struggling with yesterday's tragedy at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I don't have the breadth or depth of knowledge of open-wheel racing that others have, but I have spent time with racers, their families and their supporters in my capacity as a sportswriter, blogger and fan.
Strong emotional bonds are found within those groups in motorsports, perhaps because death or serious injury is a shadow that stands near every track whenever men or women strap themselves into vehicles and prepare to drive fast.
I am not learned enough or wise enough to comment on the circumstances of Dan Wheldon's death. I leave that to others who are. One thing I have done while trying to make sense of this tragedy is to take a moment to express appreciation to the broadcast team from ESPN-ABC for the work they did under the most trying circumstances.
Here is the text of an email I sent today to Andy Hall, ESPN Communications/PR for motorsports, golf and E:60. (@AndyHallESPN):
Mr. Andy Hall:
I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the entire ESPN-ABC production team responsible for covering the tragedy at Sunday's IndyCar Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Led by Marty Reid in the booth with the support of Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever, with Rick DeBruhl, Vince Welch, Jamie Little in the pit lane and many more behind the scenes, the coverage was exemplary under the most difficult circumstances imaginable.
There was throughout complete professionalism including a refusal to speculate or comment on rumor; respect for drivers, team members and their families; silence when words were unnecessary; and in the end Mr. Reid expressed a heartfelt and heartbreaking coda.
I was just 10 years old when the tragedy happened in Munich during the 1972 Summer Olympics. A clear memory I have is watching Jim McKay anchor the coverage with quiet dignity and professionalism as he communicated to the world events that many could not comprehend.
Sunday's broadcast from Las Vegas was very much in the same tradition as that Munich coverage.
In the past I have been a vocal critic of some of the production choices made by ESPN/ABC for motorsports broadcasts. I will likely continue to be frustrated with those choices, but it would be remiss of me to not laud you for something done so well, especially a broadcast I'm sure everyone at ESPN/ABC hoped would never be necessary.
I address this note to you and trust you will forward it to anyone you feel necessary. Thank you again.
The words of Jim McKay, announcing the death of all the Israeli athletes at Munich in 1972 will be with me forever:
"When I was a kid my father used to say: ‘Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.'
Our worst fears have been realized tonight ... they're all gone."
So, too, now will Marty Reid's final tribute to Dan Wheldon from Las Vegas:
"Many people always ask me why I sign off 'Until we meet again.' Because goodbye is so final.
Goodbye, Dan Wheldon."