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in the world of drag racing

Black Bar

The latest update as of May 17, 2000

So where do we want to go today? At least that was going to be the opening for today's episode of "As The Wheel Turns." Then I made the mistake of seeing what was happening on Header Flames. True to its name, it definitely got me fired up.... and for all the wrong reasons.

The two major topics of discussions at "HF" concerned death. Those of Adam Petty, killed in a crash during qualifying at a NASCAR Busch series race last week and Terry "Fuzzy" Carter, Eddie Hill's ex-crew chief, of a fast-acting cancer. The relationship between the two deaths is marked by the very different media reaction(s) to them.

In the first case, the ambulance-chasers, the exploiters, the sensation seekers and just plain ghouls came out in force to use and abuse Adam's death for their personal profit and in the process, gain notoriety for themselves and their employers. Disgusting and perverted are barely adequate terms to express my feelings towards the worst offender, John Gearan, a columnist for the Worcester (Massachusetts) Telegram & Gazette newspaper.

His column in the Sunday edition, titled "Just a speed bump?" was, from the first paragraph to the last, an orgy of cynically ignorant personal biases. The vitriol dripping from his word processor was simply stunning; the tone of the column was one of utter contempt to the Petty family, especically Adam's mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. In case you've forgotten, the day this article was published was Mother's Day. What was this guy in a previous lifetime, a lawyer?

By now, it might be starting to dawn on you that I'm seriously peeved at this fellow. Since this is a "family"-rated website (please, no jokes about how dis-functional it is at times, at least not right now), I've got to try very hard to keep my language within the limits that I accepted when I signed on with my service provider. If not for that rev-limiter, I'd be blistering the pavement with my mouth right now.

Back to the topic Bob, please. A normal person's first reaction might be to fire off a very, very nasty letter to Mr. Gearan or his editor or the publisher of the Telegram & Gazette. Unfortunately, to dignify his remarks with any sort of reaction, positive or negative, would in essence, be validating his comments. That's very difficult to do at times, especially in this instance, but if nobody reacts, at all, then the unspoken message would get through to Mr. Gearan, and his employers, that his column didn't push anyone's "buttons" (hot or otherwise).

The only useful reaction to this piece of #@$!^%$#@ would be to cancel a subscription to the newspaper, cancel advertising in the newspaper and in general, refuse to support them in any way. Not with a flaming arrow through their doors, not with bricks through their windows, simply hurt them with silence and ignore them. Reacting by writing protest letters to the columnist, the editor or the publisher, no matter how impassionate and reasoned the arguments against Mr. Gearan may be, is still validating, albeit in a negative fashion, his work.

Am I being a little too obtuse here, or does this all make sense? Normally, I would post a link to the article, Mr. Gearan's follow-up article on the following day and his e-mail address. There is no way, partly due to copyright laws, that I would consider posting the article on this website without the express written permission of the publisher. But this isn't normal: the writer is a very sick (mentally) man and deserves nothing more than public retribution.

So I'm going to break all the rules, post the article in its disgusting entirety (if I don't get physically ill transcribing it) and INVITE the Worcester Telegram & Gazette to launch a lawsuit against me for copyright infringement. A bit of grandstanding? Someone else, namely me, using Petty's death for his own twisted purpose? No, in my opinion, I'm just trying to do my part to focus the public vilification that this low-life and his employers so richly deserve.

The column and its follow-up are posted on the Press Clippings 2000 index and are suitably highlighted with a warning about their contents. I've also included the appropriate e-mail links, phone and fax numbers and mailing address. Remember, to respond in any fashion, to this bit of nasty garbage would be the wrong path, but if you feel compelled to do so, go ahead and launch a rocket at them. By the way, remember to tell them that I sent you. Seriously. I'd just love to get a threatening letter from their legal department.

This will be the last, hopefully, that I have to say on the subject of Adam Petty's death, except for the following. To all the members of the Petty family, I would like to express my sincere condolences on the loss of your Adam. He will be truly missed by your family, all fans of motorsport, and his competitors in the NASCAR fraternity. May he rest in peace.

And now on to the next bit of bad news. Earlier today there was a posting, with appropriate respect and solemnity on the NHRA website, about the death of Eddie Hill's former crew-chief, and very close friend, Terry "Fuzzy" Carter. He was only 41 years of age and had been diagnosed with cancer barely two months ago. Shocking and saddening, in a completely different fashion than the previous story, but again, a very sad day for all motorsports fans.

Carter will always be remembered as one of the prime catalysts in the breaching of the magical 4-second barrier, broken in dramatic fashion by Eddie Hill at the Texas Motorplex in November, 1988. Fuzzy, and his wife Jana, worked with Eddie & Ercie from the early 1980's until their professional parting in February, 1997. In fact, the Carters lived with the Hill's for nearly ten years in Eddie's House in Wichita Falls, Texas.

It's hard to think of a greater friendship between employer and employee, and this one obviously transcended that distinction in their roles. The two men remained friends until the end of Carter's life and in a brief statement today, Eddie reflected on their long friendship and concluded with the following words, "This is a very sad day for myself and Ercie. He was like a son to us. He and Jana lived with us for ten years, and I still think of the back bedroom as his. Always will. It's hard for us to believe he's gone."

With their well-known faith and belief in a higher power, the Hills' will soldier on, sadly at first, but still strong in their personal resolve to again be a factor in Top Fuel racing. But all that pales into utter insignificance when the ugly realities of life, and death, intrude into those dreams. A service for Carter will be held on Friday, May 19 in Big Spring, Texas. He is survived by his wife Jana, a brother, three sisters and his mother. Again, I'd like to express my sincere condolences to the entire Carter family and all his friends.

In very sharp contrast to the media treatment of the Petty story, the report on Fuzzy Carter's death was restrained and tasteful. Yes, he died away from the track, of an ailment unrelated to the sport. Perhaps if he had died in a racing-related accident, then the ghouls would have been out in force like for Petty's death. And if the death had been a spectacular one, with video footage available . . . well, the sky's the limit.

Good taste, classy behaviour and simple human decency. Endangered species? You'd almost think so, if you're a consumer of popular media channels. The newspapers, magazines, television, radio and even the internet, especially the internet, seem addicted to glorifying all that is bad about modern society. And in many ways, these media outlets are shaping our perception of society to their own benefit, and our collective detriment.

Benefit? Controversy sells. If it bleeds, it leads. There is no way to underestimate the taste of the masses. Think I'm just another paranoid, that sees a conspiracy in everything that moves or breathes? Not a chance, mate. Maybe my feelings stem partly from a continuing case of media overload, but my overall impressions of the current media do ring through loud and clear. Stupidity and oxygen are the only elements that we have an excess of. Or at least one of those elements.

So where is this tirade leading? Let's sum it up as succintly as possible: Don't believe half of what you hear and even less of what you read. Pick your sources of information carefully; look at everything with a critical eye. Why is this being published or broadcast? What agenda is at work here? What are the motives behind this? Are both sides of the issue being examined or is the story slanted in the direction of the person, company or organization that provided the "germ" of the story line?

Common sense is a commodity that seems in very short supply at times. Far fewer people exhibit any of it these days, as exemplified by the exploding hype about the internet, the new economy, the Y2K bug (remember that one? it's as dead as Disco about now, isn't it?) and the Elian Gonzalez story -- another item that's become as stale as an old running shoe. Just try to focus on what's relevant to you and your lifestyle, and tune out the rest of the media noise.

In closing today's episode, I'd like to return, once again unfortunately, to the subject of death in motorsport. On Sunday, May 7th, at Shreveport, Louisiana's Red River Raceway, jet car racer Bill Gnegy of Colleyville, Texas was fatally injured in a crash. Unknown to most fans of drag racing, Bill died due to causes that haven't been publicly announced at this writing.

A fellow competitor, Dennis Roslansky, owner/driver of the "Crossfire" jet dragster, summed up the situation with the following words. "Bill was an exceptional, innovative and talented human being. His five year involvement in jet car drag racing was impressive, but all too brief. He will be sorely missed."

Since Bill was pretty much a well-kept secret, the media reaction to his passing has been minimal. The Red River Raceway website has posted a short report on the accident, but nothing further, other a small note in the Shreveport newspaper has surfaced in regard to the accident.

Three deaths, three very different media recations to be sure. Obviously, name recognition played a large part in the stories (or lack of) connected to each passing, but it shows just how a writer's or editor's or publisher's preconceived notions or preferences (biases, if you like) can shape the way we receive our daily dose of the news.

It's now past 1:00 AM and the old brain cells are taking a fast fade, so any further comments or pearls of wisdom on this subject will have to wait until later today. Maybe when I've cooled down a little more, I may have some more cogent and coherent arguments in favour of reinstating the death penalty for people who disagree with me. Oops, looks like it's too late to take that one back. Until tomorrow, eh?

Black Bar
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