Yes this is going to be a little bit of a rant, but also what I hope is an eye opener for a lot of people in the industry, because it's about time we all took a long hard look at what's going on.
A week and a half ago I lost my friend Mustang Mike, and now just two days ago I read that another close friend Victor Nieblas had a heart attack. Both in my view way to young. Luckily Victor survived his scare. Then I have another friend Nick Blackford that is battling cancer and the man is barely old enough to order a beer.
Now I am not saying that any of this is related to each other, and I am not without fault myself. I mean seriously, I am 6'1 350 lbs with a history of high blood pressure and a family history of heart problems. So don't for a minute think that I don't accept the fact that I am in the same boat as a lot of others.
When I was at PRI a few weeks ago and saw the next generation of superstars in the room for Drag Illustrated's 30 under 30 presentation, stars like Alex Laughlin, Alex Hays, Caleb Cox, and so many more, I got to thinking. This is a generation that never ate burgers from styrofoam containers, and never had people telling them butter was terrible for you. This is the generation that seems a lot more conscious about health than we did.
When I say "we" I mean the 40 plus generation. The ones that refuses to talk about our health even though we know it's terrible. The ones that spend 14 hours a day in a rig getting to a race and eating the worst crap known to man, yet calling it food. We are the generation that seems to either be on the path to living till we are 90 or dying in our 40's and 50's with no middle ground. Yet, for some reason we stay in denial.
I don't deny that eating well and taking care of ourselves while on the road for weeks at a time isn't easy and nor a priority most of the time. Well I have had enough of it not being a priority. Why do we have to see our friends and family die to make a change? Can't we just take a lead and go with it? I am not saying that we have to eat kale all the time, because the fact is that you still won't see me eating a salad at the race track, but we've still got to do better.
Insurance is another thing that is sometimes hard to come by in our industry as well. A lot of us are self employed, and let's face it, most of us don't make enough to get that wonderful, affordable Obama Care that everyone talks about. This means that we ignore the signs. We ignore that dull pain in the chest, or the lump in the arm pit, or maybe the unwelcome fatigue. We just attribute everything to our busy way of life and keep trucking forward. Keep on with the 3 hours of sleep, energy drinks, and maybe, just maybe a snack here and there. Then we wonder where it all goes wrong.
There are exceptions to the rule though. There are those with the means and resources to cook and eat much better while at the track. Those really are 1% of the people at the track though. And I have been lucky in my time that they treat me like family and offer me food etc. The problem is that isn't everyone. That isn't every crew person, every driver, every photographer, every videographer.
I think in 2017 it's time for a change. This doesn't mean put the steak away and eat salad. This just is a call to action. A call for all of us to take a moment and get that check up at the doctor. Take a moment to stop ignoring the aches and pains. Take a moment to eat something decent. Swallow your pride and ask someone for a water when you need it and it's 90 degrees out. It's time that we start taking care of each other, because if we don't, that 30 under 30 certainly won't matter as they will have no one to help guide them and help avoid the mistakes that we've made. I ask all of you, including myself to just make an effort to be just a little better about the way that we treat ourselves.
In closing, if you are still reading this, thank you. I know most think I am off my rocker for writing something like this, and yet if it helps one person then it's worth it. If there is anyone that has serious suggestions on how we move forward in dealing with these issues, please post here or email us. I would really like to see people come together around this so that we can go racing for another 40 years.
Merry Christmas everyone!