Danger, risk part of every sport

By Clyde Davis: Local columnist

At what point does the line in the sand get drawn, when the topic is professional athletes?

Who decides, and more to the point, who owns the athlete?

In what sense is she no longer the captain of her own ship?

These type of questions ought to arise in the wake of the tragic death of an Olympic luger, performing a practice run, just prior to the official start of the winter games.

The young man had confessed to his parents that he was intimidated by the track, built to be faster and more challenging than any previous.

The quick denial of any culpability on the part of the host country was contradictory to their immediate alteration of the facility, alterations, which admittedly should have been made before any human set sled on it.

The harsh comments by some fellow athletes and others that the luger himself was at fault, though philosophically defensible, added fuel to a painful fire.

Defensible because yes, one chooses to be a luger; this particular athlete chose to go ahead with a run on a track which made him nervous, a factor which, in itself, may have made the fatal difference. Most of us know what nerves can do to judgment.

On a human and compassionate level, however, such comments do little good.

A fine young man is dead, and the tragedy overrides any question of culpability. Whatever happened, it was not intentional.

Some of my readers may not be able to identify with the so-called jock mentality. I can.

I have never been a participant in high risk sports. I like to bike, but not at 90 MPH. I like to ride sleds, but wouldn’t go near such a risk as luge. I like to cross country ski, but wouldn’t be caught extreme skiing.

I like to swim, but not in the Arctic Ocean. I enjoyed wrestling, football and judo, but those are calculated risk, not extreme.

Nonetheless, any sport contains an element of risk, and that risk is acceptable, for the participant in that sport. Particularly in a younger person, jock mentality may over rule common sense, intuition, or skill awareness.

Shifting of blame will not do. Yes, any athlete elects to participate in a given sport. Yes, any athlete has the option to back out if the risk looks unacceptable, though the younger one is, the more pride may drive her on.

The young man from Georgia was only 22.

Blame itself will not do. Ridiculous blogs that beat an event to death not only create rumors, but dishonor the memory of someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s teammate. Casting blame on an engineering team implies that, somehow, they were deliberately sloppy or negligent. This I equally doubt.

Sometimes, things just happen, and are not anyone’s fault. Ultimately, a risk free life can only be found inside a bubble, and I, for one, would be the last one to enter that bubble.