I've been in a bit of a rut as far as writing goes lately. I didn't finish my season review pieces here, even though I got through 17 of them. My readership, I think, has declined. My stuff elsewhere has suffered. The inspiration has been there in fits and starts, but not as constantly as it once was. Even my Christmas wish to you all was pretty lame. Maybe it's just because we're in the offseason.
Instead, I've been relaxing with my friends, Matt and Tom. We've known each other since middle school, at least. These guys are like brothers to me - the brothers I never had. We trade advice, we play video games, we try to make something of ourselves and our unit. But what we do together has nothing to do with my writing. They don't see my passion for motorsports as much as you all do.
We got together for Christmas, just like it was any other night. After a series of awkward family gatherings and decent gifts (especially money, always a necessity for a college student), Tom and I went to Tom's house to wait for our friend, Matt, to get out of his late shift at work. His adoptive father, Big Joseph, is usually up when we get in. We trade stories, we talk sports, we learn from each other. Well, mostly, I learn from him, because that's how it goes with generational gaps, usually.
This particular day we'd gotten to talking about sports, and witnessing greatness. He was 20 feet from Jimi Hendrix playing the national anthem at Woodstock. John Bucyk sized his skates as a teenager. He once witnessed Ted Williams talk fly fishing with a friend's father. The point was that, no matter who you are on this earth, you're never nobody - you're always somebody. I heard more stories from him in a night than I'd heard from my father in five years.
I said this to him. I wished - and I do, to this day - that I could hear more of my dad's crazy driving stories from when he was a kid. I wanted him to teach me how to drive a stick, show me how to wheel a muscle car, endow me with the skills that would enable me to pilot a car with confidence and skill.
Thus far, I've had no experience with any of that. My family has a Mustang, but it's an automatic. The limitation of my manual abilities is acquired muscle memory with a Ferrari FXX on Road America in Forza Motorsport 3. Yet I've always wanted to be the next Dario Franchitti - hell, at least the next Marco Andretti. I never really got that chance. I'd be more at peace with it with the stories of his driving adventures. Nothing.
I told Big Joseph this. I said, "There's one quote that stuck with me. I think it was Bobby Knight, if not, somebody attributed it to him and that's the name that stuck with me. But he said that 'Those who can, do. Those who can't, write about it.'"
Said Big Joseph, "Fuck him."
My eyes widened a bit.
"Yeah, fuck him," Big Joseph continued, slicing carrots into a chicken soup. "Writers live forever. You come along as an athlete, you set a record in sports... sooner or later somebody's gonna come along and break it. But as a writer, if you can tell a story, you can live forever.
"If you can write - and I know you can write - stick it to 'em. Take your talents to the ice, to the field, to the ballpark, and shine."
I was witnessing greatness. Not the kind of greatness that you see on the sports field, but the kind of greatness that comes from the heart, when you want to teach somebody else a life lesson. It was a motivational speech on par with Herb Brooks in the locker room at Lake Placid in 1980. And it contained the same message - to go out and be the best at what it is you do, no matter what anybody says, if anybody doubts you, if you're not getting any breaks. Just go out and be somebody.
Perhaps the greatest Christmas gift of all was the inspiration to write something again, and it came from Big Joseph.
He said earlier in the night, "What's wrong with things coming by accident? How do you meet the woman you love?"
"Exactly. BY ACCIDENT. I wandered into The Grog in Newburyport, and who walks in but this beautiful brunette that turns out to be Thomas's grandmother. I might have come into the bar a nobody that night, but I was somebody enough to say 'Hey, how you doin'?' You're never nobody."
And I think I'm taking the right message from all of that.
I'm not nobody. I'm somebody. I may just be a mere IndyCar blogger, but you know what? I'm somebody. And so is everybody else in the IndyCar blogosphere. And I may be young, unpolished, and not know when to shut up sometimes, but I'm one of you, just the same. And I'm going to keep being somebody.
If you read me, good. Glad to have you. If you don't, well, you'd better start, because I'm going to come out next year and show all of you that my writing means something. I'm going to be a voice that leads the sport into the future, through ups and downs, peaks and valleys, good times and bad. I promise you no less than that from me, or from this site, from this day forward.
To that end, let me also announce the site's expansion. We're adding writers next year. We're switching from the tried-and-true Blogger format to a more heavy-duty WordPress site, and you're all invited. We'll still be at OpenWheelAmerica.com, but we'll also be on Twitter at @OpnWhlAmerica and attending at least half a dozen races between us next year. Expect nothing less than innovative and interesting content from young, dynamic, and authoritative voices year-round.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all - look for us in the future. See you soon, maybe even with the rest of those season review pieces.