Paul Dana died on Sunday. His Indy Racing League car crashed into Ed Carpenter’s disabled car at 176 mph during the practice session for the first race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He was 30 years old. His wife Tonya survives him.
The death of Paul Dana was a terrible incident that should be respected, addressed and never forgotten. We do not, however, need to repeatedly remember Paul Dana in the last moments before and beyond his grisly death.
If you’ve been watching ESPN or other sport reports since Sunday you have seen Paul Dana die a thousand deaths as his crash is shown again and again and again to an audience thirsty for blood. Would the television producers choose to show a man leaping out of a building and landing on the ground at 176 mph? Would showing a man getting run over by a motorcycle at 176 mph make the evening news?
Would you see on television a man smashing a bus into a wall at 176 mph? You would only see those deaths on television — and repeated ad nauseam — if they happened during a sport event. The athlete is somehow immune to the respect and honor we give ordinary people in their public executions and I would hope one day soon a moratorium on broadcasting the last moments of a life on television– even an athlete’s — will be put into place.
Respecting the dead and the means of their end should be honored no matter the circumstance surrounding the expiration. Even if the audience begs for blood that does not means a bloodthirst is required to be slaked. Sometimes we need to land above the bar of the lowest-common-human-desire and refuse to abide the gruesome over the dignified. In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Calphurnia says to Caesar in Act II, Scene 2:
When beggars die there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.
In our Modern Age we can kill our valiant tens of thousands of times in broadcast media replays and that makes us all cowards in the shadow of great risk over gain. Let us give Paul Dana his valiant death because stepping into a car where every moment tempts death at 176 mph is an act that deserves to blaze a heavens end.