I just finished watching “3,” the new ESPN documentary of Dale Earnhardt . Though I am not a NASCAR fan, I found it to be a great sports movie. Dale Earnhardt is portrayed as uncompromising egoist : racing is his life, and nothing less than perfection is acceptable – on the track, or in his personal life.
Earnhardt’s success is presented not as a matter of luck, but of dedication, innovation in technique and technology, and the highest expectations from his team. “It ain’t about the guy with the fastest car”, he says, “– it’s about the one who refuses to lose.” He’s not out for the fame, and he doesn’t change attitude his even after he achieves greatness – it’s always about the racing, and pursuing one’s passions: “They can’t put it in ya.. and they can’t take it out.”
Another important quality is his attitude towards tragedy on the track: he recognizes the possibility, and takes precautions, but never allows it to assume a metaphysical importance for him, not even after his close friend dies. Nor does the movie allow his untimely death to overshadow his successes, as the final moments of the movie show.
The documentary reminded me of why people find spectator sports so inspiring: by dramatizing the process of goal-achievement, they inspire us to success in our own lives. There are few other arenas in our society where such inspiration can be found.