© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001
I must respond to Richard Pearson's letter (Commentary, March 4: "Perspective needed regarding Earnhardt"). When asked if we knew the names of those seven soldiers killed in Hawaii, I thought about it. Although I don't know the names of those killed, I did read the story and said a prayer for the families of those soldiers. I'm the mother of a 21-year-old soldier and am proud of my son for serving and putting his life on the line for this wonderful country. But, like those soldiers killed, should my son lose his life while doing his duty, I would not expect the world to notice. But I would expect a prayer.
Although one person's life is no more important than the next, Dale Earnhardt was known and loved by many. Earnhardt might not have been our father, brother, son or uncle, but he was a big part of many families. Many of us knew everything about him because we followed his career. The outpouring of grief was very real. Perhaps because Dale was very real. We knew where he was every Sunday. If we weren't with him at the track, he came to us though television. He was a part of our lives.
As Pearson said, "Don't get me wrong, he was a great person." Well, he was a great person, just like all people are great in their own special way. I'm sorry you have to use comparisons when talking about loss of life. Perhaps Earnhardt's life or death wasn't any more important than anyone else's, but he will surely be missed for a long time. Not because he was a greater person, but because he was so loved by so many.
-- Valerie C. Davis, New Port Richey
In response to comments by Richard A. Pearson about the Earnhardt coverage versus the Hawaiian incident, my parents never have watched a NASCAR race but were physically upset over the death of Dale Earnhardt. He became a household name through his driving career. Although the accident in Hawaii was tragic, the names of those soldiers were not front page news. So how could any American name them? Why would he even compare the situations?
-- Diane Granado, New Port Richey
Now that the hubbub is ceasing over the death of a popular race driver, it is time to look at this so-called sport as we would look at another violence-prone event, boxing. In both, injuries and deaths abound, one from fists, the other from accidents. And in both, viewers seem eager to see a human falling to the canvas from blows, or a race car smashing into another car or a wall at 180 mph. What thrills. What role models.
Unfortunately, racing seems to encourage spectacular lead-footing on our nation's highways, seen locally on I-275, for instance, or U.S. 19, where daredevils zoom in and out of traffic lanes as if in competition at Darlington, Daytona or Indianapolis.
We mourn for the great driver and his final moments doing what he loved. But what a waste. What a waste.
-- Charles Connor, Treasure Island
What's going on with the Bucs? First, we hire coaches who barely have coached. Then we pick up a quarterback (Ryan Leaf) who doesn't like to be coached. The Bucs need to sign proven players, such as Ronde Barber and Jerry Wunsch, not a quarterback with problems on and off the field.
-- Eddie Adams, Clearwater
Tony Dungy, please don't replace Shaun King. Just protect him. Give him the kind of protection opposing quarterbacks had all season. Give him just three seconds more to do the job he is capable of doing. Spend your Brad Johnson money on offensive protectors who can do the job for Shaun and for the Bucs.
-- Fred Nassif, Clearwater
I've had it. I no longer can take these prima donna sports stars. There is no justification for a person who can throw or hit a baseball being worth $200-million. Then these players like Frank Thomas have the nerve to say they won't play because they don't make enough money.
I always thought that if you signed a contract, you agreed to that amount of money for that amount of time. Why don't these overgrown crybabies grow up and honor what they signed. I wish I made that kind of money for playing a game, but I have a real job, as do most baseball fans who have to shell out $80 to take a family to a game.
If the players go on strike, baseball can forget it. I will never go to another game and will never support an advertiser who sponsors these teams -- and hope the other fans will join in this boycott. I would rather take my money and watch a Little League game.
-- M. Herbert, Kenneth City
The attitudes of many readers reflect the pervasive tone of racism that exists throughout the bay area and the nation. During February, you included a number of powerful, thought-provoking articles on African-American history. To my dismay, many readers, who I presume are white, expressed angry sentiments in various letters.
In the sports section, Bucs coach Tony Dungy was vilified for speaking out against the refusal of NFL teams to hire a well-deserving black defensive coordinator. Yet, these are the same people who cheer for black athletes on Sunday and swoon over them in public. They continually claim, however, they are not racist.
The opinions expressed speak to the overwhelming ignorance many white Americans display over the issue of race/ethnicity in society and the reality of white privilege. Unbeknownst to many bay area residents, Tampa Bay is one of the most racially segregated areas in America, according to various studies (Harvard University, University of Michigan, etc.). Moreover, the views sometimes expressed are indicative of the degree of racism that exists here.
The continuous outrage over the slightest mention of "black issues" is further evidence of the resurgence of America's greatest problem: racial hatred.
-- Doug Sanders, Tampa
My wife and I would like to pass on our thanks and compliments to Rod Gipson, Frank Pastor and Scott Purks for their high-quality coverage of high school sports. Our son, Kyle, just finished his basketball career at Tampa Gaither. We appreciate that the Times always provided coverage of Hillsborough County sports with a personal, hometown feel. Thanks again for a job well done.
-- Jan & Debi Kostyun, Tampa
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