At this time of year, as the gentlemen at Indianapolis prepare to start their engines, inevitably we receive a number of letters from readers opposed to such dangerous sports as auto racing. Frequently they feel the sports themselves should be abolished, and that this magazine should concur in those sentiments. At the very least, they suggest, we should refrain from covering them.
Obviously the editors do not agree. They have always felt that all reasonable precautions should be taken to insure the safety of participants and spectators in all sports, and have applauded any medical studies, equipment research or refreshing applications of common sense designed to reduce the hazards inherent to some degree in almost all competition. We are opposed to foolhardiness and carelessness wherever they occur. But this magazine does defend the right of people to compete in activities that may be dangerous—and we will continue to report on them.
Contenders on the top levels in all dangerous sports are careful men. Championship boxers are usually far more sensible about their physical well-being than pedestrians who persist in crossing streets between intersections. A good driver on the track at Indy (and bad drivers are barred from the track at Indy) is exercising more sense than many of the drivers on our freeways. So long as this is true, the question is the moral one of whether they have the right, in accepting risks, to live their lives in terms most of us probably would not choose.
Our conviction is that adventure is a proper province of man—pure adventure, for its own sake—and Webster's definition of adventure is "an undertaking involving danger and unknown risk." It is adventure to attempt Everest, to explore the Amazon—and to drive at 168 mph on the track at Indianapolis. It is foolishness, and worse, to undertake these things without tents, mosquito repellent or a mechanically sound car, but to attempt them responsibly is adventure, and we are not against it. The man who tries himself to the utmost is exploring his own soul, and exploring one's own soul is one's own business.
May 29, 1966
As to the charge that dangerous sports pander to the worst in some of the people who turn up to watch, that is their own business. The worst in some people is brought out by cats or fires or their own children: it is a difficult matter, protecting people from their darker responses. And it is not only difficult, it seems unreasonable to suggest that the worst in a crowd of spectators should be made the measure of the best in Mario Andretti and A. J. Foyt.
So men will drive at high speed this week in the 50th running of the Indianapolis 500, and this magazine will report on how they do. We hope that they do well, and it is surely needless to say that we hope for a race unmarred by any of the accidents that must horrify. But it remains a driver's right to risk them.