ALSO THIS MONTH
MARC CIAMPA, a native of St. Albert, Alberta, Canada is the staff sports writer for Renaissance Online Magazine. A student at the University of Alberta, Ciampa is the public relations coordinator for the St. Albert Saints and writes a weekly article in the Edmonton Sun on junior hockey during the winter. During the summer he runs the official Calgary Cannons website.
It was a horrific week and chain of events that saw the sports world lose key members of its past, present and future. Walter Payton, who is still arguably the most dominant football player of any era and Payne Stewart, a golfer who was just now entering the prime of his career will both be mourned for many years to come. But perhaps most tragic from this past week was the death of young Canadian CART driver Greg Moore.
Perhaps not because of what he had accomplished-as a 24-year-old CART driver with four years on the top North American racing circuit under his belt - but for what he could have accomplished if given the opportunity. Potential unrealized. Greg Moore was clearly one of the sport's rising stars but not even on the racetrack. As a human being, at age 24 he had so much more life to live.
Moore's early years were much like those of any Canadian. Having grown up throughout the 1980s, his hero was Wayne Gretzky, of course. This was made obvious by the number he used on his car - 99. It was the only number he ever used in racing, starting from his early days at the Westwood Karting Association - where as a teenager he was North American Go-Kart champion - right through to his Indy Lights and CART years.
And, like most Canadians, Moore played hockey when he was younger. He was good enough to be the goaltender on a team that included Paul Kariya (Anaheim Mighty Ducks) of all players for several seasons.
Nashville Predators center Cliff Ronning, who is from the Vancouver area and whose hockey school Moore had attended when he was younger, summed up the whole situation quite well.
"I was amazed at how successful he became as a race car driver," Ronning said. "When I talked to him, he seemed like a very nice guy. No airs about him at all.
"I saw the crash on TV ... horrible. Just horrible. A terrible day. For all of Canada. I talked to my dad in Burnaby and he said all of Maple Ridge is in big-time mourning.
"My wife's sister passed away a while ago at a young age and it's a difficult thing to accept," Ronning continued. "I don't think emotionally you ever really get over it.
"You just feel so, so sorry for his family.
"It's been a strange week. Losing three high-profile athletes like that. And not just successful at their chosen sports, but quality people away from the golf course and the race track and the football field.
"It just shows everyone again how precious every day of your life can be."
Born and raised in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Moore was adored by his hometown fans.
"Greg never forgot his roots-he actively supported many community events and was extremely involved with the youth of Maple Ridge," said the city's Mayor Carl Durksen. "In his 24 years, he touched many people. He was a kind, generous, caring young man."
Ironically, Moore was not even supposed to race that day. The day before, a car struck the scooter he was riding in the speedway paddock. He ended up with a fractured finger, lacerated hand and bruised hip.
But being the type of person he was, he wanted to race. He begged CART officials to let him test his injured right hand in a special, one-car practice Saturday. He was cleared to go after the six-lap test.
"I'll be fine," he said just prior to the race. "I'm a tough Canadian kid, we're used to playing hard. Downshifting is the only thing that hurts a little bit and you only do that when you're coming into the pits, you're not doing it on the track."
The consensus agreement is that the hand had nothing to do with the accident.
Moore himself felt he was as well protected as possible going into the race. "The cars are as safe as they can be," he stated. "It's just that you'll never be able to make race cars completely safe. Things happen at speed."
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the question comes to pass, should the race have been stopped?
The second Player's/Forsythe car, driven by Patrick Carpentier, was shut down for the day on the 20th lap. Carpentier was called off the track by the Player's/Forsythe team.
"Under the circumstances it was the very least we could do," Player's Ltd. President Jean-Paul Blais said.
The Moore family felt the right decision was made, however, and even told CART president and CEO Andrew Craig to go ahead with the season-ending banquet the following night. It had previously been cancelled.
Regardless, however, fans, friends and family alike can take solace in the fact that Moore died doing what he loved best.
"(Crashing) is not something you ever consider when you're in there," said Moore back in February. "You just have to trust your team.
"Especially at this professional a level, the cars are such that you're going at a tremendous speed on a track where everyone around you is doing the same thing, but it doesn't, it can't, enter your mind that you might get hurt or worse.
"If you think like that, you'll never do anything in motorsport."
* * * *