lundi 7 novembre 2011

Super Sic

For two weeks, I have watched videos, read tributes, looked at photos, and I have cried.

He was not my son. He was not my brother, my lover, my teammate or my friend. And, still I have cried.

Not a tear or two, but streams of tears. I have looked toward the sky, and I have asked why.

The day after he died, his mother came out of their home to comfort the dozens of fans gathered in mourning, and she said, "Non piangete, non piangete per lui. Marco non avrebbe mai voluto vedervi piangere."

Don't cry, don't cry for him. Marco would never have wanted to see you cry.

But, Marco never knew we'd see him die, at 24, coming out of a turn on the second lap at Sepang International Circuit. He couldn't have asked us to smile, like he always did, for everything, and he has seen many tears, tens of thousands of fans with tears in their eyes, quiet, silenced, crying.

Rosella, noi piangiamo per lui, per voi, per Paolo, per Martina, per Kate e per tutta la famiglia San Carlo Honda Gresini e MotoGP. Per Vale, e per Colin.

We cry because he was young, and he was joy. Because he had a talent and a drive to use it. He was criticized. He said he was learning, and that he would make mistakes. Jorge Lorenzo told him it was not a problem, until something happened. He said, "Then, I will be arrest," and he smiled that smile that sends problems out of the room, off the track, away from Marco.

And then, there was a problem, and he was not "arrest", he died. Jorge at least had a valid point.

"Maybe the other riders can tell when someone is going to die racing, like we can tell when someone is some guy is going to die on the road," my son mused. We, all of those who ride des deux roues

It came too soon, before Marco had a chance to learn more. Before we had a chance to see if you can drive the pace, race aggressively, thread the smallest hole, take the throttle to limits others place somewhere before them and then calibrate a distance from which to observe the consequences. His fans, the whole world of racing, suddenly, it seems, was holding its breath, waiting to see how close you may come to that limit, how real you may make MotoGP racing in the Catégorie Reine, the 800cc bikes, without a problem happening.

The kind of problem that would get you "arrest", or perhaps flirt mortally with your death.

From outside, from a fan's place in front of the articles, all of the reaction on the Internet, the sides form: Marco Simoncelli was too aggressive, he was a problem waiting to happen, he -- maybe -- invited his own death; Jorge Lorenzo was prescient; or, Super Sic was the bright spot, the thrill, the color in a sport that is becoming risk adverse, almost to the point of demanding that the bikes be equipped, as one fan put it, with turn signal lights for passing and brake lights for braking before turns; he was the future of MotoGP's ultimate category, la catégorie reine; he was the natural heir, they said, to his friend Valentino Rossi.

It was "bad luck". It was an accident. Or, it wasn't maybe so much an accident; it was an accident waiting to happen because he flew too high, too fast, without regard for the truth of the consequences, to the thrill of the fans, to the admiration of the MotoGP riders who have retired and watch him from the paddock, and who saw in him one of the greatest future riders, like 1993 MotoGP 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz, who wrote the day after his death in Malaysia, "There were three standouts in the sport, and now there are two. I'm probably going to get under some people's skin saying this, but it's Maverick Vinales, Marc Marquez, and it was Simoncelli."

Marco won't have the future to show what experience in his class, the tempering of time and maturity, would have made of him, but his legions of fans, enough to fill Indy, have had a chance to show him what he meant to them.

Two weeks after he died, on the last race day of the season, the world of MotoGP made a fitting tribute to a young man with a perpetual smile and hair that bounced as joyfully around his head as he raced around a track and bounced through the paddocks and our lives.

Schwantz, his hero, mentor, supporter, and friend, rode Marco's Gresini Honda RCV212 at the head of the memorial lap at Valencia, followed by the riders of all three categories -- the first time all three categories have taken to the track at the same time -- and a minute of noise; his father said it would be more fitting to his boisterousness than a moment of silence. Vale Rossi had a helmet made, a mix of their two helmet designs, and carried Marco's flag. Loris Capirossi, his friend and his adversary on the track, racing the last race of his career, replaced the 65 on his bike with Marco's 58 and finished the race in tears behind his visor; one rider ending his career in retirement rode under the number of another who died racing two weeks earlier.

But, how to explain why this death hurts so much more than others? The combined effect of his and other deaths, like Shoya Tomizawa's last year and Daijiro Kato in 2003, along with the deaths of other people in our lives? I think of two young women, not yet 20 years of age, who came to the ER when my husband was on duty last year, at several months apart, both of whom complained of abdominal pain, and both of whom had cancers that would certainly end their lives before they got to be another year older. The first died in July. The second just one month ago. My black lab, Baccarat, who at 4 was far too young to die last summer of a tumor in her heart, and break ours.

Is it because of his smile, his infectious happiness that shone right through the television screen and made friends and family of all of us?

The accident was at 10:30 in the morning in France, during the Rugby World Cup. Normally, we would have watched the MotoGP races in the afternoon. For some reason, we did not that Sunday. In the evening, my husband turned his laptop toward me and asked if I remembered the face that grinned from the screen, the glorious mop of soft, curly brown hair as big as the smile.


"Il est mort aujourd'hui." Il est mort. Il est mort aujourd'hui. Mort.

"Comment cela?"

"Un accident vraiment violent dans le deuxième tour à Sepang, en Malaysie."

I don't remember the next moments, but I remember all of them since then, searching YouTube and MotoGP for video of the accident, of the press conference, of the funeral, and searching Twitter and the Internet for the comments of his fellow riders, his family, Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards, both of whose motorcycles struck the upper body and head of Marco Simoncelli after he lost control in a turn and started to skid toward the sand at the outside of the track, hanging onto the bike laid out along the right side. He disappears from the video, and then, he and his bike veer back in frame, the rear tire of his motorcycle apparently having regained traction, sending him back across the track and directly into the path of Edwards and Rossi.

Why didn't he let go? Could he not let go? Was he somehow stuck? Was it, as some supposed, his indomitable spirit of competition that made him want to hang on and try to get control of his bike again and continue the race? Had something happened to him already, as others, completely at a loss to understand how this could have happened, have wondered?

An instant. Edwards and Rossi are fighting to position, coming out of the turn, Rossi on the inside, their bikes practically touching, and suddenly Marco and his bike skid into their path, Marco's back, from the buttocks up, exposed to Edwards' front tire, which hits Marco in the back, spinning him around between their bikes, and in the split second, Vale's front tire hits his head, an impact so sudden and violent that it tears Marco's helmet off and sends it flying, rolling, bouncing behind where Edwards and his bike, cartwheeling from the track and into the grass, come to a stop. It rocks, and it lies still. Marco's body, inert, skids along the asphalt and comes to a rest. His leg, slightly elevated, falls to its rest.

"His helmet never should have come off," my son said. "His face, it was on the asphalt --"

This, too. His face. The animated, beautiful part of him that never seemed to feel the slightest need to restrict your access to his joy in everything. It slid, bare and unprotected, along the rough asphalt. His skin on the rough asphalt. It felt like a sacrilege.

More questions. Why did his helmet come off? Eurosport's commentator Régis Laconi, ex-MotoGP rider, retired himself after a serious accident, reacted at the same time the public was watching live, "Comment ça se fait que son casque se soit enlevé, c'est pas possible? Un casque ne peut pas s'enlever pour un pilote." How is it that his helmet came off, how is that possible? A helmet can't come off a pilot.

Disbelief. These helmets are designed for race conditions, intended to withstand the worst shock in order to protect the head. That the helmet could be ripped from the rider's head is unthinkable. That Simoncelli's cheek should have to touch the asphalt, was the most shocking indication of the truth: the vulnerability of the riders in each race. Race after race, one or more riders go down, sliding with their bikes into the grass, the sand, and most often, they get up, rush to their bikes and try to get them back up, with the help of track staff, and try to make up their lost time, slapping their thigh in fury and frustration when it's not possible.

His vulnerability, his skin touching the asphalt, his body broken, his life leaving him, left him, alone on the track, with Colin Edwards equally alone and untouchable only meters away, bent double, holding his head in his hands in pain, disbelief and shock, the helicopter hovering, sending us these images, Shoya Tomizawa's body projected from his bike last year, hit by another bike and sent skidding down the track, spinning around and around and around before he came to a stop, like Marco now, this vulnerability like the simplicity of his joys, his availability to his fans, and his terrible youth made him vulnerable.

Marco was willing to be vulnerable, and we knew it, and we loved him.

He was only 4 years older than my son, who is the same age as Tomizawa was when he died last year. They are professionals at 16, world champions at 21, and younger. They are dead at 20, at 24; they know what comes next while we look skyward and wonder if they see us still, if they hear our thoughts for them.

If Marco does, then he has heard 91,000 on the MotoGP site's place for fan tributes. He is constantly hearing us and seeing us cry, for nearly everyone who has left a word for him speaks of their tears and of being "gutted" by the news of his death.

"Non piangete, non piangete per lui. Marco non avrebbe mai voluto vedervi piangere."

Marco has to see us cry because we can't help it. Io piango, noi piagiamo per lui, Rosella.

"Il était attachant, avec ses grands cheveux et son sourire," said my husband.

We watch the tributes together, the races now. He is sometimes critical of Super Sic's aggressive style, but maybe like a father. He, motard that he has been these 30 and more years, could never have let his son race like this for fear of losing him, but that is what Marco did, and his parents let him live his dreams.

I like the notion of him being the fastest angel, the fastest star in the heavens now; a perfect racetrack and bike under him, and Tomizawa and Kato, and everyone else who has died racing on a MotoGP circuit, rooting for his friends and colleagues and smiling, always smiling. Life was simple for Marco; it was a single wire, a conductor of happiness and warmth. Marco knows what comes next now, but the rest of us will have to live without him making the races exciting, our Sundays brighter for his grin, his sparkling, laughing, warm eyes, and wait to see for ourselves, with our quieter, tamer lives perhaps less lived, if longer.

RIP, Super Sic. We love you. 58 forever.

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