This sure don’t feel real and it sure as hell don’t feel right.
Life on this planet means no one gets out alive. Peril and danger surround us every day, therefore small to medium-sized tragedies happen every day, every second. Some tragedies don’t even have a glancing blow of peril or danger, they just play out.
The death of Nick Hayden is a seemingly insurmountable tragedy for his family, friends and fans. Our Nick was the general article: good son, honorable man and a fast rider. And something altogether more. Nick … he doesn’t have fans as much as he has friends. He wasn’t as much admired as he was cherished. For us, of this era, there will be the time we had with Nick and then the remainder of time. Fate will take care of us all. . .and no doubt there will certainly be assisted living facilities in 2038 with Nicky Hayden posters tacked to the wall. Rider of a generation? No, rider of all generations.
That boy Nick–he was a good friend of mine. But if you grabbed his autograph or waved hi to him at a race, you pretty much knew him as well as I did. The private Nick was the public Nick only with a dry and unstoppable sense of humor.
I was already old when Nick was young. My informal role, from the earliest of days, was to criticize his hair. I did so from the cheetah spots all the way to the man-bun at Indy. Also, I questioned any inclusion of modern phrases in our conversations.
“Peace-out, Dean-Oh,” he’d say when tendering our goodbyes on the phone.
Nick, I’d ask, what does that even mean?
He’d laugh and hang up.
Anybody who says they completely understand riders is a liar. Sometimes even riders themselves don’t know why they do what they do. Ironically it’s only after they are forced by nature into a real life that they begin to understand. Many of them, whether they admit it or not, spend the rest of their lives chasing that lightning bug with a jar. Sitting in traffic waiting for a light can be tough for guys who taught themselves to focus on a small piece of tar at 220 mph, with no roll cage.
It’s not an upside, but in a situation over-flowing with tragedy and unfairness consider this: Nick lived as a rider and died as a rider. Nick lived his entire life trying to win.
It hurts real bad, knowing Nick is gone. Where to find strength? Maybe in the same place that we find despair: Nick Hayden.
What do I think Nick would say now to the bereaved? He’d thank you profusely, politely, several times, but after that was well-established he’d suggest that you really need to start thinkin’ about “gittin it”. You need to be strong, heal up and get back to whatever it is that makes you, you. You a fan or a friend? Go for a ride, enjoy the day and be grateful you saw Nick Hayden race. You a rider? That boy Nick, he’d be real disappointed to know you could have gone faster but you were too bummed out. Our Nick wouldn’t like that at all.
Peace out. (Whatever that means)