It’s always been said by his rivals: That Valentino Rossi is the luckiest rider in the paddock when it comes to injuries. Rossi has enjoyed not only a long career but he hasn’t been beset with the curse of injuries as his rivals. He can crash with the best of them, his rivals say, but he only rarely is injured. “God loves him more” is what one rival used to say about Rossi’s ability to walk away from seemingly anything.
Today’s high speed crash at the Red Bull Ring in Austria saw Franco Morbidelli’s crashing MotoGP fly over the head of Rossi. If you suggest now that the incident, had it gone just a nano second differently, would/could have resulted in Rossi’s death I think very few would disagree.
It’s a harrowing, heart-in-your-throat crash to watch. It’s shocking. From one angle it almost appears like Rossi passes through the crash unhurt in his own zone of special protection.
It’s also amazing. It’s life-affirming. It’s like a scene out of the The Matrix when Neo is proven to be The Chosen One.
Who knows how fate works? But if you said after viewing that crash that whatever God you believe in was watching the race and saw how it was going to play out but said to him/her/itself “No. Not my boy Valentino” and he really did envelope him in a his own zone of special protection. It’s an explanation that is as seemingly plausible today as any other.
When Valentino Rossi came racing he did so from a background of being a wild, feral paddock rat. He wanted to be a racer so badly … it was with almost eye-rolling level of enthusiasm. He walked around the paddock after each race, for hours, still wearing his leathers, like if he took them off he’d be less of a racer or his bike would turn into a pumpkin. If he got warm he’d take off his boots, put on sandals and continue walking around in his leathers. Frankly he was kind of a teenage goofball.
But almost from day one of his professional career Rossi had an enormous fan base. A very devout fan base. Initially it was easy to disregard these fans–many we’d never seen before–as people transfixed on a boy racer as young people have done for decades, like for entertainers Frank Sinatra to the Beatles.
However these Rossi fans were different. They were not clutched in a momentary cult of personality or simply mimicking their friends who were Rossi fans. The relationship between Valentino and his fans has always been much more spiritual and remains that way today. I’ve seen men older than me start sobbing when they see him in the flesh. People recognize something in him, beyond celebrity or charisma. And it has been that way from day one. It’s not Beatlemania.
After today’s events, like everyone, I am stunned and grateful that no one–Rossi included–died in that crash. But I also have a lingering thought in the back of my head: that the way in which Valentino was spared suggests that he might want to consider his next career choice very carefully. Teach kids to ride and race at his ranch? Sure, easy-peasy. But maybe his work is much larger than that: maybe he is “the one” and should become a cancer doctor, surgeon or paint the Sistine Chapel?
Because I am starting to believe what one of Valentino’s rivals always said: God really does love him more.