People are going to be people. Racers are going to be racers. Chase Elliott? He was doing nothing more than being Chase Elliott.
That’s how the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champ broke his left tibia on Friday, an injury that will keep the Georgian out of his No. 9 Chevy for at least the next few weekends, hoping to return with a medical waiver from the sanctioning body that will allow him championship eligibility despite a springtime spent out of the cockpit.
Let’s be completely clear, though: He wasn’t being careless, he wasn’t being reckless. All the 27-year-old was doing was snowboarding. Elliott has been snowboarding nearly since he could walk. The first time that I interviewed him my task was nearly impossible — not because he was yet to turn 7 years old, but because the kindergartener was too busy turning backflips on his snowboard atop his living room couch to answer my questions. The most recent time that I interviewed Elliot, three weeks ago, he was trying to talk me into getting back onto a snowboard for the first time since I was his age, and that was a while ago.
Snowboarding is what Chase Elliott does to relax. To get away from it all. To clear his mind from the craziness that comes with being NASCAR’s most popular star. His colleagues and competitors, drivers who spend their weeknights and off weekends doing everything from playing pickup basketball games and riding in cycling groups to big-game hunting and driving sprint cars on dirt tracks, have spent the week expressing a total understanding of why Elliott likes to skid his way around the slopes of Colorado.
“Life happens,” Kevin Harvick said this week when asked about Elliott. “You have to be able to go out and live your life to keep yourself sane or this deal will eat you up.”
Harvick’s comments came amid a continuing debate that has been reignited by Elliott’s injury, surgery and absence. It’s a conversation that reaches far beyond the NASCAR paddock and crosses over into stadiums, arenas, locker rooms, anywhere men and woman are paid to compete as professional athletes. It’s also not a new topic. Far from it. It dates back more than a century, to Babe Ruth and his beer-guzzling brethren.
Should these athletes be allowed to put their bodies — the instruments with which they earn those dollars from teams, leagues and sponsors and in turn make even more money for…
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