Too short, too often
July 29, 2013
It's easy to craft a column about disgraced congressman and New York City mayoral candidate extraordinaire Anthony Weiner.
Point out the obvious, make a few wiener jokes, question whether political ideology comes into play with moral indiscretions (just to mess with those on the extreme left and right), and end with another wiener pun or two.
But when turning on the TV Saturday morning, my 14-year-old and I stumbled upon a new HBO documentary called "The Crash Reel." It is the heartbreakingly true yet fascinating story of Kevin Pearce, the Olympic hopeful snowboarder who had his fast-rising career suddenly vanquished in the blink of an eye. A crash during a training run in a Park City half-pipe left Kevin in a coma, and the resulting traumatic brain injury became the focus of his two year struggle to come to grips with the long-term reality of his situation.
While highlighting others involved in similar accidents, especially the distressing irony of interviewing Sarah Burke (Canadian freestyler, four-time X-Games gold medalist) just months before she herself died from a fall in the same half-pipe, a running narrative was that they all were, of course, wearing helmets.
Without a helmet, just about every one of them would have been guaranteed to have died on the slopes where they fell.
It was at this point my 14-year-old, said, "Hey Dad, will you please start wearing a helmet next season?"
Dammit, I hate it when he's right.
As if I needed any further prodding, he then questioned how the parents and siblings of Zeke Pierce were dealing with his tragic death the previous week from injuries sustained in a mountain-biking accident.
We were attending Zeke's memorial that very afternoon at Vail Mountain School.
The comparisons between the documentary and what our community is currently dealing with were not missed by either of us.
Zeke's young life was cut short due to a tragic accident. There's simply no other way to look at it. An experienced mountain biker and big mountain competitor for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, he had all the right equipment and certainly knew what he was doing.
But still, it happened.
The outpouring of support from Happy Valley to the Pierce family, and especially to younger brother Max, from the Vail Mountain School soccer team never ceases to amaze me at times like this.
We live in one of the most beautiful areas of the planet, fully aware of the higher risk-reward ratio from our lifestyle choices. Our kids participate in mountain activities that most of us would never have dreamed of during our own childhoods, yet they are commonplace today, especially around here.
I suppose it's just something we all subliminally accept.
Zeke's parents, Liv and Crawford, are two of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. There's truly not a kinder, gentler family in all of Happy Valley.
If you've met them, you know exactly what I mean.
So I've finally learned my lesson about helmets and will certainly be wearing one next season, but I don't mind admitting I'd rather be writing columns making fun of politicians and other perverted buffoons (Spitzer, Sanford, the San Diego mayor, etc.) than local tragedies any day.
Life's far too short far too often.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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