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Columns
Fifth Place
Greg Engle, Examiner.com

When Real World Tragedy Invades NASCAR

There are more important things in life than NASCAR. NASCAR and all of the sports humankind engages in whether as a spectator or casual participant serve to allow people in a society to let off steam; forget about the pressures of daily life, lose themselves in a world that at the end of the day, when the game is over, doesn’t really mean all that much.

NASCAR, and other sports, didn’t go to the moon; they don’t cure famines, free the oppressed or cure economic woes. In the end sports serve mankind by giving us nothing more than an outlet to lose ourselves in if only for a little while; a fantasy world where we can cheer our favorite player or team or feign bitter disappointment when they lose. Then when it’s over we return to our world, the real world.

There are a few among us, most would say lucky souls, who support our favorite sport; make their living inside the sport we escape to on occasion. They write the press releases, keep the locker room clean, make sure the bats are lined up in the dugout, or maintain some order behind the scenes in the chaotic world that is NASCAR. For them, our fantasy world is the way they pay their bills. Unlike us, instead of commuting to a factory or staring at a cubicle every day, they keep the wheels turning so on Sunday afternoons we can switch on our TVs or find our seats in the grandstands and watch 43 cars race around in a circle. And we can escape the real world that is our lives, if only for 500 miles or so.

While people may find it envious that some are able to do this, they can never understand the reality of it. To work inside NASCAR means those 8 hours, five day weeks are the rare exception not the norm. There may not be a daily commute, the office may be a racetrack, but that commute takes them away from families they love for days, sometimes weeks at a time. It’s a grind of endless airplane flights, different hotel rooms every week for the better part of an entire year. They do live a dream that is a fantasy world to the rest of us, but it’s never easy.

When we are visited by some tragedy, we can escape, that is after all what sports are for, to escape. But for those who live it every day, there seems to be no escape. That’s why it seems to make it far worse when a real world tragedy invades that world.

Rare is the time that Kristi Richardson King isn’t wearing a smile. As the public relations representative for first Talladega Superspeedway and most recently as director of communication for NASCAR’s competition department Kristi is living a dream that makes many others envious. No it isn’t easy, but Kristi endures the travel, leaving her young son and loving husband every week, the long hours, the endless grind. Yet Kristi is always smiling, ready to write the next press release, get some face time with a driver or NASCAR executive for a member of the media, or complete the seemingly never ending tasks that go along with keeping NASCAR moving forward.

Tuesday however, the real world invaded Kristi’s world. Her parents, mother Margret and father Edwin, both 69 were senselessly gunned down. The Richmond County North Carolina Sheriff’s Office identified the suspect as the couple’s son, 44-year-old Anthony Richardson.

It’s nothing short of the most horrible tragedy that could ever befall someone. To lose ones parents is tragedy enough, but not like that, not at the hands of another family member. Yet it happened to someone who works so hard to make sure that we have somewhere to go when we want to escape our real life tragedies. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, but it happened. All we can do is pray for Kristi and her family.

As time goes on and she looks for somewhere to escape, to forget if for only awhile, Kristi will no doubt instead head back to her job, a job that allows the rest of us to escape our own problems. The smile will be there, although understandably muted around the edges. She will soldier on, write the press releases, keep the wheels turning, call a driver to the media center. But we all know she will never really be the same. But it’s ok, we understand, and all of us are grateful for the work she and others like her do. For now all we can do is be there for her, like Kristi Richardson King has been there for all of us and in time will be again.