Ten years ago today, Dale Earnhardt died. Whether you are a NASCAR fan or not, you have to recognize his contributions to his sport. He was to NASCAR what Micheal Jordan and Cal Ripken were: personification of the sport. He made NASCAR the popular spectator sport it is today.
It is easy to say that NASCAR would still be popular today if he hadn't come along. That is the way it is with the best of them. His presence and driving ability made the other drivers in the garage better. He had an innate sense of marketing that helped make what we view as 'normal' with color schemes and such the norm on all cars. He was known for being a sonofabitch on the racetrack, and if you believed the ESPN bioptic, off of it, at least in some areas of his life. You cannot deny his driving ability, ambition and sheer guts.
Ten years ago, I wrote a piece for my local paper about him and his death. I only bring that up because I was a huge NASCAR fan then. Now, not so much, as I had to let some of my sports fandom go by the wayside for things like kids and work.
Plus, it just isn't as compelling now. I am not sure why, but a big reason is that there seems to be a big hole where my interest in what happens on the racetrack used to be. I am pretty sure that hole got started on February 18, 2001.