Posted: Tuesday December 12, 2006 3:24PM; Updated: Tuesday December 12, 2006 5:09PM
Maybe Johnson should wear his helmet the next time he climbs on a golf cart.
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Jimmie Johnson's golf cart mishap in Florida on Friday was, how you say, par for the course. A day after it was reported that NASCAR's reigning champion had broken his wrist after falling out of the cart, it was revealed that he was actually sprawled across the top as it barreled toward the 16th hole of a celebrity tournament. When the driver hit a berm, Johnson went caboose over carburetor.
The irony here, of course, is that Johnson, who routinely deals with occupational hazards such as crashes, wasn't actually at the wheel, unlike Champ car driver Paul Tracy, who recently tried to jump a sand dune after a party in Las Vegas, only to have his golf cart (he later claimed it was an ATV) land on him and break his shoulder
Two more exhibits have been introduced to the sorry case of athletes cavorting in and on motorized vehicles.
Two-wheelers are not a good choice for even the strongest, most coordinated superstars. Rev up that ol' 1299-cc Suzuki and watch out, as Ben Roethlisberger, Kellen Winslow, Dennis Rodman and Jason Williams can attest. Even milder types of bikes can be trouble. In 1994, Braves outfielder Ron Gant broke his leg after his dirt bike had a pow-wow with a tree -- one week after Gant signed the then-richest one-year deal ($5.5 million) in baseball history.
Cars? Yikes. It only stands to reason that young men who are corn-fed on having life's rules waived for them will be eager to disregard such inconveniences as speed limits and traffic regulations, and thus become fodder for snarky cartoons such as this one by Jerry Craft.
Then there are all those potential distractions that come with fame -- such as the comely wench in Yankee hurler Carl Pavano's Porsche (a former Miss Italia, Miss South Beach and Miss American Teen) when he skidded into a truck on a rain-slicked road in West Palm Beach last August, or the lusty lass in Rockies chucker Denny Neagle's ride when police hauled them over for enjoying fast times in Lakewood, Colorado two years ago.
Apparently, a vehicle need not even be moving for misfortune to ensue. Giants second baseman Jeff Kent claimed that he busted his wrist falling off his pickup truck while washing it in 2002, although observers begged to differ -- asserting that he was actually doing a wheelie on his motorcycle in Scottsdale, Arizona.
No doubt, there is an allure and even reward to Jackass style stunts. Yet youth and its illusion of invincibility (no helmet for Roethlisberger), money (a Ferrari like the one driven by A's immortal Esteban Loiaza in the neighborhood of 120 mph at 3 a.m. on a California freeway last June costs in the neighborhood of $200,000), the thrill of risk and -- in some cases -- firewater, is a perenially tragic and often lethal mix. Dany Heatley (2003), Bobby Phills (2000), Len Dykstra (1991), Pelle Lindbergh (1985), and Andre Robertson (1983) are just five well-known examples.
As it is, there are around 6 million vehicular accidents in America alone each year -- and more than 40,000 fatalities. If you want a holiday miracle to ponder, marvel at the fact that it doesn't happen more often to athletes.