- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
FAREWELL TO PORTAGO
No man is gone from the world completely at the moment of death, least of all a man who whirled through life as fast as the handsome young Marquis de Portago. Last week, days after he crashed to his death in the Mille Miglia, he lingered on in echoes—some sympathetic, some dissonant—in the minds of a great many people. Some gave little hint of what they were thinking. At his funeral in a tiny chapel at Cavriana cemetery, Enzo Ferrari, head of the factory whose car he had driven, came face to face with Mrs. Fumi Nelson, Japanese widow of the American who died with him. Ferrari, pale and bent, extended his hand. The Japanese woman smiled formally, made a slight bow and ignored it. The Marquis's beautiful widow knelt, weeping, and laid a wreath on his coffin. The inscription read: "All my love always—Weg."
As the Marquis's body was flown to Paris for shipment to Madrid he was castigated, both for the manner of his life and the manner of his death. The semiofficial news organ of the Vatican, quoting from Portago's now-famous article in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED ("Racing is a vice and as such extremely hard to give up"), added: "The victim is like a drug addict.... [He] teaches that the 'racing typhoid' is...an incurable sickly state." And in New York's Madison Square Garden, Evangelist Billy Graham also quoted the line, "Racing is a vice..." and then cried: "Ladies and gentlemen, sin is a vice that leads us eventually to death. The penalty for sin is death!"
In Europe his fellow racing drivers—a good many of whom were preparing for the Grand Prix of Monaco—defended him, and his philosophy, stoutly. The great Juan Fangio, who knelt at the dead racer's coffin before starting for Monaco, was near tears on hearing that Portago had praised him in print. "I considered him one of the most courageous of all "the racing drivers...a good driver and an excellent comrade." Some of them agreed with his conclusion that racing was addictive. "Like being drunk or being in love," said the expatriate American driver Harry Schell. "You can't quit," said England's Stirling Moss. "Car racing is one of the most difficult things to give up.... [But] if you didn't like it you'd go off your rocker." It was France's Jean Behra, however, who found the words to explain this attitude a little further. "Only those who don't move, don't die. But since they do not move they are already dead."
In New York, the editors of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED opened a letter mailed in Italy the day before the Mille Miglia and discovered a last message from the Marquis. "I am really looking forward to seeing my first article in print. I hope that some day I shall be able to write decently and, although I am sure that my present efforts are amateurish in the extreme, I am, as you know, an optimist. I am hoping to hear from you very soon."
MR. FITZ AT PIMLICO
When Mr. Fitz emerged from an elevator and sauntered across the lobby of the Sheraton-Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore at 8 o'clock in the morning, he looked like a man who hadn't quite made up his mind what he would do with himself that day.
He stopped at a glass display case and examined some figurines of race horses and jockeys and grooms. Taking his time, he walked to the door, sniffed the weather and decided to send upstairs for his raincoat.
Meanwhile, out at Pimlico, in the barns across the infield from the ancient clubhouse, the horse named Bold Ruler, looking—as did Mr. Fitz—as though he had nothing especially planned for the day, nibbled at a rubber-hose-covered chain until it fell down and a groom had to get up from his chair and fix it. He took his time and Bold Ruler watched him with interest.
A little way off, sitting in a folding chair, tense-looking, a tall, lean man of about 35 kept his eyes glued to a stall in which fidgeted the horse named Iron Liege. Man and horse both looked as if they had something to do and it was worrying them—not the doing of it, but the waiting for it to start.