Violence in Two Sports Demands Responses Now

Article excerpt

TWO very different professional sports, an ocean apart, came face to face with serious problems over the weekend that demand immediate attention.

Two driving deaths at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy, were a numbing reminder that safety should never take a back seat to other considerations in auto racing, where speeds are so unforgivingly fast.

And while what happened on the Formula One circuit is far graver than the fighting and rough stuff that occurred in the National Basketball Association playoffs, the collective danger posed by several outbreaks of violence on NBA courts across the United States is that such acts can taint a respectable event.

In what was the most tragic auto racing weekend in many years, reigning three-time Grand Prix champion Ayrton Senna of Brazil was killed the day after rookie Roland Ratzenberger was killed when his car hit a wall during qualifying.

Senna missed a turn on the seventh lap of Sunday's race, and smashed into a concrete barrier at more than 186 miles per hour. Earlier this season Senna had been critical of racing officials' decision to phase out "active" suspensions and other electronic devices that aided drivers but seem to favor bigger, richer racing teams. These aids may be especially missed on a course like Imola, where one observer says you can go 150 m.p.h. everywhere. And for a driver like Senna, who was known for driving "deep" into a corner, traction was paramount.

Jackie Stewart, the Scottish three-time world champion, was prompted by the events in Italy to suggest that the drivers band together so that they could refuse to drive on dangerous circuits. …