By now everyone in the dirt bike world knows of the unfortunate death of FMX star Jeremy Lusk. I never met Jeremy but, by all accounts, he was a good guy. He was certainly talented, and the outpouring of public sentiment following his accident is a tribute to his character. It was so great the family is actually providing a live webcast of his memorial service.
What I want to say is that I do not mourn for Jeremy Lusk. Jeremy was an adrenaline junkie. I believe he knew he was risking his life every time he performed. I believe that’s why he did it. He lived for the thrill of cheating death, of doing something few, maybe no one else, would try. And I believe he knew there was always a risk of ending up on the losing side of the equation.
Some will say that racers are the same, but they are not. The difference may be small, and one of degree rather than kind, but it is different. Racers are not explicitly cheating death. They are competing with the track, with their fellow racers, and with themselves. But their challenges come in increments of 100ths of a second as they shave time off lap after lap.
No racer gets into racing with the idea of cheating death. It’s something else that drives them. For this reason I think it’s unfortunate that MX/SX have been packaged and sold as “extreme” sports. FMX riders, and extreme athletes of all kinds, are farther out on the ragged edge, looking for the biggest thrill they can find and willing to accept the consequences of their actions.
FMX riders will ride when no one is watching. They don’t do it for the money, the glory, or anything except the raw thrill of pulling a big stunt and surviving. Day after day, they charge head-first into far more risk than most of us — even racers — would ever knowingly accept. That’s what makes them special.
After base jumping and parachuting, FMX (and other motorized extreme stunting) is probably the most dangerous activity you can pursue. The real tragedy of Jeremy’s death is that it wasn’t a big stunt that killed him. It wasn’t some new, untried trick. It was a trick he had done a hundred times or more. Something he had landed, and even crashed, and survived over and over.
Maybe he was a little tired, or jet-lagged, or just off a bit. Maybe he even knew it, and pushed on anyway. Or maybe it was situational — the surface, the weather, or something else. Whatever it was, it caused enough of a slip to create a crash from which he would never wake up.
The top FMX riders cheat death with a style and grace that defies imagination. They live life in a fast lane that is so far past the normal spectrum most of us can’t even see it. Some people call them crazy, and a few actually are. Some will say they have a death wish. But I think they have an insatiable life wish. I think they want to see and feel and live at the very edge of existence.
Jeremy took one too many chances. He pushed one step too far on a night when he just wasn’t quite up to the challenge. We should mourn his loss because it has extinguished a flame that could light the way for all of us, showing us a fearlessness that can serve us all in our daily lives.
But we should not mourn Jeremy Lusk. We should celebrate his life, and let him live on in the ideals he so embodied. The thirst for life, the drive for going farther, the willingness to do whatever it took to reach his goals. While we may not want to emulate his actions, we would do well to emulate his spirit.
God speed, Jeremy (11/26/1984 to 2/9/2009.)