Al Unser Jr. reminds me of the 97-pound weakling who keeps getting into the ring with champion boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Every time, Hagler doesn’t just knock the guy down, or out. Every time, he knocks him clear out of the ring.
And every time, that 97-pound weakling guy keeps trying to pull himself up through the ropes and back into the ring, shouting: “Lemme at him! I can take that guy!”
That seems to be the way it is with Al Unser Jr. and booze. Arrested several times in his life previously for personal problems associated with alcohol — domestic violence, driving while impaired, etc. — Unser would go to treatment/rehab, “go public” by telling his story to newspapers and magazines, and seemingly be on the road to recovery.
As it is with dozens of Hollywood celebrities, who are sober for a week after leaving the Betty Ford Centre and talk to the supermarket tabs about how they “beat booze,” and how they plan to live “clean and sober, forever,” Unser would tell reporters that his drinking days were over, that liquor was a “thing of the past.”
And then the story on the wire, again, would be headlined: “Indy 500 winner arrested for drinking, driving,” as was the case, again, Thursday.
Unser was taken into custody around 3 a.m. outside of Albuquerque, N.M., where the Unser family is legendary. According to police, he was drag racing and had been clocked at more than 100 miles an hour. His blood-alcohol reading was twice the legal limit of 0.08. He was charged with reckless driving and aggravated driving while intoxicated. He was released on a promise to appear in court when notified.
Alcoholism is a disease because it’s progressive and it can be fatal. It’s no different than any other progressive and fatal disease.
As it is with cancer, it’s often a mystery why some people get better and others don’t – or can’t.
But the patient has to keep trying — and a good start is to stay permanently away from Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
I have friends in AA who say, "Don't pick up the first drink." Words to live by, for some.
I know: easier said that done. But millions are recovering from addiction and Al Jr. can make a start, too.
IndyCar has suspended Unser from his job in Race Control “indefinitely.” I hope we get to see him back in there before long.
So I’m sitting at the Regent Theatre Thursday night with about 300 other people, enjoying Michael Keyser’s 1972 documentary The Speed Merchants, when I turned to my friend John Bassett and said:
“What happens if Wheldon wins the race in Kentucky?”
That was a reference to Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon, unemployed this season except for that one race, getting a “warmup race” at Kentucky Speedway Sunday before the season finale at Las Vegas Oct. 16 in which he stands to win a $5 million bonus if he beats all the IndyCar regulars.
That he’s getting a “warmup” of any kind of ridiculous. Alex Tagliani was fired from his race seat to make room for Wheldon, so that’s one huge negative already. The other thing is that this promotion was originally supposed to involve five outsiders who would get some coaching from Dario Franchitti, and some practice sessions, before rolling the dice at the season-ending race at Vegas. When that blew up, IndyCar decided Wheldon would be the designated challenger because he hasn’t been a season regular.
But since then, he’s tested the 2012 car and now he’s going to race at Kentucky Sunday.
So, my question: what if he wins at Kentucky? Will that not take more wind out of the sails of the Vegas race? What will be “special” about Wheldon coming off the bench to race for all the marbles?
IndyCar has been working on the Vegas finale since the first of the year. There are all sorts of parties planned for the Strip during the Indy race weekend. Lots of special guests. Some of the hotels are giving away two free tickets to the race if you rent a room. In fact, anybody who bought a ticket to any IndyCar race during the season can get a free ticket.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway can seat 150,000 for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Will the place be full for IndyCar on Oct. 16? Despite everything that's been done, all the hype and so-on, I say: not a chance.
IZOD IndyCar Series, Kentucky, Sun., 6:30 p.m. (delayed), TSN2
NASCAR Sprint Cup, Dover, Sun., 2 p.m., TSN
NASCAR Nationwide, Dover, Sat., 3:30 p.m., TSN2
American Le Mans Series, Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta, Sun., 4 p.m. (delayed), ABC
Note: The Petit Le Mans sports car race on Saturday is not available on TV in Canada. If you want to watch it on your computer, go to the American Le Mans Series website. The race starts at 11:30 a.m. EDT.