Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Lessons from this year’s Iditarod Trail
The word dynasty is thrown around pretty loosely in the world of sports. You can’t really recognize a dynasty until you’re well into it.
Well, if Dallas and Mitch Seavey have not created an Iditarod dynasty, then the word itself has no meaning.
Dallas has now won four of the last five Iditarods — along with breaking his own race record this year.
His dad, Mitch, took the 2013 Iditarod for his second championship.
That makes the Seaveys five for five in the Iditarod and I don’t think they’re close to being done yet … and that is a dynasty.
But this year’s race might be best remembered by the horrific events outside the village of Nulato, when veteran mushers Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle found themselves in the crosshairs of a snowmachiner outside the village.
Reports say the machine was traveling at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. King says it missed him by inches when it smashed through his team. A lead dog named Nash was killed instantly, and three others were badly injured.
The snowmachiner slammed into the side of Zirkle’s sled. She escaped uninjured, but one of her dogs was hurt.
The suspect, 26-year-old Arnold Demoski, admitted he was drunk at the time and claims to have no memory of the attacks. He’s facing felony charges, and has apologized for his actions.
Aliy Zirkle, who I believe will win the Iditarod someday, showed remarkable steel and courage in resuming the race, finishing third.
But it was the reaction of Jeff King that stood out for me.
“There are very many wonderful people in these communities and there’s also some very serious social issues in rural communities across Alaska that involve substance abuse,” King said in an interview with Iditarod Insider. “I feel sorry for the communities that have to suffer through that.”
Here was a four-time champion with a real shot at his fifth title, who lost a beloved team leader, and came within inches of losing his own life.
Many who read his story commented that King should have shot the snowmachiner, a reaction that is all too typical today on social media.
But King reacted, not with anger, but with empathy and concern for those who must live with the fallout of substance abuse on a daily basis in Bush Alaska, choosing to turn his personal tragedy into an object lesson for the rest of us.
Jeff King has proven time and again that he is an exceptional champion.
I’ll remember him in Iditarod 44, for also being an exceptional human being.
John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.
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