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Pobst Position: Conflict
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Pobst Position: Conflict
Racing is intense competition. Yet, it is not and must not be war. It is a barely civilized sport. Often distilled into a one-on-one wrestling match. Mano-a-mano. Sometimes mano-a-womano. If you race hard, and race to win, at some point you will no doubt find yourself embroiled in conflict. Hard feelings. Both of you want the same thing, and only one can have it.

Consider perspectives. To you, it looks like that corner was all yours. Guess what? To that other racer, it looked like it was all theirs. Can I get an Amen on this? Have you been there?

I always greet a person with a smile. I say after you, please, and excuse me. I want everybody to like me. I know a few really aggressive types who totally disrespect me for this very reason. I believe they see niceness as weakness. But I do not choose to live in that dark world. I go toward the light. It's in my genes. It's in my parenting. I'm a nice guy.

Not in the race car. Do not mess with me in the race car. I learned to be hard early in my driving career. To protect my turf. To be aggressive enough to survive. Timidity is overwhelmed in a flat-out battle. Is this contradiction? No, it's called sport. The fangs and claws that grow when I put on a helmet are under control. Most of the time...

Race drivers are often by nature very egotistical. Ego drives the desire to win. Ego breeds the confidence and blind faith (non-believers might say stupidity) necessary to strap on a helmet and enter the blurring swirl of race traffic. Ego is the major source of conflict. I'm right, you're wrong. Ego considers itself infallible. Ego dive bombs. Ego blocks. Ego punts 'em off the road.

Freud said the Id is our inner child. Utterly self-centered, grabbing, wanting, thinking only of me, me, me. In today's vernacular, we now define Ego that way, combined with overzealous self-confidence. Though Freud is not as popular as he once was, he has some ideas that apply to what I've seen in my years of racing.

He defined Ego as the rational adult, and this is where we are most of the time on track. Calculating, controlling, planning. His Superego is the source of moral decisions and standards of excellence. Conscience and the desire to do better. Morality often comes down to how we treat others. My own Superego is talking right now. Mom and Dad. Pastor Bob. The Stewards of the Meet.

Some of the Ids we race with have underdeveloped Superegos. Bet there's a Danger Ranger who pops into your mind right away. No conscience. No shame. Actually, it seems that can be a real benefit in this sport. No, we need balance. Ids crash too much. That's not good. But a true Danger Ranger is the exception. Most drivers are just like you.

Here's the moral of today's sermon. When you find conflict at the race track, take a deep, deep breath. Control your Id, and that bruised Ego. Listen to your Superego, your conscience. It knows that, given the same set of circumstances, if you were in that driver's shoes, there is an eighty-six percent chance that you would have done the same.

Originally printed in Sportscar September 2006
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