Even Nietzschean absurdist irony doesn’t offer much comfort when something like this happens.
The most successful man in a sport that has taken more lives in competition than almost any other — Formula One racing — now finds himself in a hospital in France fighting for his life following a skiing accident on a glorious sunny morning. And he was skiing with his teenaged son simply for fun.
“Life is a strange matter, full of unreason. A buffoon may be fatal to it,’’ wrote Michael Schumacher’s great countryman, Friedrich Nietzsche, in Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Schumacher is no buffoon; instead, he is as celebrated a super-hero as modern sport has ever seen, his face readily recognisable in most parts of the world, his name a synonym for raw guts, fighting spirit and competitive zeal.
All the more ironical
It is all the more ironical when you consider that Schumacher won his record seven titles in an age when the sport became safer than ever before — all because a man revered by many as the most gifted driver of all time, Ayrton Senna, lost his life following a horrendous crash at the Imola circuit in May 1994.
Schumacher won that race, and later went on to win his first world title that year. But it was not until his five-in-a-row for Ferrari — 2000 to 2004 — was his legend sealed. He is, of course, the most successful champion in the sport’s history by a mile and a half.
It was with an almost absurd sense of timing that Schumacher came to fill a vacuum following the great Brazilian’s death.
And the tragically absurd narrative has stretched into the German’s second retirement.
“You appreciate that it is very easy to die and you have to arrange your life to cope with that reality,’’ said the Austrian Niki Lauda, who miraculously came back from the jaws of death after a gruesome accident in Nurburgring in 1976.
Then again, when you are out skiing with your son on holiday you seldom think of such ‘arrangements.’ Instead, you think of life — wonderful life — and the many possibilities it may have to offer after a long and hugely successful career in motor sport.
It is easy to look back and say that like Senna, Schumacher went that extra mile for the thrill of winning, for the sense of accomplishment that perfection brings.
But accidents out of competition cannot ever be compared to the ones that happen on the track, or in a boxing ring, or even in a football field.
It is all down to the random cruelty of fate. We are all in it together — you, me and the great man.