Crazy Google ride
Sunday was a crazy day for this humble blog. It was briefly noticed by the outside world.
I woke up and turned on my computer. The top story was one about a horrific accident at an off-road race where a truck went off-course and killed eight people. It was one of those stories where one piece of coverage just isn’t enough. I read several different news sources.
As I did this, I noticed that none of the stories had a word to say about the driver of the truck involved. The driver wasn’t identified, but even beyond that, the journalists didn’t mention a driver at all.
Finally I found a story that said the driver’s name wasn’t being released yet.
This puzzled me. Not that fact that the name wasn’t being released; that seemed routine. No, what puzzled me was the fact that so many journalists seemed to forget that one of the most basic components of any news story is supposed to be “who.” If they didn’t know the name yet they should have included a line saying something along the lines of: “The name of the driver has not been released.”
Good journalism will cover the 5W1H: Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How.
I figured that the omission of “who” by some journalists was probably a combination of a hectic breaking new story and the desire to get the story out in a timely fashion, i.e., to get the “scoop.”
I remembered seeing a picture of the truck in coverage by the Los Angeles Times. I went back and found that photo. The truck was upside down. I loaded the image in Photoshop and rotated it 180 degrees. I was now able to clearly read the words “Misery Motorsports” on the side of the truck.
From there it was an easy trail. First I Googled the MySpace page of Misery Motorsports and got the name Brett Sloppy, age 28. I then determined that the California 200 race was governed by an organization known as MDR Racing. I went to the official MDR web site which was functioning intermittently, no doubt because it was being overloaded by curious visitors like me. On that web site I found a PDF file of race participants and saw that Brett Sloppy was listed. I was now reasonably sure I had the name of the driver.
Now, I’m not claiming this was any Sherlock Holmes caliber of investigation. But it did get me the probable name of the driver. It was still early Sunday morning and I wanted to publish what I had learned. So I monkey-pounded my keyboard and attempted to put my typical Abyss-spin on it. I was careful, however, that when I published the name I noted how I had come by the information and that it was not information that was confirmed.
When I checked on the blog a little while later I realized that my blog traffic was at an unprecedented level. I did some checking and found that I was #2 in Google for the phrase “misery motorsports” (without the quotation marks). For a breaking news story this was huge search engine position. I’m still amazed at how quickly my WordPress postings can get into the Google index. Phrases like “mdr crash” and “brett sloppy” were #2 and #3 for my incoming traffic but very small compared to “misery motorsports.”
Today my search position for these phrases has slipped considerably as big-time web sites like The Huffington Post have now covered them.
Sunday is now officially in the books. Due to this traffic spike my blog set a new single day record. The traffic was 13 times my normal average and I’m still seeing the effects. So far today my blog is already 3 times higher than normal traffic levels.
I have to say I don’t normally go after breaking news stories with traffic in mind, and I was very surprised by this result. It was decidedly not a goal of mine when I decided to add my two cents about the tragic accident. I’m still not sure if the extra traffic is a good thing or not. I suspect that very few, if any, of the people who read yesterday’s post will be intrigued enough to stick around and become regular readers.
Still, I found the experience interesting and thought I’d share a little about how it all went down.
A crash and a mob
I turned on my computer this morning and the top news item on my home page was about a horrible crash that killed 8 people and hurt 12 more.
A witness said the crash scattered “bodies everywhere.” After the vehicle went airborne it landed on spectators. Bystanders rushed in to help those pinned by the vehicle.
The race is called the California 200 and takes place near Bessemer Mine Road at Soggy Dry Lake in Lucerne Valley, CA. The course length is 50 miles.
The driver, who as far as I can tell hasn’t been identified yet, lost control of his vehicle and reportedly went airborne before going off the course and rolling over spectators who were located approx. 10 feet from the course. There was reportedly no safety barrier.
According to the Associated Press, “[a witness] said that the driver, who wasn’t named, was forced to run from the scene when the crowd grew unruly and some began throwing rocks at him. It was not clear why he lost control of the truck.”
I haven’t been able to find the name of the driver in news reports. However, a photograph in the LA Times clearly shows the wording “Misery Motorsports” on the upside-down vehicle. I did some checking and found a MySpace page for Misery Motorsports that contains the name “Brett Sloppy,” who is listed as a 28-year-old male. A Bretty Sloppy was a registered race participant in the “1500 Class” per the MDR Racing web site.
Note: I’m not claiming to know the name of the driver. This is just some information that I found.
The main reason I take an interest in this horrible story is the human behavior that took place after the crash. As far as I can tell there is no indication this was anything other than a very unfortunate accident. Yet some in the crowd apparently were angry and something like a mob mentality set in. I wasn’t there, but it seems as if while some persons were in need of urgent medical attention, others were directing their energies against the driver by throwing rocks.
I also don’t understand our obsessive adoration for vehicle races powered by the internal combustion engine. In our society there is little worshiped more than the all-powerful internal combustion engine. Perhaps it even outranks television and cell phones. As far as “sports” go I’ve never understood the attraction of watching internal combustion engines go round and round in circles, but hey, that’s just me.
Since I’ve never attended an internal combustion engine “sporting” festival, I don’t understand things like: Why do spectators have to be so close to observe the event? It seems to me that it would be wise to calculate the “danger area” where accidents could conceivably happen and keep observers out of that area. I can’t see a valid reason to have spectators in that danger area. Perhaps it is the thrill of danger? If so, the seeking of danger does not magically eliminate the actual risk.
Thinking about it, I can recall incidents where vehicles (like cars and boats) have flown off race courses and injured people before.
It all seems pretty crazy to me.
UPDATE: This text was recently posted on Brett Sloppy’s Facebook page. “Soo incredibly lost and devistated my thoughts and prayers go out to all the familys and friends involved.. Thank you too all my friends for sticking with me even thru these tragic times I love you all.”