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Dear Ricky James

In August of 2009, I wrote a blog post; Ricky James Should be Ashamed, about something I saw on ESPN about a young man named, Ricky James.

ESPN shouted his amazing accomplishments:

  • Competing in the Baja 500 and the Ironman competition–63 miles in 7:14!
  • Competed in the L.A. Marathon finishing fifth with a hand cycle.
  • Back in 2008, he competed in the X-games in Los Angeles
  • Winner of the 2008 West Coast Pro Truck championship

That list all happened after March 10, 2005, when his T-7 was broken in a motocross accident, leaving him a person with paraplegia.

My celebration ended abruptly as ESPN shared Ricky James, who has gotten back on his bike to ride motocross, spent an afternoon at a “practice”, plotting to take down his former friend, Jarred Browne, who caused the accident, unintentionally, that left James paralyzed. That plotting become a reality when James T-boned Browne on a track, the guy he once called “BEST” friend. What was even more disturbing was that Ricky said something along the lines of “it was more dangerous for me because I am strapped to my bike.”

That post was six years ago.

This morning, I opened my email to discover an email from Ricky James.

It is the first time I have heard from Ricky James.

Like the ESPN feature on him all those years ago, his letter had me celebrating:

I don’t if you remember who I am, but I am that crazy dirt bike kid that took out his best friend, and you wrote some nasty stuff about me on your website about six years ago. I’ve seen it before I think, but I just ran a crossed it again. I am 25 years old now and have been thru a lot. I am newly engaged and excited to start a family one day. I don’t know anything about you, but I respect that you are a loving mom.

But like that same characteristic, James lashed out:

That’s pretty much the extent of my respect for you. You don’t know me, so you have no right to bad mouth me when I was 19 years old and going thru more than you at that age, I’m sure.

I don’t know that I would say I “bad-mouthed” James, I did say, “I am appalled that Ricky James is being labeled an “inspiration.” His website should start with one word: FORGIVENESS.”

I thought this is where Ricky James was, forgiveness, as he continued to write his email to me:

I’m very proud of what I have made of my life and of course have made mistakes along the way. Crashing into Jarred was one of those mistakes, but it made sense to me at the time.

I also did address, in my original post, that fact that: “This is not the role model my children need. It is not the role model any person needs.”

Something James reiterates, as his letter continues:

Anyways, I just want to let you know that I am appalled by you. How about you go out and change the world positively thru your actions instead of sit behind a keyboard and criticize those who are. Turn off your computer and do something productive like I should be doing right now.

Good Day.
Ricky James

So close, Ricky James! So close to crossing that finish line and making me your fan.

What you don’t know about me is that I understand you more than you know. You see, when I was barely 16, I spent six weeks of that summer, beside a boy. EVERY. DAY. For six weeks from the moment visiting hours opened, to minutes after the announcement visiting hours were closed.

A boy, who 35 days earlier, turned 17.

A boy, who with a huge sponsorship with Malcolm Smith, much like YOUR Honda sponsor. A boy with his biggest dream within reach. A boy who competed in his hometown motocross race in June 1985.

A race that he never crossed the finish line. Instead, he laid on that dirt track paralyzed when his bike’s engine seized up, threw him over the handlebars mid-jump and crashed down on top him.

I saw the pain of that injury. Not just the physical pain, but the pain of watching a father cry and go from jet-black hair to gray because there was nothing he could do for his son. The pain of your dreams lost.

I lived watching the anger and being the one that boy lashed out because I was there. I know the hate because he had lost everything. The rage because it had happened. The anger because he felt so alone.

My heart broke every time a tear filled his eye and leaped to his cheek for all that he had lost. His racing contract. His ability to walk. His need to relearn simple tasks, like breathing and going to the bathroom. His friends that didn’t know how to deal with him.

It affected me so much that I wrote a memoir of that summer called Centrifugal Motion. I didn’t write it the summer of 1985 when it happened. Instead, that story stayed with me until I set it free in 2012.

I know the impact of the tragedy you have lived. I was part of a similar story.

That boy, whose bedside I sat by, is still among my best friends. He is still paralyzed. Occasionally, he has still lashed out–perhaps because no one else would listen. I’m hoping that’s why you felt compelled to make an attempt to tear me down.

Please know that you aren’t in this alone.

The people who were there that day in March 2005, think about you often and this terrible accident. While your scars are physical, everyone left with a burden to carry that day. Six years ago through tomorrow, you must know that ALL have such heavy hearts on this whole situation! It was a Terrible accident that affected everyone at that track and in the social circle that embraced you.

The blame game doesn’t have winners, Ricky James.

I think you are an incredible athlete.

You must be intelligent to have figured out a way to get back on your bike.

I’ve seen pictures; you’re a good-looking kid.

You’ve found a woman to love you and begin a new chapter in your life with that includes plans for a family. You have a lot going for you.

Be great because it’s who you are. Be great because you are complete. Be real and be an inspiration in all aspects…not just for the fact you crossed the finish line time and time again. Uplift others through your contributions to your community, to the people who love you and forgive those that took your “one” dream…after all, it seems you have found a new determination, and you’re obviously at the top of the game! You have found a dream you didn’t know existed and you’re breaking down the walls that would keep you from reaching it.

It’s okay to be ashamed/embarrassed by the poor judgment that led to mistakes years ago. We all have these demons resting in our closets.

I wish you success, and I hope you grow to forgive, Ricky James.

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