I often see updates from my friends that say things like Mary is “feeling happy today at (fill in the blank)” which I guess is Facebook’s way of helping us out with the hard things but right now I am going to steal a page from their playbook because I can honestly say “Vicki Smith is feeling happy today reading her email”. Why? Well, the one I just opened say’s George Barber got nominated to the AMA Hall of Fame on the first ballet and that, well, that makes me very happy.
Here’s why. Regardless of how people feel about the AMA Hall of Fame (or any HOF actually, the Rock and Roll HOF has been in the news lately as well) it’s purpose is to make a place for people who stood out, and in the process accomplished things that made it important they be remembered long after they are gone. I believe Hall of Fame’s are important. Frankly, I think George Barber has a better handle on that then most and can manage his own legacy very well, thank you. Nonetheless, he richly deserves to be there.
But just deserving doesn’t mean the light will shine on you. It’s a damn long line when just a few people are recognized every year. Sometimes the light never finds them. The voting process is complicated, it only allows so many tries, and if you are unlucky to be nominated in the years when the choices are tough, you could literally get locked out. Also, life, ill health and death does not figure into the voting process, realistically, how could it? So often inductions are for men or women now gone who never knew they made the grade or who actually passed away while in the process of voting. Not sure Facebook has a choice for “feeling very unhappy” but that be my post for when this happens. My point is, people who might be “obvious choices” for the Hall of Fame don’t always get to be there. And if you do, it’s nice when you know about it.
There is irony here because George Barber is a man who appears to have little desire to stand in that light. (Well, obviously not completely there is that matter of “The Barber”, but I am speaking of his demeanor now.) If you are hoping to shake his hand during an event, there’s an equal chance he will be at the front door of the museum greeting visitors, or touring his facility making sure the birds and animals, plants and trees that live there are safe. He can tell you at any given time what’s nesting or having babies on his property. He’s a businessman, successful, respected and well known to be fiercely competitive, yet I have seen him collecting cigarette butts off the ground on the side of the ring road. Barber Motorsports Park has earned environmental-planning certification from Audubon International. If I heard this about any other business I would assume it was some shortcut to tax credits but not here, no way.
I cannot think of one other person who has worked so hard for his sport, or his community. Anyone can see that building off the main path in Leeds Alabama has certainly made it harder for the museum to gain the world fame it deserves. This man is loyal to his community and it’s common knowledge that hasn’t always been easy. And his it’s not just his passion for motorcycles and cars that he shares. There is art scattered all over his property, on the lawns, hills, woods and lakes, which expose everyday people that frankly I doubt would ever set foot in an art museum to the one Art In Public Places program that completely makes sense to me. Not once have I stood looking at a piece of art on his property and thought to myself “that’s art?” So yea, he has great taste too. “The Barber” needs to be on any serious motorsports fan’s bucket list. It’s honestly that special. And it’s his gift to us. So what can the motorcycle world give back to a guy like that? I’m thinking an AMA Hall of Fame nomination is a perfect fit.
Clearly, at the end of the day George Barber does not need the AMA Hall of Fame. He seems to be in fine health and he’s never struck me as impatient. But there is a yardstick that measures greatness worth noting and that yardstick in our culture is a Hall of Fame nomination. Preferably one the honoree is aware of. Truthfully, this honor is merely a celebration of the obvious. And so it is with George.
Vicki (feeling happy today)