There are two events that have taken place during my lifetime for which I remember where I was when I received news of them. The first is the September 11th terrorist attacks, which hit particularly close to home because not only were they actually close to my home in Brooklyn, but because my father, Victor, is a New York City firefighter. I was sitting with my friend Charlie in our first grade classroom, and both of our mothers arrived with tears in their eyes to pick us up. The second is the death of Michael Jackson, which is ironic because I’m not a fan and never was, even while he was alive. It isn’t about the allegations of child abuse at his hands, I just never loved his music; despite that fact, I remember the news story breaking on 1010 WINS while I was stuck in traffic with my parents on the way home from my middle school graduation. A third event will now round out this trio: the moment I was sitting on my couch in my apartment in Clemson and learned that the BBC had officially fired Jeremy Clarkson and, by logical extension, ended Top Gear (for the moment).
I don’t condone bad behavior. I don’t ever condone someone raising his or her hands to another person. What Jeremy did wasn’t right, and he clearly has had behavior faux pas in recent years. So, with all of that considered, I want to leave the controversies out of this and talk about what Jeremy, Richard and James did for me growing up. I want to talk about the TV show I stumbled upon at 11 years old on YouTube. I want to talk about how three self-proclaimed “morons” are actually the three people who have inspired me to pursue my ambitions for a career in the car world.
I am an only child possessing a severe obsession for automobiles, and have been since I was old enough to talk. While other people may have differing opinions, I know in my heart that Jeremy is a good man. When Jeremy made his more serious films, the beauty and gravity of his words could rip a hole in space and time. Richard and James are no different; they cared about what they did, and for all their self-deprecating banter, they made Top Gear special for that very reason. It isn’t a show about cars; it’s a show about why they matter and why people who love them understand each other. Ask any of us, and we will tell you that we’re just a different breed. Jeremy, Richard and James aren’t just the best automotive journalists in the world. They didn’t just teach me about cars; they taught me what true friendship looked like. I hope with every fiber of my being that this isn’t the end for Top Gear; however, if it is, I want to sincerely thank Jeremy, Richard and James for giving a young kid from Brooklyn three heroes to look up to.
This article was originally published in the Outlook (opinions) section of The Tiger Newspaper at Clemson University on March 26, 2015. The original online version of the story can be found at thetigernews.com/what-top-gear-really-was/