Flash forward to 2006. Ten years and 5 World Championships later. Suzuka, Japan. The fourth-gear Degner Curve, specifically, for those who care about such things. Even on points with Fernando Alonso. Leading by over 8 seconds with 16 laps to go. His retirement already announced and only one race left in the season and his career. As the smoking Ferrari coasted to a stop, V8 engine blown along with his championship hopes, there were none of the radio outbursts that we've come to expect from drivers over the last few years. As Fernando Alonso wound down the laps, the World Championship all but his, there were no shots of a stony faced Schumacher glaring from beyond the Armco, cursing his luck at his first engine failure since 2000 (that would be at Magny-Cours, back when there still was a French Grand Prix, for those who care about such things). There were no shots of Schumacher walking briskly through the paddock, ignoring his team, too indignant to face the creators whose creation had let him down at the most crucial time. We were treated to none of the scenes we've come to expect from sullen and disappointed race drivers because Schumacher did none of those things. Instead, the world feed director cut away from a coasting Alonso to show us Michael Schumacher as he made his through the Ferrari garage, mechanic by mechanic, engineer by engineer, embrace by embrace. Steve Matchett later said that Schumacher's display of gratitude towards the Ferrari mechanics during the most crushing loss of his career had left the team with tears in their eyes, shaking their heads and asking each other "where in the world are we going to find another one like that," along with the inevitable melancholy that followed the unanswerable question.
As I watched Barack Obama handle his final turkey pardon today with grace, class, inimitable self-deprecating wit and presidential demeanor (at least compared to what's following) I found myself reminded of that hypothetical question the Ferrari mechanics asked themselves that day in Japan. I don't know what the next four years have in store for our country, and while I'm hopeful, and thankful, I can't help but think that we're starting a little below the mark, but there's certainly a lot of room for improvement. Regardless of how we feel this Thanksgiving, I hope we all have more to be thankful for next year.