Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NASCAR (Is) for Dummies

1. an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment : “team sports such as baseball and soccer” | [as adj. ] ( sports) “a sports center.”

So, the question put before us today is, Is NASCAR a sport?

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was on Dan Patrick’s FOX radio show Wednesday. Dan asked him, “Would your dad [the late Dale Earnhardt] have been on Kyle Busch’s ‘side’?” This is in reference to Busch’s so-called “rivalry” with driver Carl Edwards. (They’ve been bashing their cars into one another on the racetrack, in case you were not aware.)

Uh, “be on his side”?

Ya mean like in the schoolyard? Neener-neener-neener???

The NASCAR culture has a combined IQ of about 47. It is, without doubt, the sport for morons. If it’s a sport at all.

Remember Keanu Reeves in the movie Parenthood? He’s a young, dumb guy who pursues drag racing. When he totals his car at the end, everyone’s concerned for his safety, except the guy who owns the racetrack who asks, “Hey, can you come back and do that next week?” The “athlete” as cannon fodder.

NASCAR, IndyCar, or any level car-racing, is as boring as it gets—except for the crashes. So where’s the sport in that? What kind of person, I ask you, sits in the stands at a racing event and watches dozens of cars go around and around at high speed for hours and hours? What aspect of athleticism are they appreciating? If there’s no crash, do they go home disappointed? Or are they appreciative of the dumb drivers’ ability—sorry, “skill”—to sit their cast-iron asses in a car seat all afternoon and drive really fast? What, I ask you, distinguishes the “skill” of a Dale, Jr. from that of a—pick name at random—Greg Biffle? (“Man, that Greg Biffle can sure grab a hold of that steering wheel!”)

Fact is, you could take the #1 tire-changer guys from the pits of all NASCAR drivers, put them in the driver seats instead, let ’em race, and the average fan wouldn’t know the freakin’ difference at a glance. But at least the crashes would look the same: messy, fiery, smoky, hopefully fatal.

There’s always a lot of talk about Team Earnhardt or Team Gibbs (a la the former Redskins football coach who’s owned race cars for years), or Team Rahal, in which David Letterman has a stake. (Is it just me, or is it totally weird that Letterman, the political liberal, digs car racing? Didn’t you know, Dave, that the IndyCar series is a fave of overweight. low-educated blue-collar men and women who swill beer and voted for Bush?)

The “team” deal is an attempt to further promulgate racing as a “sport.” That dog won’t hunt. Do they give out awards for fastest oil-change?? Or lug-nut removal?? Well, they don’t yet, anyway. Hold onto your shotgun seat.

But let’s look at that definition again: “an activity involving physical exertion and skill...” Well, football certainly qualifies. LaDainian Tomlinson exerts himself mightily every Sunday and his physical skills as a runner are unquestioned. Basketball? No sweat. LeBron and Kobe are supremely physically skilled—we can actually see it—and the name of their game is nothing if not exertion. Hockey? Yes. Baseball? It’s less exertion but still has plenty of it, and the skill factor is huge. Yes to baseball. As a matter of fact, yes to any sport where the athletes involved must put their bodies into shape, perform in a public arena and display physical exertion and obviously superior skill at the activity involved. Heck, I hate soccer. It’s boring. But you can’t say it doesn’t fulfill the definition of sport. (FYI: I can’t hit Tim Lincecum’s fastball, but I drive all the time. Once I hit the mid-90s in my old Acura Integra on a trip from Chicago to Nashville. I know: It’s not the exact same thing, but you get my drift.)

Here’s Dale, Jr., in an online issue of Men’s Health magazine: “I used to not even pay attention to my health. I'd eat what I wanted to eat, I went wherever I wanted to, raised hell, didn't sleep. But it takes away from how quick-witted you are and how sharp you are in the race car...” Good thing he wasn’t driving on any average city street before this big revelation.

Then there’s the presposterous legacy crap that goes on in car racing. Does anyone believe that Dale, Jr. achieved “greatness” in his sport? Did he pay his dues? Did he demonstrate his ability pitted against other drivers in the minor leagues? No, we all know that nepotism is the name of that game. It is a rarity when a pro athlete’s kid makes it in the same sport. It certainly happens—the Boones, Alous, Bondses, Fielders, etc., in baseball; the Simms and Grieses and Winslows in football. But anyone remember Pete Rose Jr.? Poor Petey. He wanted to follow in dad’s footsteps and it proved an impossibility. Heck, Petey wasn’t even given a second chance. Why? Because while he may have been willing to exert—like many wannabe pro athletes—he simply didn’t have the skill.

More Dale, Jr.: “I didn't look like my dad, and my mannerisms weren't like his, so I didn't get many comparisons to him. So the pressure of being Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn't so great. Just trying to make it was hard enough, you know? I liked the fact that I was able to drive for my dad, but I always knew that it might not work out. It's real hard to work for family. Fortunately, it has worked out. I can't believe they pay me to do this.”

I’ll bet a lot of guys can’t believe it either, Dale. As for it “not working out,” were you perchance planning another career? Maybe as a dentist?

Here’s Dale, Jr. on the legacy thing: “If I have a son, hell yeah, I want him to race. I'll be like those damn beauty-queen moms. You know how they have those little 6-year-olds that they're rushing to beauty contests? That's the kind of dad I'll be with racing. He'll be 6 years old, and I'll be yelling, ‘Damn it, you didn't go 'round that corner right! I told you, man, late apexes!’ ”

Late apexes?? Is that anything like hitting the curve ball? Lord help Dale III if he wants to be an entomologist. Hell yeah!

I met a lady once who owned a pawn shop. She took me into her office one day, and proudly pointed to what she claimed was her prized possession hanging on the wall: a large triptych of color photos of, and signed personally by, Richard Petty. “That’s my big thing,” she pronounced with reverence.

“Oh, yeah,” I said politely. But just what kind of “thing” is that, I wondered. Kinda a dumb, mindless thing.

Official attendance figures for 1998 North American auto racing were 17,079,004. It’s not easy to find current figures. That’s a lot of people, but not more than the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals and Angels combined in a single season of baseball.

Nevertheless, the sport obviously has its fans. But that don’t—oops, sorry: doesn’t—make it a sport.

But what’s really amazing is that the major radio sports outlets broadcast car racing on the weekends. With play-by-play announcers! Hilarious.

Now what kind of a dummy LISTENS to an auto race on the radio?? A big one—with a lot of time on his hands apparently.

The evidence is overwhelming. NASCAR is not a sport. It's spectacle—for IQs below 80.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I'm not even a NASCAR fan, and I would usually tend to agree with what you said...

if only you didn't come off as such an elitist prick.