Saturday, January 27, 2007

Up until now, I haven't written much about NASCAR. But with the added attention given to the NASCAR offseason because Toyota is coming to the circuit and every body in motor sports seems to be in a panic and the sport's growing popularity, I figured I'd say something about it. Don't worry, though, this isn't a shameless attempt to generate more readership for this site. I think the rest of the post will bear that out.

I am glad Toyota is coming to NASCAR. I am not very interested in globalization or the diversification of the whitest sport on the planet. Those are issues for people who are less self-involved than I. I am hoping that Toyota will bring the same magic to the NASCAR circuit that it's brought to the other racing formats it has entered in the past.

A lot of attention was paid to the owner of the Rousch Racing team whining about what Toyota might do to the current paradise on Earth that is the NASCAR circuit. Apparently, Toyota frightens NASCAR fans who feel that the corporation has had a history of entering a racing circuit and outspending the competition until they dominate, then leaving the circuit high and dry.

Could you imagine a world where NASCAR is dominated by Toyota in five years, then in ten years it's a ghost town like Tombstone (minus the colorful characters and valuable icons like Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp)? That is easily the worst thing that could happen to American professional sports. NASCAR is more than a professional sport. It is a public trust and must be protected.

I wake at night in a cold sweat thinking Dale Jr. might leave DEI. I am delighted that a racing league calling itself the National Association of Stock Car Racing no longer drives stock cars in the original sense of the term. I think Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are probably our two best athletes. After all, sitting in a chair and banking left from time to time is much harder than rushing off the edge like Dwight Freeny, going across the middle like TO or taking it to the hole like King James.

As, I hope, you have inferred from my tone, the preceding paragraphs have been sarcastic. I hope Toyota does come in and spend NASCAR into oblivion. If the circuit lies in ruins in ten years, I won't shed a tear. If Jimmie Johnson should fall off the roof of a moving golf cart ten years hence with NASCAR exploited and left for dead by Toyota, would any one hear?

America's ever-increasing obsession with NASCAR is just one of the things that continually amaze me. Car racing is boring to me. They could drive 200 mph, 300 mph or the speed of light (if the physics of light speed had been worked out) around the track and I still wouldn't care. I am not ghoulish enough to look forward to crashes. And where is the surprise? Maybe if there were a little more to this racing thing than following one defined course with four left banks, I would want to watch.

I know that there is a strategy to NASCAR racing. Making pit stops, managing fuel consumption, whether to pass high or low, bump drafting and all the rest require conscious and rational thought. So does cricket. And I'm sure advocates of lawn darts or horseshoes could make the same claim. It just doesn't do it for me.

What's worse is that I can't see why now of all times it should become more popular. I think, in part, it has to do with the demise of boxing and hockey as major television sports. Golf hasn't quite grabbed the spotlight as well as NASCAR because golf is boring as a spectator sport and whispering announcers waxing poetic don't enhance the experience. Baseball and basketball are slowly strangling themselves by mismanaging their labor pools and constructing crushingly counter-intuitive economic structures (every team eventually suffers when only 6 or 7 teams are any good).

If we are that bored as a society,maybe people should look into reading, or writing half-assed blogs when they can't sleep or are intoxicated. Maybe Americans could start a letter writing campaign directed at David Stern so that he stops torturing Mark Cuban who is the most intelligent person in recorded human history, just ask Mr. Cuban and he will tell you at great length. Maybe NASCAR fans could simply look at a blank wall and not lose the life-affirming, intellect building experience that is watching stock car racing.

I might seem excessively antagonistic to the good people who watch car racing, and that's probably true. But I have another painful task to get to before the evening is over. We have the first two time honoree for tool of the week. It is I. Tonight, I learned that the Verve's Bittersweet Symphony sampled the symphonic version of The Last Chance by the Rolling Stones, not You Can't Always Get What You Want as I had said. I should have done a bit more due diligence rather than going with something because it amplified a point I wanted to make.

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