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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2008

Fast women and fast cars.

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I just don't understand the appeal. NASCAR espouses roots in the Southeastern United States, and it's grown to become the second-most popular professional sport in terms of television ratings in the U.S., ranking behind the NFL.

 

I just don't get it. Granted, it's difficult to get a competitive car on the track, the hours that go into the effort, not to mention the money. That doesn't mean it appeals to me. I imagine I'm of the minority. A guy who isn't bedazzled by a fast car going around and around.

 

A race was held at the Milwaukee Mile last weekend, the Governor's Cup and the Wisconsin All-Star 100 featuring Matt Kenseth. The races featured included drivers from around the country who make the trip on their own dime. Guys with day jobs voluntarily put themselves in the hot-seat as often as they can afford.

 

The drivers have some serious stones to be able to get inside anything which has the possibility of exploding, crunching, crashing, or igniting. Then again, you face similar hazards when you climb into your Toyota on your way to work and merge onto I-43. In their fire suits and helmets the drivers look like Hillbilly astronauts. Again, before someone reading this gets his drawers bunched up in anger, I respect the guys who do it, I just don't get the appeal. I wouldn't mind taking a car around the track. I'd even race if my opponents were a contingent from a local nursing home. One of the drivers was sixteen years old, an age where most kids are pawing girls in the back seat of a car, not driving it on an oval track at 200 miles an hour.

 

Where is the participation aspect of the sport? You can throw a football around the yard and drill your 11 year old with a tight spiral. You can also demonstrate proper hitting techniques to your kid and play a game or two, providing your hips and knees hold out.

 

I've been in the hot-pits during a couple of races at the Milwaukee Mile and it was fun. The thick smell of gas, the unmistakable aroma of burned rubbers, largely associated with the pit crews. Once inside the lines of pit-row, you kind of feel part of the race. Flying bolts from the wheels being changed in a moment, the fuel spilling into the cars who stop long enough to bark some comments or a drink of water.

 

You have to wear long pants and closed-toed shoes in the pits in case of fire, oil spills, or in the event some clod with an unlit cigarette hanging from his mouth drops his steel toed boot on your foot.

 

There's a macabre factor to the sport. You can't tell me the hill-rods gawking from the stands aren't praying for a fiery crash, a twenty car pile-up, a possible decapitation. They may not talk about it, but they're rubbing their rosaries down to nubs in the hopes of at least one spin-out.

 

NASCAR races are broadcast in over 150 countries and holds 17 of the top 20 attended sporting events in the U.S. with 75-million fans. The fan base multiplied by the number of teeth in the average NASCAR fan's head is three times that amount. I'm sure there are bright, educated people who appreciate auto racing, but you could have dropped a hydrogen bomb on the Milwaukee Mile last weekend and missed hitting a single one of them.

 

A purported 3-billion hard earned dollars are spent on NASCAR licensed products. This is not the work of country-bumpkins as we're supposed to believe. These fans are considered the most brand-loyal in all of sports. This in turn gives a collective orgasm to the advertising concerns around the world who know a good investment when they see one, even if the target audience has a penchant for moonshine and soiling their pants.

 

This fan-base consumes marginally more tobacco products and alcohol than a UW-Milwaukee freshman. Where do these folks come up with the 3-billion dollars they rest on NASCAR's door. They may not have money to cover the mortgage, but they have plenty of money to buy a Dale Earnhardt Jr. leather jacket and matching hat.

 

Once again, I admire portions of the sport and what the drivers and pit crews do, I just can't seem to get away from the mind-numbing monotony of the sport.

 

Olympic Note

 

I tip my hat to any and all participants of the Summer Olympics. While I only watched ten minutes of the entire thing, it was a good ten minutes. My brother called me from California to tell me about Michael Phelps going for his 8th medal. Had it not been for that phone call, I would have missed the entire spectacle. Swimming is very cool, but water polo? How do you get started in water polo? Anything submerged in water that long should be served with butter and a garnish.

 

Archery. Good god, why not chess as an Olympic sport, or backgammon. Badminton is an Olympic sport. A sport which utilizes a Shuttlecock should be immediately disqualified. Fencing. I imagine kids from debate club and forensics need some sport to which they can relate. Ditto for Equestrian events. In case you missed these prime time events, Judo and sailing also fly under the Olympic banner. These 'athletes' shouldn't be allowed to parade with the others during the opening and closing ceremonies. They should be forced to take public transportation to within a mile of the stadium, then walk.

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