Before I continue my work as a missionary of sanity in this crazy freaking world, I have something I’ve been needing to get off my chest. It doesn’t have social ramifications of Gun Control, or the emotion of The R-Word, or my usual volatile mix of Religion and Politics that you have come to know and love, but it is important nonetheless…. Here it is: NASCAR is not a sport, and NASCAR drivers are not athletes. Not even close. There. I said it. (Full disclosure: My wife just asked me what I’m blogging about, and I told her that the things I’ve been writing about lately have been a little too serious, so “I’m writing about how NASCAR is not a sport and NASCAR drivers are not athletes.” And she responded, “Don’t you think that might incite people?” I told her it was the truth, and people needed to hear it. So I guess, in my own little way, I’m still just out here trying to spread the truth.)
More people in America attend NASCAR races than any other sporting event, and this is just mind-boggling to me. I’m sorry, I simply do not get the draw of these events. I have been to stock car races before–It basically contains all the excitement of watching people drive on the interstate, only with all the fun of trying to keep your ears from bleeding because of the deafening noise. I used to think that the reason most of the people were rooting for an accident was either out of some sort of demented blood lust or just due to pure boredom–If I was forced to watch interstate traffic for a couple hours, I’d probably start rooting for an accident too–but I think that it has more to do with wanting just a couple minutes of relative quiet to talk to the people around you without having to read their lips as they scream the words, “THIS IS SO FREAKING STUPID!” to you.
I do feel a bit of a kinship with NASCAR fans, because I drive pretty fast myself. A couple months ago, I rented a car and drove from Nashville to Northern Michigan and back and I really flew. I think the combination of the fact that I was driving without any kids AND I was driving a really nice rental added a few more miles per hour than usual to my speed. In the roughly 1500 miles that I drove, I was passed by only one car. One. And it was going at least 110 M.P.H. Now, a person might expect someone driving that fast to be pretty athletic…. so I was as surprised as you when I looked over and saw a moderately overweight woman who looked to be pushing 60 years old fly past me. She must have trained really hard.
But seriously, the best predictor of whether or not you will someday be a successful NASCAR driver is whether you have an uncle or a father who has a race team. It’s not like they send scouts out onto the roads looking for new talent, pulling up next to someone at a gas station…. “Excuse me, son. My name is Sparky McDoogle, and I’m a NASCAR talent scout. They call me ‘The Plug.’ I noticed the way you passed that Dodge Intrepid a few miles back, and I think, with the right coaching, you’ve got what it takes to be one of the great ones. Here’s my card.” It would also help our imaginary hero’s chances if he was smaller than your usual dude, as that allows the race team to use more ballast and put it where they want in order to improve the car’s handling. It’s like that old saying: “Being 5’5″ and having an uncle in the business does not an athlete make.”
I know, I know–Being a race car driver takes a lot of stamina and focus and control. But you know what else takes a lot of stamina, focus, and control? Playing video games. I put race car drivers in the same “sporting” category that I put people who are really, really good at Halo…. Dorks. I’m impressed by how good some people are at video games, but just because they can shoot my character in the face with a plasma gun while virtually running backwards doesn’t mean they are an athlete. Still, I’d say that gaming is probably closer to a sport than NASCAR is…. Literally anyone could be groomed to be a driver–It’s the people who make the car, the people who make the tires, the mechanics, the pit crew, and Sparky McDoogle that make the magic happen.
So feel free to drive eight hours to sit and watch cars drive around in circles for three hours while earplugs hold back the Cole Trickle of blood coming out of your head. Feel free to idolize the drivers. Feel free to go out and buy yourself a whole boat-load of Tide and Pennzoil and Viagra because they are painted on the hood. That is just fine by me…. Just please don’t refer to the drivers’ athletic ability in any way–They are no more an athlete than that old lady who left me in her dust on the way to Michigan. And you can call it a race, you can call it a competition, you can even call it fun. But please don’t call it a sport. It’s just not. I’m serious. It’s not.
Alright…. I feel like we really got somewhere today. Good job, everybody.