Sunday, February 15, 2004

Why I hate NASCAR

Florida Today

They say the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of racing. I'll take the Super Bowl instead.

They say the Daytona 500 is the World Series of racing. I'll take the World Series instead.

In fact, if they said the Daytona 500 is the World Cup of auto racing, I'd even take the World Cup instead. As boring as I find soccer, I find NASCAR much more so.

The roar of the engines? Hah. It's the snore of the engines, if you ask me, watching a bunch of guys making left-handed turns, circling the same track hour after hour, ad nauseam.

Before we go any further, allow me to interject a disclaimer: Though I hate NASCAR, I still give it my all when I must cover it. Those who love the sport deserve nothing less. I do, however, remember a letter I received years ago, the author accusing me of being, and I quote, "a stick-and-ball weenie." He thought he was insulting me. I took it as a compliment.

And, you know, now that I'm thinking more about it, maybe hate isn't the word I should use here. I really don't hate NASCAR.

I loathe it, detest it, despise it.

What don't I like about racing?

First of all, I can't get into a sport where every time you watch, there is a very real possibility someone can die. I was there at Daytona the day Dale Earnhardt died.

The only good thing about having to stay at the track and write for a couple of hours after a race is that the streets are fairly clear by the time I head home.

There are other things I hate, too.

I hate the gratuitous shilling for sponsors. I hate that NASCAR's popularity and influence has infiltrated into the NFL and NBA and MLB, and that those leagues keep taking steps toward selling their souls to advertisers. It's unseemly.

But it's worse when it comes to NASCAR, because the sport was built on the back of tobacco. How can you have any measure of self-respect when you're promoting a carcinogenic product?

I hate that NASCAR was borne out of dishonesty - moonshine runners, remember? - and that it constantly has to police itself and comb cars for cheating because, if not, owners and drivers and mechanics wouldn't have the moral fortitude to do it themselves.

Not that NASCAR the governing body is above reproach, either. All those quaint old stories about how races were fixed aren't all that quaint in my book. Being a first cousin to professional wrestling is not something to be proud of.

And what's with changing the rules like underwear? Can you imagine the NFL saying, "Peyton Manning is throwing for too many yards, so we need to let a little air out of the ball and make it harder to throw."

Really, what's there to like about the sport? When you come right down to it, it's just a bunch of guys driving really fast, making left-hand turns and pitting. And speaking of pitting, if I wanted to watch guys change tires, I'd hang out at the local Tire Kingdom. Come on, you can't tell me that watching some schmo change tires is entertaining. And if you find it exciting to see how fast a guy can fill up a tank with gas, then maybe you've been sniffing the fumes a little too long.

Fans talk about racing strategy. Excuse me while I muffle a yawn. If I'm interested in observing strategy, I'll go watch a chess match.

If fact, that might not be a bad idea.

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