The weekend at Daytona and the Wreck in the Nationwide Race Saturday
BAD AS BUD, MY BAD
Today I’m blowing the whistle, on myself. I’m as guilty as anyone in the way I view certain sports and in the things that attract me to them. It’s not that I haven’t been a legitimate fan of NASCAR racing for a long time, an enthusiasm that grew out of my admiration for the drivers, particularly after having an opportunity to cover a number of races and work with many of them, observe them in their interplay with NASCAR fans and watch them working with their crews in the pit garages. There is a nobility in the average NASCAR driver that doesn’t exist in most athletes in the major sports, and make no mistake about it, anyone who sits gripped to the wheel of so much horsepower for such a long period of time with maximum concentration under such dangerous conditions, often in extreme heat, is a well conditioned athlete. With all that appreciation espoused, I have an admission to make. NASCAR fans have long been accused by the uninitiated of having an overabundance of morbid curiosity, drawn to the sport by the danger element, the chance that in any turn, any collision, they may see massive destruction on the track. Not that I want to see anyone injured, certainly I don’t want to see anyone killed, but I was guilty this weekend of being drawn in by the accident effect, the one you can’t turn away from when you’re driving by it on the highway. I have no love for extended pre game shows that overfeed me with information I’m already well aware of and I rarely tune in before the kick off of the Super Bowl or the actual first pitch of post season baseball games. I did tune in for the pre race portion of the Daytona 500 yesterday because I knew they’d show the crash from the Nationwide race the day before from every angle and at every speed and I wanted to see them all. I will admit I may not have been so eager to see so much of it if anyone had been killed, it was bad enough that a number of spectators were hospitalized, but it was a spectacular crash and there is that element of NASCAR fandom. But my far greater guilt lies in the attention I pay to a sport that gets just that from me, attention, not so much fandom. I became one of those people I despise the most in sports where cycling is concerned, an enabler. Never a competitor, a participant only in the casual sense, sunny summer afternoons, lazy rides on country roads and quiet elm lined streets, I got caught up in the Tour de France when Lance Armstrong began to dominate the event. Even understanding the suspicions that much of his success stemmed from his frontrunner status in another competition that dominated the sport, to have the latest, most effective, least detectible drugs, I found channels on my cable system that I previously didn’t know existed and got hooked on the long legs up picturesque mountains and fast sprints through quaint villages that punctuate the Tour de France. I loved it, then expressed righteous indignation when the truth behind the rumors came out, Lance, and all the rest of them, were competing for an edge. Suddenly I realized I was no better than Bud Selig and his baseball robber barons, who turned a blind eye while the turnstiles whirred, or football owners suddenly concerned about players safety while players of yore live on welfare after years of injuries that went “unnoticed”. It’s a hard lesson to learn about yourself. Guilty as charged. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.