Monday, May 02, 2005

Still Turning Left After All These Years: NASCAR

Veering left or going straight? I can't tell

We all have questions we would dearly like to ask, but either never get a chance to, don't have the guts to, or we prefer to not to know the answers.

Near the top of my list, just behind "Why won't people use their turn signals?" and "Why did they make navy blue so darn close to black?", would be a question that I absolutely must put on my to-do list here very soon.

I would pull a NASCAR fan aside and ask, "Why are you a NASCAR fan?"

I wouldn't ask it with any malice, or ill will, or even sarcasm. It would be genuine curiosity. Kind of like asking someone why they like root canals. I know I said I wouldn't be sarcastic -- but I meant I wouldn't be sarcastic while I asked it. This blog is open season, brother.

Seriously -- what's the attraction? I really would like to know. I am asking because whomever markets NASCAR, in my opinion, must be the same person or persons who marketed the Hula Hoop or the Slinky. Certainly the same premise is at work here: overexposure and the ability to convince people that they can't do without it. Hula Hoops and Slinkies were hardly necessities, and hardly sophisticated, but try telling anyone who had one or wanted one that they could be happy without one. Same with NASCAR.

First, it's all over the television dial -- NASCAR This Week, NASCAR This Morning, Totally NASCAR, and I Can't Believe It's Another NASCAR Show! (the last one is made up, I'm pretty sure). And they all seem to come on, right after another, on Sunday morning. It makes the NFL look under publicized, for gosh sakes.

Second, and I'm back to this now, what's the attraction? To my unsophisticated, uneducated, NASCAR-dumb mind, all I see are a bunch of cars constantly turning left. Granted, they are going very fast -- almost as fast as cars on I-696 when the traffic is light -- but the entire race is: "I'm going straight now....veering to my left....going straight again...gonna veer left again pretty soon, at which point I'll be prepared to go straight again..."

And so on.

Is it the personalities? I know NASCAR, like pro bowling (another blog entirely), has its share of oddballs and hotheads, like Tony Stewart and.....well, Tony Stewart. Oh, and there's that pretty boy, Jeff Gordon, who used to have the hot wife. I'm sure there are others; let me get back to you on this one.

Hot Head (left) and Pretty Boy...or is it vice-versa?

Is it the money? NASCAR drivers, like pro golfers (still another blog) can pull down some serious cash -- if they win, or simply finish a race. But it's not like we're winning the money. Heck, I could go down to the casino and watch the slot machines for winners and live vicariously that way, too.

Is it the cars themselves? I doubt it -- apart from all the advertising covering them, NASCAR cars all look the same to me, like Hot Wheels.

Or is it the crashes?


They had a mighty one at Talladega over the weekend, and after looking at video and photos of it, which involved some 25 cars, it amazes me that something like that doesn't happen every single race. But you know what? I think that if it did, NASCAR would grow even more in popularity.

How does this not happen every week?

I can almost hear the auto racing purists now: "Come on, Eno! We like the races without the crashes! Any 'true' racing fan would agree."

And I like Playboy just for the articles.

Let's face it: auto racing car crashes can be spectacular, mainly because they're traveling in packs and going freaking fast. If a guy sneezes, a dozen cars can be wiped out. So I guess they must be pretty talented guys, because the crashes aren't all that often. Ahh, but it's the possibility of a crash that keeps folks interested.

Isn't it?

Again, I don't ask to be mean or a smart ass. I am legitimately curious and fascinated by the obsession.

Quick, tell me, before they come out with an all-NASCAR TV network.

You know, like the NFL -- those poor, underexposed bastards.

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