This article, or more correctly put, this pair of articles appeared as indicated in February of 2004 on the pages of Insider Racing News. It was done in fun, but actually turned out quite well and was very well received. I was one of the writers. Can you tell which one
February 16, 2004
It's a Great Time...
To be a NASCAR Fan
This is NOT your Granddaddy's NASCAR!
Everywhere that I look, there are "old-school" fans, bemoaning the fact that NASCAR racing is not the same as it used to be, and NASCAR stands accused of trying to be the NFL. It seems to me that the NFL is doing just fine, and may not be such a bad sport to emulate in some ways.
Years ago, NFL players wore no padding and sported little leather helmets, ala Snoopy doing is Red Baron imitation. There were no rules to speak of, and players were routinely injured, crippled or killed as a result. In today's NFL, players wear all manner of protective gear and there are stringent rules dealing with the legality or illegality of certain types of hits or tackles. Certainly, there are still injuries in football, as it remains a contact sport, but they are far fewer than they used to be and usually nowhere near as severe.
Stock car drivers of days gone by raced convertibles in shirt sleeves, depended on a lap belt for safety and wore little leather helmets that looked suspiciously as if they'd been borrowed from the NFL. Today's stock car drivers are padded, cushioned and strapped into automobiles that are built especially to promote safety and avoid injury. As we speak, most if not all of the tracks on the circuits are scheduling the erection of an energy-dissipating wall system, aimed at further protecting the drivers from harm. Stock car drivers of yesterday had little more that a guardrail to retain an errant car, and many lives were lost because of that.
In Granddaddy's day, football games were generally held on baseball fields that weren't in use during the cold weather. NASCAR races of the same era were usually held at a fairgrounds somewhere, in a venue (probably in the southeast) that accommodated a few thousand spectators at best. Today's bright and fan-friendly stadiums seat anywhere from 100 thousand to 250 thousand avid fans, and they manage to fill every seat.
Television, in the "good old days" was in its infancy. Until 1979, the only coverage ever given to racing consisted of short segments of an actual race, shown somewhere in the middle of "Wide World of Sports." Today's races are each televised in their entirety, with all manner of electronic gadgets and gizmos to assist the fans in enjoying and understanding the race as it unfolds.
Old-school fans are still whining about the loss of ESPN as a broadcasting partner for NASCAR. With just a small amount of research, one can find out that those same fans were delighted when TNN (The Nashville Network) began to air race coverage, since they were disgusted with ESPN's seeming lack of respect for racefans. (They dared to do things like tape a race for later viewing, in order to air the NFL draft, live) This week alone, fans have been regaled with over seventy hours of racing and race-related programming through the collaborative efforts of FOX, NBC and TNT.
Somehow, it seems to me that race fans today have the very best of everything. The drivers are safer, the arenas are vastly improved and the amount of coverage is unparalleled. By all means, enjoy your memories, but please look closely at what you are rejecting simply because there may have been some changes along the way. It's been said that the only constant in life is change, and it's not always a bad thing.
Take your heads out of the sand and look around. It's a great time to be a race fan.
The New NASCAR...
Versus the Old NASCAR
A great time to be a NASCAR fan? Well maybe, maybe not.
It's difficult to accept some of the new ideas and innovations that the new NASCAR and prodigious television contracts have shoved down the throat of the American race fan. It's difficult to stand by and watch NASCAR literally being turned into the World Wrestling fiasco. It's difficult to see the billions of dollars the France family have in the bank while the ISC owned tracks rot from lack of maintenance. If you've ever been to Daytona, Darlington, Rockingham or Watkins Glen, you'd wonder where all the money has gone. It certainly hasn't gone toward improvements.
Everyone knows, or should know, that nobody builds, or races, stockcars anymore. The NASCAR stockcars of today are 850-900 horsepower, pure exotic racing machines with tin bodies hung on them. Only the present NASCAR rules and the weight of the cars prevent them from speeds equal to what any Indy Car could produce. The twenty-five million dollar a year teams with immature, ill-tempered, obnoxious brats driving the cars, dominate the racing landscape of today.
Our senses have been battered by the endless parade of junk music of today's youth before the race starts, during the race and after the race. The "In your face attitude" is sickening. Where is the respect? What has happened to loyalty?
Coming from a time in history where the cars were real cars and the drivers were real men, the racing was up close and personal. It was driving without power steering, cool suits, roof flaps or restrictor plates. If you really want to go back, it was drivers clad only in jeans and a t-shirt. It was drivers not afraid to get a little grease under the fingernails by working on their own cars. It was Smokey Yunick's "Best Damn Garage In Town."
In those days there were names like Fireball Roberts, King Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, The Wood Brothers, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Harry Gant. Today it's Jamie, Joe, Jimmie, Jimmy, Jeremy, Johnny, Johnny, John, Jeff, Jeff, Casey, Kasey, Kyle, Kevin, Kevin, Kurt, Kirk, Ken and Kenny.
It's true, everything changes, generally for the best, but not always. There have been some great advances in the area of safety, but safety concerns aside, NASCAR seems to have worn out their older fans and if a new fan base can't be bought, they will soon be on the backside of a downhill ride. How much abuse can a normal NASCAR fan stand? There isn't another sport on the planet that would endure what loyal NASCAR fans put up with.
Greed, with-in the sport, has squeezed the life out of the older generation. Many have moved on with their lives to a place where NASCAR doesn't play much of a role. It's still there, in the background, like quiet noise, but they don't pay it much attention anymore. They have paid their dues and have been dumped like last weeks garbage.
Is there any wonder that most of the older fans yearn to return to a simpler day? It doesn't have to be ESPN, but it's necessary to recognize who the fans are and not look at them as though they were just another trip to the bank.
It's a shame that we have lost some of the days that seemed to be so innocent..days when we had it good and didn't know it.
Dale Earnhardt is dead and I don't feel so well myself.