It is early on Sunday morning, February 1, 2015, and I'm fighting what is apparently just enough of a cold to be aggravating. Guess I'll miss church and stay in today and get some rest. It is also "Stupid Bowl" Sunday which means the majority of the world will be gathering in front of the television to watch the endless chatter about football, both the over-inflated kind and the under-inflated kind. This event is probably the only event on television each year where folks gather to watch commercials as much as they do the over-hyped contest on the field. The event that gets four million dollars for a 30 second commercial! And you wonder why your car insurance is so high, or the bag of chips costs more now that they have paid to advertise the product during an exhibition best described by Andy Griffith in his tale "What it was was football". I guess Andy's explanation that the contest" was to see who could run that pumpkin from one end of that cow pasture to the other without getting knocked down or stepping in something," is how I mostly think of football. It's just simply not my thing.
Admittedly, part of my distaste for football is due to my total ineptness with any type of stick and ball sports. I can throw a decent spiral past one out of ten attempts. I catch absolutely zero passes thrown to me. I could not make a basket in basketball if I was standing six inches over a basket five feet off the floor. When my son was young, we would play that game, H-O-R-S-E at the basketball goal in our front yard. After a few weeks, he gave up playing with me as it was simply no contest. He would beat me in three minutes. I've told you all about my one attempt with playing little league baseball, I'm sure, but if you missed the story it's a very short one. After my first game, the coach told me to go home, take off the uniform and burn it. He told me not to come back to the ball field even as a spectator. If that had been 2007 instead of 1957, I could have sued for damage to my person!
Adding fuel to my dislike of the NFL were the years I worked with an agent/attorney wherein I had almost daily dealings with NFL team personnel. If I had not had my stint in the Navy to learn all the known curse words in America's vocabulary, dealing with the NFL people would have done it. I remember one incident when I was assisting my boss on "Draft Day" and there was a player our firm represented that was wanted by two teams I decline to name in public. After all, any entity who can copyright the name of a football game so as to be paid for its use in public conversation, surely has a battery of attorneys monitoring any comments made by anyone about the sport of football. Just suffice it to say that I had both coaches of the respective teams on two lines as I alternated back and forth between the screaming, cursing individuals. When the player finally declined to go to the team who had placed the highest bid, that coach went berserk. Such language!
But, enough about my disdain for other sports. After all, no one but me cares about how I feel about stick and ball sports. Tonight, I'm going to talk about MY sport. The sport that began courting me when I had barely turned six, and which had me fully engaged by the time I was ten. The only sport I've ever cared about, and the sport which has filled my life with so many wonderful memories that I often wonder how my life would have unfolded had it not been for a half-mile dirt track adventure in September of 1952.
If you watched the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony this past Friday night, especially the "pre-show", you got to see a great deal of footage from the 50s and 60s and the careers of Rex White, Joe Weatherly, Wendell Scott and Fred Lorenzen. Many of the scenes shown were from races I actually attended. I could remember the color and sounds of each of those cars, the 4, the 8, the 28, and the 34, as if it happened yesterday. I remember the many times I listened to Rex either before or after a race. I remember cutting up with Lil Joe at Columbia Speedway at a race there in 1963. I remember helping Wendell and his crew push his car to the starting line for a race at Columbia Speedway, probably 1963 or 1964. I remember many encounters with "The Golden Boy" although I hardly ever spoke to him because, at the time, he was the primary thorn in the side of my hero. There was simply magic watching those drivers negotiate Darlington so smoothly. I loved all those videos.
Watching all the videos of Bill Elliott and his career showed me just how much the sport had changed between the 60s and the 80s. Still, even so, the 1980s were filled with exciting races and accomplishments by drivers such as Bill Elliott, which earned his way into the Hall of Fame. As Dave Fulton pointed out in a Forum Post, back in the day when Bill was a huge star on the circuit, he was a nervous before the press and cameras as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Bill owned that audience Friday night! Some may say he has come far, but such a statement would negate the impact of his contribution to the sport. Bill Elliott helped to propel the sport into another era. Bill was a part of the progress of the sport that began to inch NASCAR to a new level of energy.
I recently read Perry Allen Wood's latest book, "Bud Moore's Right Hand Man, A NASCAR Team Manager's Career at Full Throttle". I wrote a short review of how I viewed the book and it is posted in the Forum on the Stock Car Home Page here on RacersReunion. The story is told in the words of Greg Moore, son of Team Owner, Bud Moore. It is a factual account of Bud Moore racing from the earliest days until the end of the Bud Moore Team. The book has its humorous moments and it's extremely heart-wrenching moments, but most of all, it has an account of the first hand involvement of someone in the sport over decades when the NASCAR was growing and maturing. It is a historical account of what happened with the little team from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and all it took to keep the team operating through the best of times and the worst of times (credit to Charles Dickens for that line).
Perry Allen makes a profound (in my opinion) statement on Page 170 of the book when he states "History is a wonderful teacher, but only if you pay attention". That, folks, sort of summarizes my involvement in this website. Had I only known what a part of history I was witnessing in the 50s and 60s, I would have taken more pictures and, perhaps, kept a journal of all the adventures I had in and around racing. It seems odd to me, at times, that my memory of the 50 and 60s far exceeds what I remember about the 80s forward. Vivid memories of Darlington races, that first 600 miler at Charlotte in June of 1960, and countless short track races around the south. Oh, I paid attention alright. I could tell you, back then, not only the top ten finishers in each race, but could usually recite the starting lineup AND the sponsors of each car. I remember being in the infield at Daytona in 1971 when a young lady came by with a clipboard and offered several of us coupons for a free hamburger from one of the national chains if we would participate in her survey. The survey was to see how many car sponsors we could name for that Daytona 500. After naming the first 20, she gave me a hand full of coupons!
Watching the Hall of Fame ceremony last Friday, much of what I saw touched my heart. As I watched "The Golden Boy" react with flickers of recognition when certain things were said, it was like even the dementia from which he now suffers could not remove those memories from the mind of Fred Lorenzen. Twice, that I saw, it appeared he wanted to say something and one time I thought he was going to get up from that wheelchair. Yep, I had a few moments of misty eyes watching that. Those days were the golden days of stock car racing which we will never again witness. Clips from videos, and reading books like the one about Greg Moore can help us to relive those days, but what we have now is not the same as what we have had.
We have talked on this show many times, about the "lost generation" from the sport as fathers have lost interest and are taking their sons and daughters to the tracks anymore. To an extent I have to admit that is true. I also have to admit that I have had my times when my disgust with the sport reached such a point that I may have tried to withdraw, if only for a race or two, but it never worked. The acronym, NASCAR, calls me anytime I see it. There are several stickers on "The Legendmobile" which proudly proclaims I am a NASCAR fan. At the same time, I have heard from many of my contemporaries, folks who used to go to races with me, that they have lost interest. There are many websites which seem to exist only to the detriment of NASCAR. There are writers who can't find a good thing to say about the sport under any circumstance. I've been almost as bad, I admit that, but I still reserve the right to care about the only sport with which I have been able to establish an identity. NASCAR always has been, and always will be, my sport. As someone on another social media site opined, "The only thing the Stupid Bowl means to me is that the Daytona 500 is coming up". Yep, that's me.
Going back to Perry Allen's book, I want to quote, verbatim, the next to last paragraph on page 215. Greg Moore is speaking: "Pick yourself a hero. If you like Tony Stewart, that's good. There isn't any Fireball Roberts anymore. There isn't a Joe Weatherly. Richard Petty and David Pearson have retired. Hell, pick Danica Patrick! Keep it going, because if we don't we will lose a great thing which in continuation of a fabulous southern idea and a huge piece of our heritage". I guess I should preface that statement with Greg's words in the previous paragraph when he says "I have no desire to run a race car or anything but I do have a desire to preserve the history and integrity of the sport. I want to help it grow today".
We all know that racing today is not like the racing we grew up with, if you're over the age of 40. But then, neither is our ability to run as fast or eat as much without suffering the weight gain. I'm right there with Greg when he talks about preserving the history and integrity of the sport. That seems to be my mission in life now. Part of preserving that history is to ensure the future of the sport. We complain, we gripe, and we cuss it, yes, even me, but as Greg points out, it is a sport worth saving. It is a sport worth growing. It is a sport worth improving and hopefully NASCAR will take that suggestion to the next level. I think we all need to get on board with Greg's statement and while we continue to ensure the history and integrity of the sport, we do what we can to help it grow. Well spoken, Greg, and literally speaking from The Lair, we are on the same page here.
I guess I've always wanted to hear that the Daytona 500 is NOT the "Stupid Bowl" of Stock Car Racing, but that the Stupid Bowl is the Daytona 500 of the game "trying to run that pumpkin from one end of that cow pasture to the other without getting knocked down or stepping in something."