Folks, I guess you're going to have to come up with what you feel is the appropriate title for this Legendtorial. I am at a loss as to what words I can properly use in this now crazy and absurdly politically correct country in which we live. Having made that statement, I will try to temper my disgust as best I can.
Let it be known that I am writing this mid-afternoon on Sunday, July 5th. This is, obviously, before the 400-mile race, whatever it is entitled this year, at Daytona. To me, it will always be The Firecracker 400 regardless of what mercenary title NASCAR chooses to use this year. Because of this time frame, I cannot comment on the outcome of the 400-mile Cup race but I did watch the Xfinity race last night. I must compliment the broadcast team of Rick Allen, Steve Latarte, and Jeff Burton as I think they did an awesome job, as did the pit reporters. Perhaps part of my admiration for the broadcast team was due to lack of the Waltrip brothers. It was a pleasant change to hear the professionalism of the NBC crew. Oh, there were errors made, but all in all the coverage was excellent. The NBC promos for tonight's race, however, left much to be desired. To hear the announcer intone that 43 cars would race at speeds near 170 mph, that's right, 170 mph, made me wonder what century NBC was using for reference. Wasn't it 1964 when the Hemis were turning the track in excess of 170?
Ok, now on to what I'm here to talk about tonight. Jeff has always told me he will not censor me and I've only submitted one previous Legendtorial to him for review prior to airtime and I don't remember the subject of that one. He did not censor the first word. Being mindful of the fact that he does control the switch to my microphone, I am, nevertheless, going to embark on a very opinionated Legendtorial tonight. As always, I will welcome your comments and I am sure there are those who will not agree with what I have to say. I have always heard you don't discuss religion or politics with others, and believe me, I have to adhere to that rule of behavior when Ann is around because she wants to keep me alive for a while. For this Legendtorial, however, I have to say what is on my mind.
First up, on The Confederate Flag issue as it applies to NASCAR. I have already written a Forum post on that issue to which several have commented. We discussed that issue on the show last week and that should have ended it for RacersReunion and it probably would have had NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway not taken it upon themselves to make it even a bigger issue for race fans than it would have been, or should have been.
While lounging around Saturday taking it easy, I discovered that NBCSN was showing a series of 30 minute shows entitled something like "The States of NASCAR". The total of 90 minutes covered Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Great effort was made to repeatedly put forth the fact that NASCAR was born, bred, and raised in the Southeastern United States. Of course, the latter part of the series covered the tracks out west, California, Arizona and Nevada, pointing out how drivers from that area have now taken over the sport, so to speak, but the series still made forceful statements affirming that had it not been for the Southeastern U.S.A., there would have been no NASCAR.
It doesn't require a great deal of explanation to inform even the least of those with other ideas, that Southerners, especially in the states named above, are an independent breed of men and women who learned to succeed in spite of adversity. Southerners are survivors by nature. We do not like to be told what to do or how to think. Somewhere in the overall scheme of today's world, that fact has been chosen for oblivion. I refuse to go quietly into that good night.
My issue with the Confederate flag is not so much whether or not it flies at the South Carolina Capitol. My issue is that it is a part of history, and a part of the Southern Heritage, which so many of all colors hold dear. It is a personal issue for me to handle and I do. Then to have Joie Chitwood and Brian France come up with their comments that the Stars and Bars has no place at race tracks is, in my opinion, a slap in the face, no, a kick in the butt, for all the "core" fans of the sport, folks like me who have hung around in spite of such travesties as moving the Southern 500 from Labor Day weekend and coming up with a Cup Championship based on "The Chase". The NASCAR brain trusts use such statements, not quoted verbatim here, as wanting to make all fans feel welcomed at the track, as if display of the Confederate Flag is actually a preventative from that happening. Come on Brian, where have all those folks been before you came up with your stupidity? Folks that want to come see a race, regardless of their skin color, have always come. You may try every trick in your bag of idiot gags, including your "Drive for Diversity", but if a basketball or football is more attractive and less expensive, do you think those folks are coming to your tracks?
I had a phone call early Friday morning from someone who is a big part of NASCAR's early history and who still spends much of his time preserving that history. To say he was incensed about the stance of NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway on this issue would be an understatement. He asked me would I get my Confederate Flag down (wonder how he knew I have a couple?) and go to Daytona with him to protest. I told him, honestly, that I could not afford it, but that I was sure there are plenty of fans who feel as we do and the flag would be well represented there. I have three friends there in Daytona as I type this, one of them wearing the Confederate flag as a cape, and I am told there are plenty such flags flying in the breeze this afternoon. How is that working for you Brian? Joie?
Ok, let's rest the flag for a moment and move on to the next move by Brainless Brian. Saturday morning I was eating breakfast and reading the article in the newspaper about Brian moving the awards banquet for the Camping World and Xfinity Series from the hotel in Miami, which has hosted it in the past, as late as last year. It seems that hotel is owned by Donald Trump and Donald Trump has fallen out of favor with the politically correct crowd because of his comments concerning Mexicans coming into this country illegally. There, proclaims the mighty Brian, NASCAR cannot hold a banquet in one of Trumps hotels. My cell phone rang showing an incoming call from one of my good friends and also a part of the early days of NASCAR in a huge way.
As I talked with my friend, it became obvious that we were both a part of the world of old NASCAR, what, from now on I will reference as the "REAL" NASCAR. Obviously, what we have today, what we have had since around the turn of the century, is NOT NASCAR. It is not the NASCAR I grew up defending against all detractors. I believed in the sport and the people in it. I remember once, a long, long time ago, when a literally unheard of NASCAR driver was busted for drugs and the news media was having a field day criticizing NASCAR. I called Jim Hunter who was then in PR with NASCAR in Daytona. Jim and I talked about it for a few minutes before he told me to speak out when necessary so that's what I did. Our local television sports reporter got an earful.
What concerns me about the current state of what is going on, among other things, is the feeling that it is more important for NASCAR to be involved in politics that involved in racing. If you want a shock, you can look at NASCAR's political contributions and those of the France Family and I believe most of you will shake your heads in disbelief. Oh, I realize NASCAR has allowed political appearances at the tracks for years. Remember George Wallace and Big Bill when Talladega opened in Alabama? President Regan at Richard's 200th win? Jimmy Carter stood next to me in the pits at Atlanta Raceway when he was running for President and put his hand of my shoulder to tell me something about the time the engines fired. Never knew what he said but I'm sure he wasn't asking my opinion on the Panama Canal. In 1992, when Clinton was running, he got out of his limo at Darlington and stepped right on my foot. To make matters worse, he didn't even offer me a cigar!!!!!
My friend and I went on to discuss the current state of NASCAR and the malfeasance in management. To make the sport a political machine is certain to further hasten the end. My friend suggested that he is waiting for Brian to come out with disparaging remarks about his grandfather and father. My friend knew Big Bill, personally, and he knows the kind of man he was. My friend says Big Bill was a good man, without whom there would be no NASCAR and that's good enough for me. I met Big Bill several times in passing, but nothing more than a handshake and a word or two. Bill, Jr., on the other hand, actually had a sandwich with us, prepared by my mother at a sportsman race at Myrtle Beach Speedway in the 70s. Bill, Jr. climbed atop our motor home and watched a good deal of the race with us. From that day forward, he would speak to me anytime our paths crossed.
I have been in the same room with Brian twice in the past year. I had no desire whatsoever to meet him and, frankly, the thought of shaking his hand somewhat disgusts me. After all, his is the hand driving the sport into an abyss from which it will likely never escape.
From somewhere, during my lifetime, a long list of things that are politically correct has been written by folks of questionable agendas. We didn't have political correctness when I was growing up; we had courtesy and common sense. Obviously, those attributes have disappeared. NASCAR has chosen to embrace the senselessness of what is going on today. Just think, in the past two weeks, TV Land has pulled the long running staple "Dukes of Hazzard" from its lineup. Petitions are circulating calling for removal of the carving of the Confederate Generals from Stone Mountain in Georgia, as well as banishment of the book and movie "Gone With the Wind". Calls are being made for removal of all statutes honoring Confederate Generals from any venue. Graves of Confederate Soldiers are being defaced. How long will it be before Brian France comes out with negative comments about his forebears? Frankly, at this stage, nothing he does will surprise me.
I had really hoped to return to Darlington this Labor Day weekend to celebrate the return of the Southern 500 to its historical place in the schedule. But not now. I sincerely would not attend the race even if I were a special guest of NASCAR to view the race from the most exclusive suite at the track. I am expecting the political correctness bunch will, very soon, change the name of the Southern 500 to "The Rose Garden 500" or, perhaps "The Pants Suit 500" (think about that one). Frankly, the way I'm feeling right now, I may not even watch the race on TV. If that happens, it will be the first time since 1967 when the Navy had me in San Juan on Labor Day, that I missed it. Prior to my Naval duties out of the country, I had attended all of them since 1957.
So, Brian, you and your boys enjoy your newly discovered political correctness. If it weren't so politically incorrect, I would tell you what part of my anatomy you could kiss but then, again, I won't allow you that near to me.