Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It's like watching COPS, but with heavier sponsorship and without the drama and not as funny

Shit. Now I feel the need to defend myself, at least to the readers I have in common with Malfeasance.

It's true: I tuned into portions of the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Sue me.

It's also true that every four years I pour over TV schedules to find when curling will be televised during the Winter Olympics. This does not make me a curling fan.

What it does make me is a fan of the novelty of sporting spectacle. I've said many times that I'll watch any sort of contest at least once. Given the proper backstory and a certain amount of put-on pageantry, competitive paint-drying could be made to appear compelling (See "Masters, The" for all the evidence you need. That's golf, people.)

Let me give you four (good) reasons I watch a NASCAR race:

1. I enjoy it. I don't know very much about it, but I can appreciate some of the strategy that goes into a race. Much like my favorite thing about baseball is a well-executed double play, or maybe the 2-2 changeup that induced a ground ball into that double play, I enjoy hearing about how a team calculates and gambles on when they need to stop for gas or a how much longer they can go on a set of tires. Also, while crashes are kind of cool, what's even cooler is seeing what small mistake, or ballsy, ill-timed move, caused it. It's kind of like watching a fumble in that it changes the whole game in a few short seconds.

2. Despite what I said above, it's really pretty dumb. And yet there's something about watching a couple hundred thousand people gather to get drunk and watch something that's completely pointless, sort of like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which coincidentally also holds the allure of potential crashes.

3. As Courtney said, "the redneckitude of it all." This should not be played down. There is something about watching an event that captivates millions when those millions have almost nothing in common with you. It's like an anthropological study, observing a tribe of people who speak a different language, worship a false god, dress in bizarre costumes, and drink shitty beer. Why National Geographic has not done a cover story on NASCAR, I couldn't tell you. They could easily find more than enough saggy, shirtless, tribally-tattooed women to fill their pages.

4. I watch for all the reasons listed below. It's like a car wreck: You know it's horrible, you wish it hadn't happened, but you can't look away.

And these are the three indefensible reasons NASCAR sucks and should just disappear:

1. Waste. Let's take 43 cars with humongous engines and drive them at 190 miles per hour for 500 miles. In a circle. And then do it again next week and the week after, all year long. I've written here about my personal efforts to minimize my fuel consumption and carbon emissions, but I can only imagine that a lifetime's worth of my driving slower and eliminating unnecessary trips is completely negated by four or five laps of the Daytona 500. And the tires! Jeff Gordon's car goes through more rubber in one race than my truck has used in its entire 14-year life.

2. It's boring. Kind of like bowling. I see the strategy, I see the difficulty- heck, I even see the athleticism. But for 500 miles? Isn't it a bit repetitive? Sunday's 500 was called for rain 48 laps from the finish. They just called it and whoever was leading at the time was declared the winner, sort of like if they had just called it the "Daytona ?" and not told the drivers how long it was or where the finish line was. All of a sudden it's just over and the guy in front gets a million bucks or so. So couldn't we have gotten the same effect over just 200 miles? Or 100? Because it's that last lap that really counts anyway.

3. I'm a snob. But apparently less of one than Courtney and some of her readers. Speaking of Courtney, she should know that I'd much rather watch any NASCAR event or lawn mower race or watermelon seed spitting or paint drying contest than "Dancing with the Stars," which makes me want to rip out one of my toenails and then use it to scoop my eyeballs out of my head just so I will never have to suffer the pain in twenty years of watching a fat, elderly, emotionally shattered, but no less insufferable Toby Keith attempt the Paso Doble.

Yeah, I'm way behind on my Toby Keith quota around here.


Allie said...

Me thinks the lady (um, I mean you) doth protest too much. :)

Actually, when I used to pour drinks, the chef and I were all about demo derby on Sunday afternoons. Pretty much for the same reasons . . .

Courtney said...

Ha. I didn't mean to out your secret NASCAR love, but people sure jumped on you for that, didn't they?

And I keep telling you: I'M A DANCER. Dancing With the Stars is dumb, but it's a dumb show about my hobby. If there were a dumb show about climbing on TV, I'd watch it with you AND NOT COMPLAIN.

Jacob said...

Hey, curling is some good stuff, although I don't watch it all that often. There's probably more strategy involved in curling than in NASCAR (although admittedly it doesn't require you to do it while speeding hundreds of miles an hour inches from other speeding objects).

I'm also willing to allow wasteful entertainments. I seriously doubt that the NASCAR circuit makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gases and our dependence on petroleum compared to the big picture. I'm sure if we got serious about fuel efficiency and alternative energy sources, NASCAR wouldn't be a major concern. It's a very visible sign of waste and those cars are all majorly worse than even the worst road legal offenders, but there are also a whole lot fewer of them.

Julie said...

A few fans like my dad actually know the history and science of the sport but I think for most, NASCAR is an excuse to drink beer.

I didn't grow up with football, so I realize I'm probably going to offend the die hard fans out there but it seems very similar to me. When we tailgate, it's basically sitting in a parking lot for two to six hours drinking and eating before watching a few exciting plays. Are you telling me that's classier?

A Free Man said...

I'm totally a snob, much to my Mom's chagrin. She fancies herself an egalitarian gal. Really though, the only difference is that I admit to being a snob while my Mom's in denial.

Oh and Allie - football and NASCAR are entirely different things. I mean, for the love of god, college football is for the educated not the Bud Light swilling masses.

The Modern Gal said...

Ok, ok, ok, I concede. I watch the Real Housewives series. You watch NASCAR. Let's call the whole thing off.

Chris said...

I did actually watch one season Dancing with the Stars. (Ever heard of Kelly Monaco?)

But I'm done with it. Dear God, let's hope it doesn't stick around long enough to recruit a washed up Toby Keith. (I haven't kept up. Is Toby Keith already washed up?)

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