NASCAR: Will Blue America Ever Learn to Love Stock Car Racing?

Give NASCAR a chance? Is John Lennon's estate sponsoring a stock car?

Rim-shot musical references aside, I've given NASCAR a chance. Repeatedly. Good, honest, open-minded viewing efforts. I've read about racing, too, attempting to absorb its characters and conflicts, hoping that narrative would help me see more than a bunch of fast cars turning left, the way dramatic arcs help me see pro basketball as more than a bunch of tall guys throwing an orange ball through a red hoop. (Coincidentally: the literature of NASCAR is borderline fabulous, from Jeff MacGregor's Sunday Money to Tom Wolfe's genre-defining "The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson! Yes!" Forget rubbin': readin' is racin'.)

Like Emma, my political heart largely bleeds blue. Applied to sports, however, that mostly means I'm sympathetic to players and skeptical of team owners. Otherwise, I just want to be entertained, the same way I would when watching a movie. (I couldn't disagree more with Jon Voight's Fox News bluster; I'm still hoping he'll reprise his ephocally funny role in Anaconda.) Yes, NASCAR's soul is Southern. Yes, the sport burns through fossil fuels like Charlie Sheen through processed coca leaves. And yes, drivers are overwhelmingly male and white. So what? For me, those aren't legitimate reasons to dislike NASCAR, any more than they'd be reasons to dislike Krispy Kremes, commercial air travel, and the all-female, primarily Caucasian U.S. women's national soccer team.

And yet: I've never been able to watch more than five minutes of a race. Why? The answer is simple. And kinda embarrassing. I dislike driving. Always have. The thrill of the open road is lost on me. Destination, yes. Transit, no. I find getting behind the wheel to be a chore, and the worst kind, because it simultaneously bores me to tears—can't read, watch television or get out and move; can listen to sports talk radio, ad nasuem, which is usually plus/minus 45 seconds—while requiring my full attention lest I be maimed or killed. Cars, too, mean nothing to me. They're toasters with wheels. Purely utilitarian. Devoid of romance, zero sex appeal. I know this makes me strange, and in some fundamental way un-American. C'est la vie! I can connect with the grace and skill of physical sports because, hell, I have a body and like to use it. But helmeted guys sitting in cockpits, riding controlled explosions? If I want to watch that, I'll tune into NASA. At least its missions have a chance of ending up somewhere cool, like the surface of Mars, as opposed to a high-tech cheatin' garage.

Jake, am I a lost cause? Or just looking at this all wrong?

–Patrick

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Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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