- Last Updated on Monday, 26 November 2012 08:21
- Published on Wednesday, 24 March 2010 17:08
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If you have spent any time watching the Speed Channel or any of the NASCAR TV shows recently, you have undoubtedly seen the promos with the slogan, “Everything else is just a game.” Not a very original slogan, but one that has endured through the years. Ernest Hemmingway, a big fan of Formula 1 racing and bull fighting coined the phrase years ago in discussing his passion for motorsport and the blood sport of the matadors. Hemmingway wrote, “Everything else is just a game.”
It remains as true today as when the legendary writer first put his feelings about auto racing to paper. We just forget sometimes. Time passes, race follows race, we get caught up in the day-to-day problems the sport is facing. Problems like empty seats in the grandstands. Teams that are laying off employees due to lack of sponsors. Race fields being filled out with start and park cars.
In an effort to “put more butts in the seats,” and ever mindful of the long-range potential of declining TV ratings, the powers that be in NASCAR have decided to “Let ’em race.” No more goody-two-shoes, smiling drivers in lockstep with the company line. No more one by one stepping up to the microphone thanking God, teammates, and sponsors in perfect diction that would make fifth grade English teachers all over the country smile.
It’s a manly sport, don’t you know? Real men bash their opponents out of the way if they can’t outrun them on occasion. Real men lose their cool on occasion. Real men curse, so maybe we better get the 5 second delay ready during race broadcasts. It doesn’t look like Dale Jr. will be paying any five-figure fines this year if an expletive phrase should slip out. Were going back to basics. We’re real men, and we’re going to act like it, present company accepted, Danica. “Have at it, boys.”
That’s all well and good. The trouble is present day racing has 43 800-plus horsepower race cars running within inches of each other at speeds approaching 190 mph at most tracks. Even without this new Rambo-style attitude, pretty scary wrecks are a weekly occurrence. There are limits to what the human body can stand, even strapped securely into a carbon fiber seat, encased in a steel cage.
At Atlanta Carl Edwards deliberately crashed Brad Keselowski, sent him upside down and airborne at 190 mph. Fortunately, Keselowski was able to walk away from the incident. The brief film clip was shown umpteen times on every TV news and sport show in the country. Newspapers across the nation ran the dramatic picture of the upside-down car flying through the air. NASCAR’s PR dept had to be licking their lips with glee. Man, you can’t buy this kind of publicity.
This weekend we saw the clip of Edwards and Keselowski emerging from their trip to the woodshed meeting with NASCAR officials, all smiles and backslapping. Must have been some serious discussion.
Trouble is, every once in a while events show us that, racing is more than just a game. The drivers who strap themselves into a racecar week after week for our entertainment are truly putting their lives on the line every time out. Last Saturday night at Bristol, they ran a legends race featuring former stars of the sport. The race included such senior citizen notables as Cale Yarborough, Harry Gant, Dave Marcis and many others. The fans were excited, the former driving greats in high spirits, swapping war stories and catching up with former competitors, some they haven’t seen in years. Everyone was having a high old time.
Then things went horribly wrong. Charlie Glotzbach slammed into the driver’s side door of former two-time Nationwide Series champion Larry Pearson. They had to cut the roll bars out of Pearson’s car to get him out. He was airlifted to Bristol Regional Hospital suffering from a fractured pelvis, ankle and wrist. Reports are he was awake and alert during transport. His father, David Pearson, who was also competing, withdrew from the remainder of the race to accompany his son the hospital.
At Bristol they race in the 120 mph range. Imagine the havoc that can be caused on the Super Speedways. There is a long list of drivers who have paid the ultimate price. NASCAR would do well to remember it’s not just a game.