Personally, I have long enjoyed the Charlotte races when kids of the drivers and crews got to sing the National Anthem. Even though they're kids, and obviously sing the anthem imperfectly, it's still a great moment for me. I'd rather see a kid give it his all and not sound good than seeing an artist mutilate the anthem for 'artistic reasons.'
Many of our current NASCAR events take place in large markets, or at least the largest markets that NASCAR can cultivate. Rockingham is gone, and so is North Wilkesboro in favor of cities like Fort Worth, Texas, and Las Vegas, Nevada. We're still trying to hang on to Darlington here in South Carolina.
I have an idea, and so far, even I like my own idea. That's unusual, especially after I've thought about it for a while.
My idea is to have a local high school band play the National Anthem at each NASCAR event. It's more complicated than that, but in a way, it's even more simple.
Many of NASCAR's race dates are now held in major metropolitan areas. All of these areas will have many high schools.
Let each city or metropolitan area, let's just say, 3 months before the racing event, start working toward a competition among all of the high school bands in the greater area of that city or metropolitan area. At this point, I don't really care who the judges will be. Let them be the track operator, or the city council, or representatives of the race sponsor. Whomever, in other words.
The winning band of this competition will receive free passes for his or her immediate family to the track, including infield passes. In addition, the band member may choose up to 3 or 4 friends to invite to watch them perform. The track will provide tickets to these friends and their families. Heck, most tracks are having problems giving tickets away this year anyway.
Let the kids have fun at the track during the pre race hours, let them attend driver appearances, etc. Let the families go with them.
Let the kids appreciate that they will soon be performing in front of the biggest audience they may ever perform before. 45,000 people maybe. 200,000 plus at some tracks. Also, they may remember, there will be several million more people watching on TV.
For some of these kids, it could be the most memorable moment of their lives. If nothing else, it brings kids to the track that otherwise might not be there. Most kids are impressed when they attend their first NASCAR race. For people of any age, that first race is almost indescribable. The immensity of the track and facilities, the pageantry that has become and is NASCAR is almost overwhelming to anyone when they visit the track for the first time on race day.
Even if the particular band that Sunday or Saturday night isn't especially good, I as a fan will still appreciate their efforts. I'd rather see a kid trying hard to put on the greatest show of their life than see a so-so 'artist' mangle the job because they think they're being 'artistic.'
If this idea were to catch on, it could be a great honor for any high school kid to say he played at a NASCAR race. Trophies could be handed out in many cities. The obvious advantages to this are innumerable.
NASCAR could gain some new fans, and existing fans could be treated to a great rendition to the national anthem. NASCAR could become a much used name at the high schools all over the country.
Could that be a bad thing?
(This article first appeared on Bleacher Report.)