It seems that many things in this life are governed by ceremony. Depending on your religion, you were probably subject to some kind of ceremony in your youth, whether it be baptism or bar mitzvah. Or bat mitzvah, for the ladies who might read this.
I just watched the funeral ceremony for Senator Edward Moore Kennedy, better known as Teddy, who died the other day. I was somewhat taken with the precision of the military casket bearers, as I always am. Military precision is crucial in many ceremonies. I was impressed by the precision practiced by the priests during the actual funeral ceremony. When I was a boy, I went to an Episcopalian school for several years, and was always impressed by the ceremony that is the Holy Sacrament, or as others call it, eating the bread and drinking the wine. In my case, it was grape juice, but the meaning was the same.
Life has ceremonies for practically everything. When you get married, there is a ceremony. When you die, there's even more of a ceremony.
NASCAR has its own ceremonies. Ever notice how the crews line up on pit road for the invocation and national anthem? That's a ceremony. It might be a somewhat informal one, but it's still a ceremony. Seeing the crew members lined up, hands over their hearts, while the national anthem is played is a special moment for me. As jets fly over, showing their thundering might, that's one of the best moments of the weekend for me.
Seeing drivers kiss their wives or girlfriends before they get into the car is a ceremony in itself. In a way, they're saying goodbye, just in case. In racing, you just never know which time might be the last time. We all pray and hope that there will never be a last time, but we are all mortal, after all.
Racing is a dangerous business. People die doing it. There is always the risk that in any given race, a driver will die. Thanks to safety improvements, that doesn't happen as much anymore, but cars moving at 200 mph provides a lot of circumstances which might push the balances a little. Sooner or later, someone dies while they're racing. HANS device or not, it's going to happen.
Do we as NASCAR fans have a morbid curiosity about death? No, we don't. We don't want to see drivers die, and we especially don't want to see fans die. It's happened a couple of times throughout NASCAR's history, but they, ahem, we, don't talk about that too much. Death is a pretty final thing. Kenny Irwin. Adam Petty. Neil Bonnett. Dale Earnhardt. Too much death. Not a good business model for NASCAR.
A lot of new NASCAR fans don't get what this sport is all about, sometimes. Gentlemen in taxi cabs driving around in circles. Guess what, unless you're drag racing, you are ALL driving around in circles when you race. Your are all driving around in circles when you go to the grocery store. Think about it. You are basically just driving in a circle every day of your life.
Ceremony. It's a part of life. It's a part of NASCAR. Ceremony is part of everything we do. We aspire to it. We await it, in some way, always. We dream of it.
Ceremony. It's all about life.
Personally, I hate ceremonies. I don't like them. I drink free beer and leave them as soon as possible.