Friday, June 25, 2010

The World’s Most Popular Sport, or Does NASCAR Need the Red Card?

Of course I’m talking about football, as it’s called in the rest of the world.  Here, in America, we call it soccer.  The World Cup is happening in South Africa, and that’s a pretty great thing.  From what I understand, the USA just advanced to a round in the Cup that they haven’t been able to do since 1930 or so.

I don’t really understand soccer.  I played it in high school, during PE.  It turned out that I was a much better goalie than I was a field player, because I could never overcome the instinct to catch the ball with my hands when it came hurtling towards me.  Only goalies can do that in soccer.  I grew up playing with an oblong ball with my friends where the entire idea was to catch the ball with my hands.  I played with a small stitched ball that I caught in a glove.  I played with a rather large orange ball that I bounced off the floor and used my hands to propel it towards a hoop 10 feet high.  In other words, I grew up playing typical American sports as a kid.  Here in the South, at least when I was a kid, hockey was rarely seen or heard about.  Basically, it seems to me that hockey is just like soccer, except it’s played with sticks and much more violence.  The players are on skates.  To me, that makes more sense than kicking a round ball around for 90 or so minutes and ending up with a 1-1 tie.

There is a famous line in some movie that states “There is no crying in baseball!”  Apparently that is not so in soccer.  Teams that lose, or players that make a mistake routinely throw themselves on the ground, put their hands over their faces, and cry.  I suppose that’s acceptable for the world’s most popular sport.  Heck, it sometimes even happens in American sports, but not very often.  Here in America, you’re more likely to see a person cry because they win, rather that being the loser.

But \football, or soccer, as I call it has it’s uses.  Soccer uses a yellow card to denote a foul.  If it’s a really bad foul, the player is shown the red card, which means expulsion from the event.  And supposedly the next event as well.  Should NASCAR use the red card?

Actually, NASCAR does.  It’s called the black flag.  But it’s just to get a guy to pit when he has committed a horrible crime like leaving equipment outside of his pit stall, or for running to slowly on the track.  The black flag can also be used to call in a driver who has committed an egregious foul upon another driver.  NASCAR can park a driver for bad behavior, NASCAR can do pretty much any darn thing they want to.

Think about it.  NASCAR basically can and has done, but rarely, the same thing that football, or soccer does.  They can park a guy for the rest of the race.  Kevin Harvick got parked one time for something he supposedly did in the Busch series, and it cost him a Winston Cup race start.

In effect, NASCAR always has the option of imposing what soccer would call the red card.  Should they?  If a driver is out to wreck another driver, I’d say that NASCAR has that right  Park the guy, sit him out for a week.  Let him know that he needs NASCAR much more than NASCAR needs him.

What do you think? 

It Hurts And It Hurts So Bad

Marcose Ambrose lost the race at Sonoma at Infineon last week because he shut down the engine to save fuel.  To be more accurate, he lost the race because he couldn’t get the engine fired before about 7 cars passed him.

I feel for Marcose.  He’s got to feel so close to getting a win, which he was at Sonoma, but so far away because of his dismal finish, which compared to other drivers was a great finish.

Take Dale Earnhardt Jr. for instance.  He was probably pretty happy with an 11th place finish after struggling with the road course and his car all day.  Ambrose is an accomplished road racer, so his disappointment must have been almost palpable after Sunday’s race.

Ambrose’ day is coming.  He’s far too good a racer to not win in the near future.  Watkins Glen is coming up, and that’s probably the next best chance that Ambrose has to get into victory lane in the Sprint Cup.

Marcose Ambrose, you’re ship is coming in.  You were that close, but you failed to collect the cigar.  You’ll get there, and it might be this year, or next year, or the next, or even the next.

You’ll get there though.

I’ve got faith in you Marcose.  You’re a winner that just hasn’t won in Sprint Cup yet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Things That Irritate Me, But Don't Let That Bother You

It looked to me that Kevin Harvick wrecked Joey, but not intentionally at Pocono. What irritates me? Joey Logano’s dad. If the boy can drive a race car, let him stand up for himself. And he did. Kevin is Kevin. Joey is Joey. Why make it more complicated than that?

NASCAR broadcasters in general irritate me. Why throw in your two cents just because you have that much in your pockets? Just because you’ve got a microphone in front of you doesn’t mean you have to say some of the inane stuff that you say.

I’m so irritated by people on the news trying to explain Dale Jr.’s problems on the track. Lance McGrew is a great crew chief, I’m sure, but he and Junior rub each other the wrong way. That is what they call bad chemistry. I say bring Pops (Tony Eury Sr.) in and let’s get some of that old magic back. Heck, Pops works for Dale Jr. now, so I don’t see that being a problem, at least logically. But Pops doesn’t want to do the full Cup series tour, and I understand why, because it’s just hard to watch it all on TV, and I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to travel the insane schedule that Cup follows, and I don’t blame Pops. Face it though, Pops was the best crew chief Dale Jr. ever had.

I get irritated by FIFA World Cup Soccer. Of course, the rest of the world calls it “football”, and I suppose that that’s an accurate term. Men strike the ball with their feet, chests, foreheads, and sometimes their noses, which provides the most enjoyment, because then they bleed a little bit. Oh get off of it people. I’ve personally had a broken nose at least 3 times in my life. It’s not pleasant, but it’s not that bad either. Could those idiots quit blowing those dad gum horns for at least a minute? I suppose not. The stupid horns are ruining it for me. If they sounded like the sound of an 850 HP racing engine…… Well, that would be a different story.

I’m irritated by most rap music. I say most, because there are a few songs that get under my skin, and Lord help me, but I just can’t help myself but I have them ringing around in my brain for a few weeks or months. I really despise the music that preaches hate for police or authority. Some rappers are a little more mellow though, and actually do some funny stuff. I don’t mind that.

Kyle Busch irritates me. Maybe not quite as much as he did last year, but he still irritates me. He’s a very annoying young man. I know he wants to win every race he’s in, but you can only carry stuff like that so far. Kyle needs to learn how to control his emotions and talk to the TV and radio crews. Kyle needs to learn a little about humility. One day, Kyle may maybe be the grand old man of NASCAR, much like Mark Martin or Bill Elliot are today. He’s got a long way to go though.

You Said What?

Down here in the South, we have a special way of saying things sometimes. The same is probably true for the rest of the country, as well as the rest of the world, but here in the South, we seem to really do things differently sometimes.

I used to play, and still have friends who hit a little white ball with a stick called “goff” or “gawf”, depending upon how many beers the player has had. I think the real word is “golf”, but it seems that if you pronounce it that way, you’re either from the North or totally sober.

I used to have a boss in North Carolina who once said that he was basically a “farfarter, I put out fars all day.” I think he meant “firefighter”, but with bosses, who knows what the heck they’re talking about sometimes?

NASCAR certainly has it’s share of Southern residents involved in the sport, though not in many of the driver’s seats anymore. Many of the crew chiefs, and even some of the owners are as Southern as they can get. Many of them have managed to lose the Southern accent, but often you will hear some things that must be almost incomprehensible to people, say, from the great state of Minnesota.

“This dang ole back end keeps tryin to tarn on me!” “Just keep ‘er up thar, bud. Keep a hittin yore marks!” “OK, guys. Four tars and a half round a wedge in the rot rear.” “Keep a gittin it!”

I’m certainly not being critical of these folks. Heck, I’m about as Southern as I can be. I particular love hearing Bill Elliot talk. Now folks, when you hear Awesome Bill talk, you know exactly what a North Georgia mountain boy sounds like. I really miss Ward Burton, because he exemplifies the sound of Southern Virginia. “Mah name is Wah Button.” I miss that so much.

No, folks, I’m the last person to be critical. People have complained over the years that Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jr. were pretty much speaking a foreign language, or so it sounded. I understand that accent perfectly, because I’ve got the same one. I’ve lived most of my life within 100 miles of Mooresville, North Carolina, so to me, it’s the way most people talk around here.

“I’ll be dad gummed” is one you hear often during NASCAR races. I can forgive Larry McReynolds for saying it, because he’s from Alabama. But Ole DW? Darrell is from Owensboro, Kentucky, which is right across the river from Indiana. Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman are both from Indiana, and I’ve never them “dad gum” anything.

I enjoy how some drivers seem to be becoming “Southernized.” Kevin Harvick, who is from Bakersfield, California, does not have a Southern accent, but occasionally he will pronounce a word or two with a distinct Southern flavor to it. Part of that is from living in North Carolina for quite a few years, but I give most of the credit to his wife, Delana, who is a pedigreed Southerner. Way to go, Delana!

Sometimes I wonder how driver Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus can even understand what anyone says in their transplanted home state. To me their not hard to understand, but in the NASCAR of the 1970’s, I doubt that they would have had the success that they’ve had.

Most of the crew wouldn’t have been able to understand most of what they said!

Denny Hamlin Has Arrived

It would seem that the winner of the blade battle is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin. At least so far. 5 wins since NASCAR restored the blade, or the rear spoiler, if you will, cannot lie.

It’s curious why JGR seems to have such a handle on the blade and nobody else can seem to figure it out after all this time. I think I have the answer though: Denny Hamlin has arrived.

“All we do is win” has been the number 11’s battle cry over these 5 wins. The team is on track. The cars are great. Right now, the driver’s great too. It would seem that Denny Hamlin has experienced a few sophomore seasons, and he has finally come into his own.

It’s not a matter of whether you like Denny Hamlin or not, but he’s a lot like Kyle Busch or Jimmie Johnson in the last couple of years: You cannot deny what he’s done. He’s a winner, and he seems to keep on winning. When it comes right down to it, winning is pretty important, if not everything.

Denny Hamlin rubs some people the wrong way, but so does every driver.

That’s what NASCAR is all about. It’s favorites and least favorites. That’s the way it’s always been.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What Makes A Great Driver?

Since this is an opinion column, what you are going to read here is totally my opinion and nothing else.  I’ve been watching this sport for quite a while, and I’m more than happy to give you my opinion.  I’d be interested in hearing your opinion too.

In the old days, most NASCAR drivers came from the South, and literally grew up racing.  Some started in go carts and eventually graduated to full sized race cars.  Some came from other areas of racing, driving various types of open wheel race cars, and made occasional forays into NASCAR.  Some got  hooked on stock cars, some just dabbled in the sport.

Since about 1990 or so, NASCAR has experienced an invasion of drivers from other parts of the country who have made it big in the sport.  Jeff Gordon came to NASCAR from California by way of Indiana.  Tony Stewart came directly from Indiana, as did Ryan Newman.  Juan Pablo Montoya came all the way from Colombia.  Guess what?  It’s all been good for the sport.

A great driver obviously must have talent.  Talent is why you and me aren’t currently employed driving in NASCAR’s top series and earning millions of dollars and flying around in our own private jets.  Talent isn’t always the only part of the equation however.

A truly great driver must have somewhat of a personality that people either love or hate.  Richard Petty was a great driver just on his wins alone, but he was and is an genuinely nice guy, always happy to sign autographs for the fans.  Dale Earnhardt was a rather polarizing driver, who while he was alive angered many fans and also grabbed the admiration of many others.  Since Dale’s death in 2001, he’s mostly been remembered in a positive way, as the man who changed the sport forever.

There are a few young guns in NASCAR who could certainly be considered potentially great drivers.  I would include Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch in that list.  I would include Kasey Kahne.  History will dictate just how great these drivers will be remembered when their driving days are done.  All three of these drivers exhibit a ton of talent, and Kyle Busch alone has enough personality for all three.  There are certainly other drivers who may eventually be known as great drivers as well.  I’ll leave that list up to you.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Trust But Verify

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that there are far fewer reporters than there are editors.  The Columbia School of Journalism cranks out scores of qualified journalists every year, yet most of them seem to be trying to change the world rather than simply reporting the news.

I readily admit that I write an opinionated column, not news.  I could provide statistics all day and discuss them with you, but I don’t.  I give you a fan’s opinion here, nothing more, nothing less.  It’s my site, so I can do what I want, within reason.  This is a site that your kids can read if they want to.  No bad language is tolerated here, mostly because I consider NASCAR to be a family sport.

There are plenty of places that you, the NASCAR fan can find stats and whatever you want.  I don’t do that here.  I won’t apologize for it, because this is just what I do. can tell you pretty much all you want to know about anything regarding NASCAR.  Jay does it better than I ever could, so all you get here is my opinion.

That being said, I have noticed that there are quite a few ‘journalists’ out there who apparently consider themselves editors with editorial license.  That’s a shame, because I would rather hear the raw news, not some reporter’s spin on things.

This obviously happens not only in the NASCAR world, but also in the political world as well.  It’s a shame that people will behave as sheep and believe everything that some airhead on TV tells them.  All I can say is that I believe that if you want to be well informed, you should read widely, think about what you read, and never, ever believe the first thing you hear on TV.  It’s just not healthy, folks.

Try to understand that most reporters are not very objective, and that they will try to spin news to reflect kindly on their personally favorite subjects.  Reporters will also put a little negative spin on stories that deal with people they don’t like, or have been taught not to like.  Way to go, Columbia U.!

In other words, you get lied to every time you watch TV.  I’m sorry, but it’s a fact, but any so called facts you hear on the news, especially in late breaking stories should be taken with a grain of salt.  It’s easy to do when your purpose in life is to change the world, not simply report the news.  This can also be said of most of the newspapers in the country.

Your local TV newscaster or newspaper columnist might be trustworthy to you, and if you trust them, you’re lucky, especially if they really tell you the truth.  Around the area that I live in, I can’t trust anyone who calls themselves a journalist.  Even the weatherman lies to me.  Just joking.

There is an old saying:  “Trust, but verify.”  In other words, do your own research.  Find the facts for yourself.  Don’t trust anything a talking head or so called reporter tells you unless it’s a fire or a traffic accident.  Even then, don’t trust them.

Trust, but verify.