Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 9:33 a.m.
When I heard about the latest NASCAR changes, I was alarmed, as I often am.
I’m alarmed about the new president. I’m alarmed about what kids post on Twitter. I’m alarmed about the crap that passes for country music. I’m alarmed about people who would rather text than talk. I’m alarmed about constantly having to look up what acronyms mean and figure out just who in hell “@bigtimebad2377” is because he apparently plays ball for my favorite team.
I’ve gotten old enough to spend too damned much of my time being alarmed.
I hope the new NASCAR game show has a snazzy theme song, maybe something by Herb Alpert.
Herb Alpert is 81. I’m just a kid by comparison.
When I read about all the segments and bonus points, all I could compare it to was income taxes. As best I can figure, it’s going to be crucial to winning the Monster Energy Drink something-or-other to qualify for the earned income credit. While I’m watching the races this year, I’ve got to be mindful that free passes are not deductible, but they are credits.
I tweet a lot, being thoroughly modern and all, but I draw the line at Snapchat. I post on Google+ sometimes, but it doesn’t do much good. This blog is a reaction. Twitter is an overreaction. Facebook is a place where people go to scream (in CAPITAL LETTERS!) and show puppies, kitty cats, and casseroles. Facebook gives folks enough characters to hang themselves.
So I slept on it. I got up this morning, fixed some coffee and sipped it as I watched CBS This Morning. Then I had breakfast while the Sundance Channel showed reruns of All in the Family. I remember when I related to Michael Stivic. Now I’m Archie Bunker.
What occurred to me, finally, was the difference between a politician and a statesman. A politician does what people want him (or her) to do. A statesman tries to do what is right, and part of the job is molding public opinion. The world would never change without statesmen. Politicians react to pressure. Statesman try to nudge the world toward what they perceive to be right. Politicians pay attention to those who vote. Statesmen pay attention to everyone.
So what does this have to do with NASCAR? Everything.
You see things and say “Why?” But I dream things that never were, and I say “Why not?” – George Bernard Shaw.
NASCAR officials read those words one way, and I read them another. Such is the way with wise words, not to mention books, constitutions, and song lyrics by the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
NASCAR officials listen to the opinions of fans. I listen to those who used to be. I see them almost everywhere. The latest was ordering General Tso’s chicken and a cheese wonton.
By and large, NASCAR’s fans started staying home and watching TV, and their kids started playing video games and listening to Wiz Khalifa. I vaguely remember Little Bud Moore. They’re going to vaguely remember Lil Wayne.
The politicians of NASCAR would attempt to adapt the sport to the changing habits of the folks out there in TV Land. In so doing, they’re never going to draw them any closer than their living rooms. The sport is dying because it reacts to ever-shortening attention spans. If it wants to occupy a tiny corner of fandom’s hearts and minds, this is the proper course, but it is a war of attrition that cannot be won.
When I fell in love with auto racing, it stirred my emotions. I watched larger-than-life folk heroes who risked everything. Now I watch cardboard cutouts who are keenly aware of something called “branding.” NASCAR refers to them as “stakeholders.”
Admittedly, I oversimplify. That’s because racing used to be simple.
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Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
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