The Daytona 500 is almost three weeks away. It seems incredible, but there it is: something called “Acceleration Weekend” (i.e., here’s where you start spending money) is next, then the Sprint Unlimited (an all-star race thus limited) on Saturday night, Feb. 16, and then NASCAR really gets hopping on the third weekend with the opening races of Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup.
As Jackie Gleason used to say, “And awaaaaaay we go!”
For the first time since 1992, when Davey Allison won, I’ll be watching the Daytona 500 (et al.) from home. It’ll be just like the Super Bowl, except, of course, that I always watch the Super Bowl at home. No, that’s wrong. I watched last year’s Super Bowl at home. Dating back to the early 1990s, I always watched the Super Bowl from the Daytona Beach area before that.
I’ve put some thought into this. I think, when the 500 starts, I’m going to get my lawn tractor (modern, upscale term that means “riding mower”) out and ride around the yard. There may even be grass to cut by Feb. 24. (I could mow a few wild onions now.) That way I can pretend I’m Harry Hogge at the beginning of “Days of Thunder.” I don’t own a “real tractor,” but, then again, Hogge wasn’t real, either. Robert Duvall, who played the character based on Harry Hyde, was and is real.
Maybe I’ll do a lousy impersonation of Duvall – “Aye God, Woodrow, dyin’ ain’t what I’m talking about. It’s living,” from “Lonesome Dove,” or “Cole, I want you to hit the pace car,” from “Days of Thunder” – while I’m riding around.
Everyone has a little Walter Mitty in him. It’s a necessary requirement of writers of fiction, and it comes in handy from time to time for writers of anything.
Last night I watched the Super Bowl at home. I don’t think I’ve been to a Super Bowl party since the Washington Redskins thumped the Denver Broncos in 1988. I remember two friends calling a bookie at the last minute to bet $20 on the coin flip. I didn’t bet, not because of moral considerations but because I don’t believe in betting when I have a rooting interest. It clouds my judgment. I try not to bet either for a team I like or against one I don’t. As a practical matter, I don’t bet, but I haven’t sworn it off forever. I feel the same way about betting that I do about “fantasy sports.” It clouds the waters. I don’t want to be in a position to hope Derek Jeter gets a hit against the Red Sox because he happens to be on my rotisserie team. I’m a Boston fan, damn it. I want to be able to love the Red Sox and hate the Yankees unconditionally.
I don’t want to act like an adult where my favorite sports teams are concerned.
On Jan. 28, I wrote in this space that I thought the Super Bowl was a toss-up. I also wrote that the game would be determined by the performance of Baltimore’s Joe Flacco. I was right, but I didn’t make any money off it. The game was a toss-up, and the outcome came down to the failure of the officials to make a call on a fourth-down pass that fell incomplete.
I didn’t really care who won. It was a good game, and that was all I wanted. I’m sorry for Jim Harbaugh that it was a no-call, and happy for his brother John. Them’s the breaks.
Now the Great Behemoth, football, has finally run out of steam, and NASCAR takes over, at least in my world. I’ve been so enthralled with football – for 20 years, it hasn’t really started for me until NASCAR ended in November – that I’ve lost a lot of interest in what have become intervening sports, basketball and hockey. Maybe I’ll cultivate some additional interest now that I don’t spend so much time in airports and on highways. Last year I enjoyed the NBA playoffs more than usual.
Pitchers and catchers report in seven days. Maybe this year I’ll have some idea of who exactly plays for the Red Sox before the season starts.
In the coming year, it appears as if I’ll write more. And I’ll read more. And I’ll still travel, though usually by car, and the purpose of the travel will be selling books and playing guitar more than filing race-day fact sheets and notebooks from the track.
I hope there will be times in which writing about NASCAR from offsite affords me an ability to see both the forest and the trees, but I don’t know if that will be true or not. I’m going to have to learn to sit back and watch instead of firing off opinions quickly. It’s easy to get carried away by the half-cocked exclamations of the social media. At the moment, I’m not dismayed by the distance. One influence will be gone. As far as I know, I won’t be writing about NASCAR for money, at least not much of it.
A lot of what I write will be an attempt to be funny. That hasn’t changed. Maybe I’ll be able to relate to the fans better since I’ll be a lot closer to being one.