Clinton, S.C., Saturday, February 15, 2014, 4:00 p.m.
I don’t miss the big scenes of Daytona International Speedway in February. I miss the chill in the air and down my spine. I miss the stroll into the media center after parking in “the Horseshoe.” I miss strumming my guitar late at night in the damp little lot behind the press box, waiting for traffic to clear out.
I miss chatting over lunch with someone you know, like Brent Musberger, or someone you may not, like Ernie Saxton. I miss watching my musical friends playing nearby and occasionally taking the stage myself during their breaks.
I miss that otherworldly hum, that Sensurround effect that comes from the vibrations off the asphalt bouncing off the walls. There’s the staccato roar – vump, vuhvump, vuhvuhvuhvuhvump – but there’s the ever-present, reliable hum, too. It’s unpleasant but somehow comforting.
I miss the thousands of seagulls grazing in the infield, biding their time until right before practice begins, when the engines start roaring to life and the gulls rising in flight.
Somehow they never get … acclimated.
I miss binoculars, a stopwatch and a scanner. I still have them but they’re useless in the living room.
I miss climbing up the steps of the Daytona press box, which always reminded me just a little of a treehouse, and inquiring about some snippet of information deemed unworthy of widespread dissemination.
I miss my buddies, colleagues in the ranks, friendly or furtive, pressurized or irreverent, all trying to win the Great American Story. Not many of them are left, but what few remain are sorely missed.
I miss the fans, particularly those so deluded that they illogically want to meet me. It reminds me that I have my own, however dwindling.
The most familiar misunderstanding athletes have about the media is that writers and even the godforsaken broadcasters are competitive, too.
That’s why I also miss the thrill of the chase and, by extension, the Chase.