Clinton, S.C., Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 1:04 p.m.
Things around here have been stable. A friend called this morning to check on me, noting that I haven’t been blogging much. I have. Just not here.
Sometimes I relate to the exchange between Boon and Katy in Animal House:
Boon: “It’s a fraternity party. I’m in the fraternity. How can I miss it?”
Katy: “I’ll write you a note. I’ll say you’re too well to attend.”
NASCAR had an off week for officials to plot further ways to get people interested. They’ve got seven winners in eight races. Even the sport’s great detractors, the ones who claim they’ll never watch another race but bitch and moan about every single one, must concede that it’s gotten a little better.
I am mindful that some will respond to the lead paragraph by thinking that, to paraphrase the Three Stooges or quote Groucho Marx, “I resemble that remark.” If being a detractor means regularly addressing issues I don’t like, I’m guilty.
I love NASCAR but not everything about it. I love baseball but not the designated hitter. I love basketball but wish they’d call traveling more often. I love country music but not most of it on the radio.
Somehow, as time passes, embattled NASCAR tends more and more to require loyalty oaths for its good graces. If one is not for NASCAR, it is against it. The sport uses words like “licensed” to mean “we will raise never-ending hell if you don’t report everything just so.” NASCAR wants the media to accept bygones as bygones and join the ranks of “the stakeholders.”
It is not enough to report. The social-media-stained wretches find their lives much easier if, instead, they promote. Some do it effortlessly and with great aplomb. Some never go around mirrors.
In the past month, three times old colleagues of mine have dropped by here or nearby for long, leisurely lunches in which we talked about how NASCAR used to be and how it is now. Each is still out on the circuit in some form while necessity has dictated that I watch from afar. Each has confirmed what I suspected from reading between their lines.
It’s not much fun anymore. Journalism is the Great Shrinking Profession, and those who still have jobs are damn determined to keep them. Most of the firebrands are gone. Survivors, by definition, linger. There are no martyrs to the cause. There is no cause. There is only self-preservation.
Since January 4, 2013, a day that will live in personal infamy, I have spoken to one NASCAR driver. He called to ask how I was doing, and I was so appreciative that I lied. It was almost a year ago.
I’m fond of a relatively obscure novelist named Wallace Stegner, most noted for the novel Angle of Repose. My favorite fiction of his is The Big Rock Candy Mountain. He also wrote Remembering Laughter and Crossing to Safety.
Incredibly, none of them even had race cars in them, and there were precious few automobiles of any sort. Stegner died in 1993, the year I started writing about NASCAR, so he wasn’t there to warn me when NASCAR started shredding all the documents.
I’ve been blogging as much as ever, but lately more of them have been at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, where I’ve been cranking out serial short stories and the like. I started the other blog because I wanted to differentiate it from this one. If you’d like to sample my observations on “other things,” give it a look.