Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, November 9, 2014, 1:10 p.m.
Many years ago, when I was a mischievous college student, a soccer coach and I conspired to get his team ready for a match against a nearby rival. I cut off the heading of that rival’s stationery and fashioned a facsimile of a news release previewing the aforementioned match. It wasn’t outlandish, and was meant to be believable if a bit, uh, aggressive.
“Furman’s kids really play hard,” the rival coach was quoted as saying, “but they don’t really have a lot of talent.”
No one who doesn’t have a lot of talent fancies himself that way. The coach made a few copies and posted them around his team’s locker room. I accompanied the team to the match, which Furman won, three to one, I believe, but there were unexpected developments.
For instance, a full-fledged brawl broke out, and the coach and I participated in breaking it up. On the way back to Greenville, he drove the van, and I sat in the passenger seat. Both of us were partially coated in mud. I had a skint elbow, and one cheek was scratched.
Though he was driving, as lights from the street flickered through the van, our eyes met for a second.
“You reckon we might have overdone it a mite?” I asked him, and we both chuckled.
With this Chase format, NASCAR has lathered up the sport. The action has continued after the checkered flag fell in two of the past three races. Let’s just say a few drivers and crewmen have strained the bounds of professionalism. All week long, I thought about what has been transpiring, but I didn’t have anything but random observations until this morning when I remembered the thirty-five-year-old tale of the soccer match.
I didn’t just strain the bounds of public relations. I ripped them to shreds. The soccer coach and I both looked and felt like the Tasmanian Devil when we emerged from the mess. The question for NASCAR, entering the Phoenix race that these words precede, is whether or not it’s possible to put on the brakes as everything spins further out of control.
The instructions appear to be, Hey, go crazy, but, by all means, don’t go nuts. It’s a hard distinction to draw. “Boys, have at it” doesn’t seem like a judgment call. Right now, NASCAR is dancing, as gracefully as Fred Astaire and considerably more so than Michael Waltrip, on the edge of the active volcano’s cone. They’ve turned the sport into the rough equivalent of a political campaign ad.
When the smoke clears, they approved this ad.
Thanks for reading my modest offerings, cultivated from afar. I’m a little closer to the books I’m writing, and I would be appreciative if you would read them, too. They don’t cost too much, and you can find them here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1414631316&sr=1-1