Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, July 22, 2018, 8:35 a.m.
It’s rainy outside. It’s rainy in New Hampshire, and I’m thinking of the words to Loretta Lynn’s old song, “One’s on the Way.”
Then there’s Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”
From time to time, usually on social media, someone young and tragically hip ridicules the fashions of the past: shorts that were too short, ties that were too wide, an absurd fascination with plaid sportcoats, etc.
Meanwhile, I’m old enough to recall, even as I chuckle at all the mistakes of the past that make me cringe, that, 40 years ago, those duds seemed way cool. It’s all a matter of fashion.
NASCAR went out of fashion.
Back in relative antiquity – oh, circa 2012 – I was considered by some to be an aging radical of the stock car movement.
Remain calm. All is well.
It’s easy to identify the wide, wide world of excuses why NASCAR has fallen faster than Bill Cosby. There’s no need to list them here. They’ve been listed since the sport topped off in the middle of the last decade, tilted downhill and picked up speed like Merle Haggard’s “snowball headed for hell.” I tried to address them with two stock car racing novels, Lightning in a Bottle and Life Gets Complicated, in 2017.
Now I’ve become a sad voice of moderation. I still watch the races. I still like the sport. I liked it better in the 1990s. I must not be too off base. America liked it, too.
Old-time fans grew disillusioned. Kids determined it was no longer lit. The sport’s crack marketers opted for a policy of denial. They stopped divulging unimportant details such as how much money everyone made and how many people were watching. TV announcers became cheerleaders. Hyperbole works so much better when satirical. When NBC’s Rick Allen screamed “David beats Goliath!” at the end of Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, it sounded as if he was serious.
Had I not started laughing at the equating of the mildly impressive with the biblical, I might have dwelt on the impressive abilities of young Christopher Bell.
Oh, the TV announcers, they try. Lord, how they try to whip up chicken salad from … hmm … in the interest of civility … hardboiled eggs.
The race didn’t need chicken salad. It was fried chicken on its own merits.
This blog is being written in anticipation of alternating between the British Open, Chris Sale pitching for the Red Sox in Detroit and checking back to see if it’s still raining in Loudon. NBC Sports will attempt to keep me there by means of the pulse-quickening anticipation of seeing which T-shirt Dale Earnhardt Jr. is wearing and which cap he’s got on backwards.
Someone important probably thinks the kids will love it because they have “short attention spans.” Here’s what I know. A kid who can play a video game for longer than it takes Tiger Woods to play his round at Carnoustie does not have a short attention span.
Someone important thinks auto racing, among the more technologically advanced of the world’s spectator pastimes, is a casualty of technology.
The technology is oppressive. It’s the presentation that is being dumbed to death.
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