Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Johnson's Success Part of NASCAR's Ills

I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of NASCAR racing over the years. I’ve been to races at six different tracks, eaten bologna sandwiches with Jeff Gordon and ran into Dale Earnhardt coming out of a bathroom. In other words, Sundays were pretty much devoted to racing. However, over the last few years, I’ve begun to lose interest. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I’ve got some ideas. Following are a few of them.
No more overweight drivers. The overweight driver is Everyman. People complained that race car drivers weren’t “real athletes.” Drivers responded with a commitment to fitness, making big drivers a thing of the past. The last one I remember is Jimmy Spencer. Sure, Tony Stewart flirts with it, but won’t fully commit.

No real characters. Drivers today are entirely too polished. I think it started with Gordon, who was trained as much as a pitchman as a driver. Guys like Dale Earnhardt would tell you like it was. Today, every accident is simply “a racin’ thing.” The only time I got passionate last season is when Gordon and Johnson got a little chippy with each other, which leads me to my next point.

Too much Jimmy Johnson. Sports get boring when the same person or team always wins. Parity is one of the reasons the NFL is so exciting. In contrast, look at women’s basketball. UConn won another title? Yawn. Johnson isn’t doing NASCAR any favors by winning five straight championships.

Not enough Dale Earnhardt Jr. There is an army of people eager for Dale Earnhardt to assume his father’s crown, including me. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to do it, even after moving to NASCAR’s most successful team.

Races are too long. I can mow and trim the lawn, wash and wax two cars, shop for groceries, grill hamburgers, take a nap and still wake up in time for the last 111 laps.

Too many races. In addition to Sprint Cup races, there are truck races and Nationwide races competing for racing fans’ attention. It dilutes the sport. Think about it. There’s a reason networks aren’t scurrying to televise minor league baseball and developmental basketball. No wonder I lose interest in racing as soon as football season starts. By that time, Johnson is usually picking up his billionth trophy anyway.

“If the race were to end right now” graphic. I know this one is petty, but the race ISN’T going to end right now. It never does. See above.

The Chase. It takes a mathematician to figure out the many subtleties of the NASCAR points system, now marketed as “The Chase.” Here’s a tip: Simplify it. If math were entertaining, it wouldn’t take so long for me to balance my checkbook.

So these are the reasons I’ve begun to lose interest in NASCAR, leaving only one last question to be answered. If I go cold turkey, what will I do with my Sundays? I’m thinking PGA Golf. Sure, it’s long, but at least there are some overweight guys.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lost Focus

Put this together to demonstrate what happened to me at about 4 p.m. today when Morehead State beat Louisville.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Defending the American Worker

From what I’ve seen over the years, the national news has been more likely to defend flag burners than flag wavers. That’s why I have been so pleasantly surprised by the outright patriotism on display lately at ABC News.

ABC News has been crusading for American workers through a series called “Made in America.” It took The Smithsonian to task for selling souvenirs made overseas. It renovated a home exclusively with American-made products for little extra cost. It questioned the garment industry about why more American-made fabrics aren’t used. It even named the American worker its “Person of the Week.”

At first glance, this might seem unremarkable. As someone told me on Twitter, “everyone knows that junk is made in China.” Certainly it’s true that some people see buying American as an antiquated concept. They view the “buy American” crowd as bigots, not patriots. They see them as out of touch with the realities of a global economy.

ABC News takes the contrarian view, waving the flag for the American worker. It says we could create 200,000 U.S. jobs by simply spending an extra $64 each year on U.S. products. This is as remarkable for the messenger as it is for message. You’d expect Fox to advocate for American products, but probably not ABC.

ABC promises to continue the American-made crusade. Here’s hoping a future segment will focus on the buying habits of members of Congress. Many years ago I was told a story of a long-time congressman who was visiting a union hall in his district. The congressman drove a foreign-made car, which he knew wouldn’t be popular with the awaiting automakers. Instead of face their wrath, he parked the car several blocks from the hall and walked to the appearance with his aides. By the way, he lost the next election.

To see ABC’s “Made in America” segments for yourself, go to

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Like Father, Like Son

My 8-year-old son Clark was playing his weekly basketball game at the YMCA Youth League when the official called a rarely called foul on him. “I didn’t do anything,” he protested. Unfortunately, this reaction came as no surprise to my wife, Kim. She’s heard this before – and much worse – from the young man’s father.

Clark is my regular companion for the University of Louisville games. He’s apparently picked up more than just the player’s names and a hunger for pizza and ice cream. He’s also taken notice of my disdain for poor officiating. As a U of L fan, I’ve seen my share of officiating blunders over the years … only to be followed by an apology from the Big East. There was the fake fair catch against Rutgers, for starters. When these things happen, I rarely suffer quietly.

I’ve tried to explain to Clark that fans are passionate. They can’t help but see slights to their favorite teams … both real and imagined. I thought he understood this, until he went all Bobby Knight during his youth league game.

In the interest of sportsmanship, it’s clear I’m going to have to clean up my act, which would be much easier if only those $%*&#@ officials weren’t always cheating us.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cheerleader's Premature Act Shows Pattern

By now, you've probably heard about the Louisville cheerleader who nearly cost his team a big basketball game by flinging the ball into the air to celebrate a game that wasn’t quite over. His premature party resulted in a technical foul, allowing Pittsburgh a chance to tie the game with a desperation three-pointer. Thankfully – for us Cardinal fans and one very nervous cheerleader – the shot was wayward.

What you probably don’t know, is that this isn’t the first time the cheerleader has acted so precipitously. Through my crack research, I’ve uncovered the following information about other times he has jumped the gun.

• On election night in 2000 he exchanged a high five with Al Gore to celebrate Gore being elected president.

• While in the military, he helped hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner on a certain battleship.

• He twice sent cards to John Calapari congratulating him on his Final Four appearances.

• He blamed Rick Pitino for this year’s loss to Marquette.

• He tried to book Charlie Sheen to speak to his church group regarding his remarkable personal transformation.

• He is a power user on MySpace.

• He remains bullish on AOL stock.

• He bought tickets to see Conan O’Brien host “The Tonight Show.”

• He can’t wait for Destiny’s Child’s next tour.

Of course, I kid. I probably shouldn’t be so hard on the guy. Rumor has it that after his gaffe he rode home in the rain on his Segway.