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.

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