I'm not gonna lie, we had a hard time coming up with a "funny" list this week. With Dolphins fans still reeling from the news Ronnie Brown is out for the season with a foot injury, we figured we'd do "The Most Famous Feet in South Florida" or something like that.
But then Ricky Williams single-handedly beat the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, the Dolphins looked good in the win, and everyone who didn't have Ronnie Brown on his or her fantasy football team has completely forgotten about him (remember Chad Pennington?). Plus, thinking about feet for too long can make some people sick (and others sickly aroused).
The truly giant sporting event in South Florida this weekend is one we don't tend to give much coverage to--NASCAR. The final race in this year's Sprint Cup championship will be tomorrow at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, and Jimmie Johnson will--barring total disaster--win his fourth consecutive title (kind of a big deal). So in honor of this important weekend and oft-overlooked "sport", we put together a list for non-NASCAR fans who thought they hated everything about it, from the egregious crime on the environment to the blatant consumerism worship to the considerably less-than-cosmopolitan (some might say "dentally challenged") racing enthusiasts.
The most obvious choice for a list of redeeming qualities in NASCAR would be the excitement of a crash, of course. Who among us could resist the thrill of seeing speeding metal collide, crumble, toss a man through the air (almost always safely), and culminate in some fireball of awesom-plosion? But we wanted to go beyond the surface here, and get at the culture of NASCAR, what draws millions and millions of Americans to these expensive, massive monolith shrines to motorsports.
So here we have five things you might not know you like about NASCAR:
Who doesn't like an occasional sampling or two of Spirits? And we're talking more than just tailgating. (Which, oh by the way, goes on for three or four days before the race even starts.) It might be a chicken-egg thing here, but drinking and sitting down watching people race around a track over and over just go together. Half the cars have alcohol sponsors. Half the fans are buzzing on something hours before the drivers line up. And all the tracks in America allow ticket holders to bring in coolers packed with icy beer.
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Yeah, a lot of it is that bullshit Toby Keith, boot-in-your-ass, xenophobic anger disguised as patriotism, and a lot of it is the super-showy, giant American flag, F-16 flyover, pledge-of-allegiance kind of patriotism, but there's also some pleasant unity in a sea of Americana descending on one cemented plot of land to watch mega-horse-powered monster machines speeding by at 150 mph. There's something nice about saying, "This is our country, fuck those who'd judge us." Plus, flyovers kick ass.
Speaking of loud machines that rattle the earth both physically and metaphorically... If you've never experienced it, sitting in the grandstands as three dozen of these beastly cars thunder by, you're missing something spectacular. The ground shakes. Beer cans crumple slightly. Everyone's hair is blown ascunder. The sound is so loud you feel your ribs rattle and your feet vibrate. The sensation has been known to trigger orgasm in some particularly sensitive (or drunk) female NASCAR fans.
The People Watching
Let's face it. It's kind of a freakshow. There are thousands of NASCAR fans who seem broke as shit, but manage to spend thousands of dollars on tickets, merchandise, RVs, rebel flags, whatever. It's a great place to play "spot-a-mullet" or "What's growing in that dude's mustache?" If you have ever suffered a flight delay by pondering the backstories of all the other poor suckers at the airport, the people watching at a NASCAR race alone is worth the price of admission. We are disgusting fucks, bubbling with toxins and vitriol and a desire to tell people we care about POW-MIAs while drinking a tallboy of Keylight. And we are beautiful.
There is no 24-second clock or backcourt violation. There is no intential grounding or encroachment penalty. No ERA, RBI, or OPP. There are fast cars. They go in a circle. The first car to finish the race wins. True, there is a ridiculously complicated scoring system, and "chase," and the guy who wins the race tomorrow--the final event of the year--will almost certainly not be celebrating a championship, so that's weird. But still, you don't have to know a lot of rules, a lot of history, a lot of names you can't pronounce, or anything about multiplication to enjoy picking a car you want to root for ("Come on Jack Daniels!") and watching that guy circle the track trying to work his way to the front of the pack.