Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Sporting Event #2 Of The Weekend: NASCAR At Darlington"

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As I may have alluded to in my previous posts, my patience is growing thin with NASCAR. This happens from time to time, not just with my interest in NASCAR, but my interest in any sport. Then again, I keep watching. I've threatened to drop my NASCAR interest multiple times, and yet, I always go back. I'm not sure why, but one of the things I like about NASCAR is that it's easy to follow. There is only one race every week. All you have to do to sufficiently follow the sport is take three or four hours out of your weekend. And, you know your favorite driver will be there, too. (Well, unless your favorite driver is Michael Waltrip.) It's not too hard to watch every single lap of Jeff Gordon's season. With other sports, it's harder to keep up. Take Major League Baseball, for instance. If I wanted to watch all of the Marlins' games this season, I'd have to shell out the dough for MLB.tv or the Extra Innings package, and even then I'd have to devote approximately 20 hours a week. No thanks. (I've only watched one Marlins game this season. It's hard to get motivated when the only times I'll get to watch the Marlins this season are when they play the Braves on TBS or the Cubs on WGN.) But with NASCAR, one race a week, and that's it. And, I don't have to buy some premium sports package, either. It's all free, often on over-the-air network television. (Speaking of which, the reason I pay zero attention to boxing is that all of the major fights are on pay-per-view at exorbitant prices. What's the point of following a sport if you can't watch it?)

Now, to get back on track a little bit. NASCAR is racing at my favorite racetrack this weekend, Darlington Raceway. Darlington is a small town in South Carolina located just outside of Florence. While NASCAR is trending towards races in major media markets all over the country, it's good to see there are at least some races remaining in the Rural South. Even if they did yank one of Darlington's two races and move it to California. In doing so, they ended one of the most traditional races on the schedule, the Southern 500, held at Darlington the day before Labor Day. Now, the Labor Day weekend race is held in some miscellaneous California suburb. The Southern 500 used to be one of the most prestigious races on the schedule. Now? Who cares about California, anyway? Ugh. NASCAR has completely sold out. I understand that it's a business, but come on. Even the NFL appreciates tradition. What if the NFL moved one of the traditional Thanksgiving games from Detroit to New York? Or, in a more extreme case, what if the Green Bay Packers became the Los Angeles Packers? That's what this felt like, to me. By getting rid of the Southern 500, NASCAR said "up yours" to all of its traditional fans.

That said, this is my only chance to see Darlington all season. What's so great about Darlington, anyway? First, Darlington was NASCAR's first superspeedway, the first race being in 1950 (9 years before the first Daytona 500). Darlington is also regarded as the toughest oval on the circuit. As the story goes, when they built the track, there was a minnow pond in the way, so they had to kind of distort the track configuration a bit. Also, the track is one of the most narrow ovals on the circuit, adding to the challenge. Darlington doesn't necessary have the most exciting racing, but to me, it is the most interesting racing, because it's as close as you're going to get to being a challenge on an oval. It's one of the few ovals where a talented driver actually makes more of a difference than a well-prepared car (arguably - that's just my opinion). That makes the Darlington race the most interesting race of the year. It's "old school" racing. All of these new tracks look the same. They could never build a track like Darlington nowadays; everybody would complain about it until the reconfigured the track to look like every other track that's been built in the last 10 years. So NASCAR better hold onto this race. If NASCAR were to remove Darlington from the schedule altogether, maybe I actually would take up my threat to desert the sport.

The race that's left is actually run tonight, not tomorrow afternoon. I don't particularly like night racing - I've always maintained that NASCAR belongs on Sunday afternoon - but thanks to my TLD, I can always "delay" the race until then. If they have to have the race at night in order to sell it out (which it has the last three years), then I'm okay with that. And, at least the race is still 500 miles. That's somewhat traditional. And I'm going to watch all 500 of them. (But probably not live. That's just the way it goes.)

Today's random thought:

- I've been working here over 10 months now, and I just now found out that there is a post office two blocks away from the office. That makes my life a lot easier when I need to mail something; now I don't have to make an extra trip or go out of my way on my way home from work. Yay!

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