A Super[ior] Sunday
I have kept my fascination with NASCAR mostly on the down low. Yet on the occasion of both the Daytona 500 and the NBA All-Star Game, I will let you, dear reader, into the small, vaunted inner circle that know my secret.
I owe it all to Captain Jimmy. Cap'n is a sea-faring angler. For safety reasons - alcohol and the hot sun - my friend's family only sends their monstrous dingy out to sea under his careful supervisions. It is under this casual atmosphere that I have been able to open up about NASCAR.
Jimmy and I are Chevy men. Our days on the water are more than an opportunity to cop a tan and a free cruise. They are an outlet for my meandering thoughts on America's most popular sport - from the cacalacky of the Waltrips, the obnoxious drama of Jeff Gordon, Mike Martin's handsome good looks and the pop dominance of Dale Earnhardt, Jr - nothing is off topic, nothing is taboo. We wax about NASCAR as we chum the waters of life.
Evidently, as I watch the Daytona 500, it becomes clearer that what began with Captain Jimmy has been solidified by the new general acceptance of the most redneck of all sports. It clearly eclipses the NBA in reach, power and scope - and is dangerously close to embarassing both the NFL and MLB.
Yet, in the ties that bind all good things - there are strange and rare hues splashed along both the Icon of the NBA and the NASCAR built on kegs. That which keeps us huddled to the screen upon Josh Smith's uniform switcheroo is akin to the same rough and tumble post-coital glow that can only come after watching 200 laps of chaos on wheels.
NASCAR is country and the NBA is street. But neither are elitist. The same dysfunction that tantalizes us in the present day NBA is the backbone of the Sport of Drunks. We are appealed by the display of loud and brash human-ness that the NFL works painfully to eliminate. The same get out the bong type of rancor that is entirely absent in Tennis, Golf and Formula 1. Steroids may have made baseball shadier, but these are still men in stockings and caps.
Consider the tearful portrayal of the late Dale Earnhardt by Barry Pepper in ESPN's classic, '3'. Evidently, the NBA equivalent would be the hopeful Michael Jordan Story that never really took off. But to call Earnhardt the Jordan of NASCAR is a disservice to both his Airness and the Intimidator. One was street before he became corporate, and that surely wasn't Mr. Nike.
I simply suggest that the apparent Heirs to Jordan's throne likely find more pause and pleasure in the dirt lined tracks of Kannapolis than the suburban Carolina that built MJ and the soap box hoops of French Lick, Indiana.
Jordan's NBA is Schumacher's Formula 1. Saturated success. Iverson's NBA is Tony Stewart's Home Depot Car. Always at the risk of spontaneous combustion.
Agreed that this nods to the NBA of 5 years ago, but I haven't lost hope that the Association won't completely clean itself up. An NBA that will keep getting younger, hip-hopier and more gangsta regardless of the new generation of marquee is a close shadow of a NASCAR that relies chiefly on this sense of lawlessness.
Just picture Rafer Alston in a fire retardant suit. Just picture it and smile.