Why NASCAR sucks and how it can be better

Sneak-peek at my NASCAR Column that runs in the 2.23.11 edition of The Stylus

The Great American Race, NASCAR’s Super Bowl, the Big one. The Daytona 500 has plenty of nicknames, but an appropriate one that nobody is saying is “another boring race.”

NASCAR is boring as hell. It bored me as a kid, it bored me as a teenager and it continues to bore me as a college student. I don’t understand why people like, but millions of diehards follow their drivers and race teams religiously throughout the driving season. I’ve never understood the allure of auto sports, but as an open minded young man, I thought I’d attempt to look into the eyes of a NASCAR fan, and explain to myself, how I could possibly enjoy it.

The likeable thing about sports, in general, is the visual stimulation it gives us. When we tune into a football game, there might be a lot of boring plays, but there’s always 4-5 plays where you can’t help but sit back and say “wow, that was amazing.” Or when you’re watching an NBA game and Kevin Durant leaps from the free throw line, avoids two defenders in mid-air and casually flips the ball into the hoop. It’s the raw athletic ability that sports fans marvel at, it’s why we keep watching.

And it’s why we keep skipping NASCAR races. Unless there’s a crash, there’s really no change in events on a lap-to-lap basis. In soccer, or baseball, every possession or inning will warrant a different scenario. In a race, all the cars are just doing the same thing over, and over, and over, and — WAIT A PIT STOP!! Oh, cars fixed? Back to doing the same things over, and over, and over…

It’s too repetitive. Unless you grew up in a family that adamantly supports NASCAR, you’re unlikely to go out of your way to start following it passionately. Even the history of NASCAR — a history surrounded by wealthy white males from the south, a real sympathetic bunch — kind of secludes itself from a universal fan base.

NASCAR doesn’t offer enough to the casual sports fan. I bet there’s a decent amount of people reading this right now who honestly believe that “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” was the best thing NASCAR has ever been a part of.

Racing fans argue that you can’t capture the excitement of a NASCAR race on TV, and that you have to be there to really understand how great a race is. What these racing fans generally mean is, unless you’re at the track all day getting wasted, you won’t enjoy it. And even if my interpretation is wrong, why else would anybody who’s unfamiliar to NASCAR ever be motivated to attend a race?

There are millions of Americans who love — truly and passionately love — racing. They buy their favorite driver’s gear, they watch all the races, they tune into Rusty Wallace’s analysis on ESPN; they do it all. But unless NASCAR changes their ways, and becomes more likeable, and approachable to the casual sports fan, the entire racing fan base will remain too specific, and eventually, racing as a major sport will fizzle out.
So my immediate plan for action to make NASCAR more exciting is…

1. Emulate the WWE — A lot of the drivers already have a gimmick! Granted, most of the gimmicks are the same — that of a cowboy — but if people went all out with their egos in front of cameras it would definitely boost some interest. I’d love to see Jimmy Johnson doing the “suck it” to Carl Edwards after he beats him, wouldn’t you?

2. Less Laps — I know the Daytona 500 has it’s legendary name, but would anybody really mind if it was the Daytona 300? Perhaps 100? Hell, call it the Daytona 15 and let ‘em go!

3. Diversity — Nobody likes cultural integration when it’s forced because it doesn’t seem authentic. But the fact remains that NASCAR is a sport consisting of, and dominated by wealthy white males from the south. Juan Pablo Montoya and Danica Patrick are steps in the right direction to a more diverse group of NASCAR athletes, but it’s still the most segregated sport there is.

4. The Chase — NASCAR’s new playoff system is pretty cool, where only the top-10 drivers in the standings qualify for the “Chase for the Cup,” but I wish they’d really go for it and not let anybody but the top-10 in the last few races. I don’t see the point in letting 45 drivers on a track when only ten of them matter.

5. More fan interactivity — Sports are driven by fans. If they don’t watch or support, there’s no money to be made. NASCAR should realize this and have more fan interaction at the games. As of now, the primary objective when watching a race is to either drink beer, scream at the top of your lungs, or a sexy combination of the two. On TV, they should have some sweepstakes where you can call in to your favorite driver while he’s cruising around or something. Or maybe a “Ask a Crew chief” feature where fans can text their questions and comments to team’s crew chiefs during a race.
Just anything to make the races more fun. And don’t act like the teams are too busy during these races to interact with fans. Because at the end of the day, a NASCAR race is just a glorified road trip with a lack of destination.

I started making movies!

I’ve been having some fun with Final Cut Pro in my classes this semester. Here’s two I did this week….

 

 

Todd 2.5.11

 

Deubie Brothers at Collegefest 2011

Super Bowl Running Diary

For a more refined, edited version of this column, see this Wednesday’s issue of The Stylus. But if you like your SportsMeister articles raw, with no censorship or space limits, then you found the right story!

Super Bowl Running Diary

I kept a running diary during Sunday’s game.

11:32 a.m. — Super Bowl Sunday is here. I smell like the weekend — not a great thing, by the way. But with a cup of coffee and a breath of fresh air, I realize that the holiday has finally come: it’s game-day baby!

1:12 p.m. — But not without some work first, off to the office. Enjoy the SUNYAC standings on page 35, took me like a halfie.

2:35 p.m. — Roommates did a great job of cleaning the house while I was at work, but the conclusion was made that we didn’t have enough furniture for the number of expected guests. Naturally, we decided to move the coffee table against the wall, and put a mattress in the center of the room. Throw in some pillows, some blankets; well, that’s a stew baby!

4:18 p.m. — Just put in the food order, and it was a doozie! Not only did we call in two sheets of ‘za from Mark’s Pizzeria, but we phoned our man Jimmy Z for fifty $.50 wings. The collective excitement in the room was only lost when FOX cued the Maroon 5. What a snoozer. I know it’s early pre-game afternoon warm-ups, but it’s still the Super Bowl mang.

4:47 p.m. — Every year we fill up our white board with really stupid gambling ideas we can bet on the game, and this year is no different. Some of the best from this year’s list: The first player to score’s jersey number (over/under 32.5), Which beer company will have the first commercial, and what song the Black Eyed Peas will open to at halftime. But the best one is the “If Aaron Rodgers has a rushing touchdown, what celebration does he perform? General attitude in the room is feeling his trendy championship belt move, but I think if he sees a group of cheeseheads in the first few rows he’s going to go for the leap into the stands sort of Lambeau-esque.

4:58 p.m. — President Obama and Bill O’Reilly and are having a pretty heated discussion here. At first I was upset that my Super Bowl Sunday pre-game was being interrupted by something as outrageous as the current state of our nation. Then I read that last sentence and realized that it’s probably for the best that FOX is airing this interview instead of more Maroon 5 (Yikes!). My personal favorite part of the interview was this exchange:

O’Reilly: So who do you want to win?
Obama: After my Bears were knocked out, it didn’t matter.
O’Reilly (violently): So you don’t care?!

… We’ll do it live!

Q1 10:54 — (yawning) Oh did the game start?

Q1 4:56 — Between the dropped passes, muffed punt, and sloppy play, we’re in for a real exciting Super Bowl here! But honestly, these players can’t be blamed for being a little jittery in the first quarter; playing in this game is unlike anything many of these players have done, and most Super Bowls do start pretty slow and boring, and it appears that this one is on that path as well. By the way, I’ve switched over from real time to game time. Try to keep up.

Q1 3:44 — Packers score first with a 29-yard strike from Rodgers to Nelson, GB 7 – PIT 0. Although a part of me is excited to see the Packers out to an early lead, the more competitive side in me is disappointed to see I’m a disappointing 0-4 on our gambling board while our leader already has 4 (doh!).

Q1 3:20 — Big Ben throws an interception that gets returned 37 yards by Nick Collins for a touchdown, GB 14 – PIT 0. Certainly not the start that Roethlisberger and the Steelers wanted, but if anybody knows how to creep up on unsuspecting, unwilling defenses, it’s Ben Roethlisberger; the guy is just a natural creeper.

Q1 0:00 — End of the first quarter and our score is still GB 14 – PIT 0. Hopefully the game will be less one-sided as we move forward. Because aside from a few exciting commercials (Doritos were the highlight of the first) it has been a pretty dry first quarter. But remember that Patriots-Giants Super Bowl a few years ago that was really amazing? You do? Awesome, but do you remember the first 3 1/2 quarters of it? Pretty snoozeworthy. Moral of the story; we got to save our energy for the second half.

Q2 11:08 — Finally some points for the Steelers as kicker Shaun Susham nails in a field goal from 33 yards outs. GB 14 – PIT 3

Q2 6:45 — Energy in the room is low.  Could be a result of the matress and pillows in the center of the room, it appears people are getting too comfortable. But alas, a Steelers score would desperately pump some life into my friends who would look more like space cadets on a trip to Mars than a group of football fans watching the most anticipated game of the year. My friend Nicole, decked out in Steelers swag from head-to-toe, looks noticeably disturbed. Perhaps Pittsburgh pulls out some points here late in the half

Q2 2:24 — Jinxed ‘em! Rodgers hits Greg Jennings over the middle for a 21-yard touchdown pass as the Packers go up 21-3 with just two minutes left in the half. Basically, we’re one Roethlisberger-molestation joke away from seeing Nicole’s Steelers face paint be washed away with tears.

Q2 00:39 — I’m great at reverse jinxes! Just as I was typing that the Steelers were falling too far behind, they come out and drive down the field with ease, executing a near-perfect two minute drill capped off with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Hines Ward. GB 21 – PIT 10 going into the half. Hey, at least it’s a game, right?

Halftime — Who’s that creepy white guy in the Black Eyed Peas? You know, that guy with the long, slicked black hair, kind of looks like Professor Snape. What’s he bring to the table?

Halftime — It must be Snape! Who else has the magical ability to let their suit-light up whilst simultaneously appearing to be the most awkward person ever on one of the world’s biggest annual stages? That’s the Half-Blood Prince!

Halftime — Disappointed to see Slash, one of the greatest guitarists of all-time, shredding on the axe next to a starving alley cat. It’s just that — wait a second! That’s not a stray cat lurking in an ally! Why — why that’s Fergie!

Halftime — “Buurrrrrriiiightttt baaaaaluuuuuuuuu ssssckuuuuuuiiiighhhhh,” an ally cat wails to the tune of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine.”

Halftime— An Usher sighting! This would be more exciting if he wasn’t going to go down in history as the “guy who discovered Justin Bieber.” I wish I was kidding, I like Usher.

Halftime — Grades of the performance; Singing (C-), Dancing (B), Lights & Effects (A); overall, a solid (B-) from the Black Eyed Peas. It wasn’t great, but it was some much needed life that the Super Bowl halftime show. It’s just blatantly obvious at this point that the Black Eyed Peas should limit their live performances. The alley cat formerly known as Fergie really needs to just stay in a studio and off of a stage.

Halftime — And yes, I’ve just realized I’ve analyzed the halftime show 10x more critically than any of the plays or drives in the first half. Moving on…

Q3 12:54 — Packers receiver James Jones runs an extended slant that has the ball bounce right off his fingertips. The drop is especially disappointing for Packers fans as he appeared to have plenty of space to run had he caught the ball. In fact, announcer Troy Aikman said, “He… he had a real chance to score there …. (pause) ….. He could have made a big play.” Troy Aikman is proof of the concussion problem in the NFL.

Q3 12:39 — A curious commercial combination that featured Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber in which the punch-line was when Bieber held up a phone and said “Now Bieber Fever on 6G.” Then it cut to Sharon Osbourne asking, “What’s 6G?” and Ozzy asking, “What’s a Bieber?” And if you thought that was hilarious…. wait for it….. Bieber, disguised as a custodian behind Ozzy, added “Not sure, kind of looks like a girl though.” I have a (Bieber) Fever! And the only prescription is more cowbell!

Q3 10:19 — A great block by stereotypical looking lineman No. 1 that allowed Steelers’ running back Rashard Mendenhall to pound it in from eight yards for a rushing touchdown. GB 21 – PIT 17. A four point game with a quarter and 1/2 left? That’s a stew baby!

Q3 10:19 – Commercial for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Basically it appears we don’t know anything other than Johnny Depp is back, acting a fool, as everybody’s favorite rum-swilling pirate. Do we really need to know anything else about it?

Q3 8:03 — Steelers got the ball back, and it’s 3rd and short. But what’s a bigger concern for Packers fans is that cornerback Charles Woodson is yet to return to the game after hurting his shoulder at the end of the first half. Woodson is an emotional leader on the defense as one of the season veterans, but more importantly, he’s their lock-down corner guy. With him out of the game, the passing lanes could definitely open up for Big Ben and the Steelers.

Q3 6:42 — This Steelers drive is dragging on and it appears the collective energy in the room has reverted to 1st quarter sleep mode.

Q3 4:29 — Steelers Sulsham kicker tries a 52-yard field goal that is way off the mark. My only question afterwards is who on earth could have done worse on that attempt. My short list includes Ellsworth, Steven Hawking, and Larry the Cable Guy

Q3 4:29 — Is Eminem planning on being a public representative of Detroit now, or is he just running out of money and looking for a quick buck? He would have told Chrysler to f*ck themselves if they offered him that commercial idea in 2002.

Q3 2:26 — You can hear the disdain in his voice when Joe Buck tries to pitch Glee in between plays. You can tell her really, really doesn’t want to do that.

Q3 00:37 — The Packers haven’t moved the ball well since their third touchdown midway through the second quarter. Something tells me that Mike Tomlin put in some serious half-time adjustments for the Steelers. They’ve been lights out this quarter.

Q3 00:00 — Blame Friday Night Lights if you want, but I know you still hold up four fingers every time you watch a game enter the fourth quarter. *FOOOURRRRRR

Q4 15:00 — Getting those 4th quarter Super Bowl jitters! GB 21 – PIT 17. We’re at a point where it’s not even cliche to say “Anything could happen!”

Q4 11:57 — I continually jinx the idea of a tightly contested game. Rodgers just hit Jennings for an 8-yard touchdown pass, his third of the game. GB leads 28-17. Good thing Pittsburgh has a quarterback known for creeping up on people right when they least expect it.

Q4 7:34 — Told you Big Ben could creep! He just slung a 25-yard pass to Mike Wallace that capped off a much-needed successful Steelers drive. To further signify the Steelers’ satisfying scoring surplus was the successfully converted 2-point conversion. GB 28 – PIT 25. Three point game with less than eight minutes left? Do you know what that is? That’s a stew baby!

Q4 2:35 — Great drive by the Packers here late in the second half. Right after the Steelers narrow their lead to three points, Green Bay moves the ball methodically down the field, killing over five minutes in the process.

Q4 2:09 — And you know I jinx everything. I typed “Great drive by the Packers” and then they fail to convert on third down. Kicker Mason Crosby knocks in a 23-yard field goal to give the Packers a 31-25 lead just before the two minute warning. Unfortunately I think I’ve exhausted all the Ben Roethlisberger creeper jokes that I wanted to make.

Q4 2:00 — Two minute warning! Which QB is going to be this year’s hero and who is going to be the Goat? Roethlisberger has been here before, and he looked OK as he threw that 15-yard pass to Heath Miller to give Pittsburgh fans some hope. Remember Steelers Nicole? She’s shaking.

Q4 1:10 — After a short 5-yard pass to Ward, Roethlisberger goes deep right for an incomplete pass. It’s 3rd and 5, but the Steelers got to go a lot further than five yards.

Q4 0:59 — Another incomplete….. 4th and 5 for the Steelers. If they don’t convert this, the Packers will be crowned champions….

Q4 0:55 — Roethlisberger drops back!

Q4 0:54 — Looks right!

Q4 0:52 — Looks left!

Q4 0:51 — He’s got Wallace on the near side!

Q4 0:50 — Roethlisberger lets it fly!

Q4 0:49 — (Long exaggerated breath as the ball is in the air)

Q4 0:48 — Broken up! Incomplete! Packers win! Packers win! The Green Bay Packers are your Super Bowl champions!

Postgame thoughts — Glad to see Aaron Rodgers win a championship. I don’t feel bad for the Steelers or Steelers fans, you’ve won enough in the past few years. Rodgers patiently waited behind Favre for his opportunity, and he owned it — throwing for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns, earning MVP honors in the process. Roethlisberger was an acceptable 25-40 with 263 yards and two touchdowns, but the two early interceptions gave the Steelers a deficit 21-3 that was too great to overcome. My question after the game: How similar was this year’s Super Bowl to last years?
Know what I mean? Two great QB’s, and the one that outplayed the other hoisted the trophy. Right down to the dramatic last minute where one of the great QB’s failed to come through as we’ve come to expect them to. Curious. But for now, the NFL season is in the books and the Packers are once again on top of the pecking order.

Super Bowl party!

My column which appears here, and in The Stylus for the 2/2/10 edition…

The Super Bowl is always exciting for me. Shocker, I know. But in the same way as when you get too excited for a date, or a party, and it doesn’t quite meet up to your expectations. You feel let down, upset, disappointed at the opportunities lost and what could have been.

That was Super Bowl XL. When the Steelers defeated the Seahawks 21-10 in what many fans called, “the most boring f*cking game I’ve ever seen.” Nobody enjoyed that Super Bowl. Bill Cowher’s mustache didn’t even enjoy that game. Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a putrid 9-21 for 123 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. And he won.

Aside from one great ad with Kermit the Frog singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” for a Ford Escape Hybrid, the commercials that year were abysmal. And I love the Rolling Stones, I really do, but those old dogs were as lively as your left shoe. Super Bowl XL will forever be labeled a “snoozer.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum was Super Bowl XLII when Eli Manning and the Little Giants, I mean New York Giants, upset the previously undefeated New England Patriots. Watching Eli’s face as they were driving down the field for the win was funnier than any commercial that year. It was like he wasn’t even controlling his body and he couldn’t understand how he was able pull a miracle off like he did. Basically, he looked like a little kid who actually got to chill with Santa Claus. Side note: Tom Brady’s face during that drive is equally as amusing.

So, even though every year there is an actual winner or loser in the game, each Super Bowl as a whole event is remembered as either a winner or a loser in itself. Will this year’s match-up of the Steelers and the Packers go down in history as one of the greatest of all time? Or will it go on the shelf with all the other stinkers? In order for this to be as enjoyable as possible, the Super Bowl has to hit on three key points, and one of them is actually up to you.

1. The Game – Whether you’re a football fan or not, the game is first and foremost. All of the positive energy experienced with a Super Bowl is directly reflective of how tightly contested the game is. People want to see moments like John Elway upsetting the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, whether they have a preference for either team or not.

And it should be a great one. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack-Attack taking on Ben Roethlisberger, and the rest of Steel-town. James Harrison’s going to be crunching dudes, Charles Woodson and Troy Polamalu are going to be flying around and there’s the head coaching battle: Mike Tomlin vs. Mike McCarthy square off in the battle of, “Who’s the best coach named Mike?” The game itself has a lot of potential.

2. The Entertainment – The glitz, the glamour. The stars and the red carpets. The live shows and parties. The Super Bowl is so much more than just another football game. And if you honestly disagree with that statement, you should really consider asking yourself why you’re this far into a column strictly pertaining to what you think is, “just another game.” The Super Bowl is much more than that.

The Black Eyed Peas were a good choice for the halftime show. I’m not super into them, – just not my cup of tea – but they have enough radio jams and their songs have a lot of energy, which is a welcome shift for the youth of America.

The last six halftime shows, in order, were The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Prince, The Stones and Paul McCartney. Sounds really amazing if it were ’86.

The atmosphere should be great. The Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium is the perfect venue for the Super Bowl, and you know owner Jerry Jones will do everything he can to put on a show for the world to see.

3. Your Experience – Pick the right group of people to watch the game with. If you casually want to catch most of the action and the majority of the commercials, then watch the game with a couple of friends at somebody’s house. Add some background music; have a good time with it. Remember, the Super Bowl is more than a game, so enjoy the night however you most want to.

That said, most people who tune in to the Super Bowl are going to complain if they miss one play, one funny commercial or one Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction (DOH!). So if you’re trying to catch every little detail – from the coin toss to the post-game trophy handout – then you should watch the game with your die-hard sports fan buddies. But not the guy who thinks he’s hilarious and cracks joke after joke and gets nothing but crickets and crickets. Don’t invite that guy, he sucks.