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As some of you might know, this Sunday is the opening of the NASCAR racing season, with the Daytona 500. While I’m not into NASCAR, I have a lot of respect for this race, it being one of the longest-running big events in the American racing scene. Sure, I’d chew my left leg off not to have to sit through it, but I have to admire the workmanship that goes into the cars, and the true passion that runs through the fan-base. I expect I’d have been more into it back in the 1940s and 1950s, when the cars weren’t quite so horribly divergent from cars you could theoretically find on the street. It might have been more like the kind of racing I grew up with, the kind of racing I’ll be posting about in just a moment.

Anyway, what got me to thinking about the races was this opinion piece by Frank DeFord on NPR this morning. Mr. DeFord very obviously doesn’t “get” NASCAR, and indeed scorns it, for being lowbrow, for being dull, and for being dubiously classifiable as a sport, when most other sports involve sweat and balls. Now I’ll grant him that it’s not that exciting–at least it’s not very exciting to me. The lowbrow charge is debatable–what sport exactly is highbrow? Rich-people amusements like golf and tennis? The National Pastime, baseball, a sport about which nobody has seemed to give a good goddamn since the 1970s? Certainly not football, with its clashing and smashing, nor hockey with its brawls, nor basketball, with its bravado and braggadocio. As far as sportsmanship goes, I think racing has as much claim to, if not more claim to a nearly Renaissance style courtliness with an undercurrent of camaraderie amongst its participants that you don’t see much in most competitive activities.

Anyway, racing–I don’t watch it, but I certainly won’t knock it. And NPR, while I listen to it and frequently come away going “huh, I hadn’t known that before” and get a better understanding of the news than I get from other sources, is also frequently more annoying than it has any good reason to be, if for no other reason than because they seem to pick many of their commentators on the virtue of how snide and smarmy they can be in a 5 minute, between-features blurb.

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