The great rivalry comes full circle

By By Andrew Canon

By Andrew Canon

Once upon a time, baseball was considered the national pastime.

Summer and fall afternoons meant hot dogs, keeping score on a bleacher seat and watching a pitcher trying to outsmart a batter.

In the 1990s, basketball and football reigned. People crowded around TV sets to watch Michael Jordan, John Elway or Troy Aikman dominating the opposition.

The conversations in high school circles always focused on hatred or love of the Bulls, Cowboys and Packers.

In the new century, a new sport has taken over the crown of “America’s sport.” And it’s not pretty.

NASCAR.

In many ways, NASCAR is the epitome of the American psyche: fast, competitive and dangerous.

Ingenuity, sponsorship and a danger-be-damned attitude are needed to win.

It represents our love of cars, our dependence on the automobile industry (and our dependence on oil).

NASCAR autos are stacked with the logos of corporate sponsors. Few public spectacles embrace crass commercialism as wholeheartedly.

More and more Americans flock to the auto raceways to sit for hours, watching cars speed around a track with the smell of rubber and burnt fuel hanging in the air.

NASCAR combines two great American traditions: recreational pollution and human vegetation.

The fans became a targeted demographic in this year’s presidential election as the “NASCAR-dad” vote in suburban America was one of the most coveted votes in politics.

Senator Kerry pandered to this group by riding motorcycles and turning a pheasant-hunting excursion into a photo-op.

President Bush appeased their socially conservative tastes by calling for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

He dedicated a monument to NASCAR hero Dale Earnhardt.

People of all political stripes have blamed various issues, events and people as the reason America remains so divided.

Auto racing perfectly characterizes the divide in America. Either you love NASCAR or you hate it.

The Doppler effect of engines buzzing and fading as they rip past either thrills you or bores you to death.

The branding of NASCAR autos with corporate logos is either a symbol of over-commercialization or of American ingenuity.

Carbon dioxide and other auto emissions are either relatively harmless by-products or they’re contributing to the global warming phenomenon.

The “in-the-family” approach to NASCAR (Earnhardts, Andrettis, etc.) is either a symbol of the strength of families or representative of the blatant nepotism that is rampant in American society.

I don’t understand NASCAR. I’m always amazed when I catch a televised event (race? match? What do you even call them?).

I can’t believe so many people are sitting in the hot Florida sun watching cars race around a track.

I’ll never understand why it draws a television audience.

I don’t get the crowd. I have no desire to come to an appreciation for NASCAR.

I don’t think it belongs on the sports page or merits ESPN coverage.

Likewise, NASCAR fans probably can’t understand my apathy toward their favored sport.

To them, NASCAR is the epitome of sports. It represents competition at the highest levels- drivers risking their lives every time they get behind the wheel.

We’ll probably never understand each other. Probably neither of us wants to. Hopefully, like Republicans and Democrats, we can learn to accept each other over the next four years.

Perhaps we can stop sneering at one another’s low-brow hobbies or high-falutin’ pomp and accept our differences.

Maybe we can stop gloating or fuming about the superiority of our point of view and learn to respect the other side’s.

So, NASCAR fans, here’s my olive branch-or would you prefer Penzoil?

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