Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/one-liner at firstname.lastname@example.org (note new address) or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.
Remember, even though the season's done, we're not. Usual nonsense here every day of the week. And hey, if you want to get a letter printed, NOW IS THE TIME. We'll need plenty o'material for this feature each week.
For now, we start with a tour de force summing up this weekend's action:
After the last few years of "Five-Time," Digger, The COT with the FaF wing, The COT without the FaF wing, 2x2 racing, Junior losing streaks, super secret double classified fines, Kyle Busch vs. The World, Start and Parkers, "Busch Wackers," commercial after commercial after commercial after commercial, races that have seen more entertaining action AFTER the checkered flag than the actual race, gimmicky change after gimmicky change to the Chase, a rule book that seems to be written in pencil, new cookie cutter track after new cookie cutter track, Bruton Smith running his mouth waaaaaaaay too much, Indy 2008, Potholes, MORE Potholes, empty stands, champions without sponsors, and Brian France just being Brian France ... that was EXACTLY what this sport needed!
— Darrell Watts
Standing ovation, sir. Bravo. That email should be required reading for all NASCAR fans. And I agree completely: that Chase, and particularly the final race, did a hell of a lot to take the bad taste of many of the knocks you mention out of people's mouths. Can't wait for Daytona, myself!
And now ... deep breath ... let's get into BooGate. First, a few representative letters. They ran divided pretty evenly between rabidly against me, rationally against me, and in support of me, so that's how I'll run 'em here, followed by my take.
I found the boo's, even muffled by ESPN, spoke volumes of how true American's have woke up ! Your article tripe showed your journalistic ignorance. You media moron's are simple minded freaks.
This [insanely racist description of the First Lady deleted], hates America, and everything our constitution stands for................ Her word's not mine ! She can masquerade doing good deed's. True American's know she's nothing more, than a wolf in a black sheep costume. And if America is still the land of the free, come November 2012, I say don't let the door's slap that FAT [deleted] on there way out !
That framed piece paper, you have on a wall somewhere, you need to refund the money, and burn that joke.
Buzzard-man, are you blind, deaf, or just stupid ?
Very, Very Sincerely,
— Ron Cain
In your article about [Michelle] Obama getting booed you said "I'm not dignifying these cowards with the term 'fans' — showed why this sport will always have trouble getting respect from the mainstream of America: they booed the First Lady of the United States." First off, just because you didn't agree with how thousands of people acted doesn't mean we're cowards. People love to preach free speech until it goes against what they love or believe.
Second, we don't want respect from mainstream America. That's what is great about our sport. It's unique to us. I'm the only one of all my friends who truly loves and attends this sport at least twice a year. They can talk for hours about football and I can hang in there with them. But if the subject ever turns to NASCAR I pretty much own that conversation. The Southern roots, the redneck views, the good ol' boy mentality is what makes it what it is. I think when NASCAR wanted to get Obama's wife to come to the race they knew exactly what was going to happen. It was more stupid for them to think that a bunch of white rednecks were going to cheer for her. NASCAR fans are special because they don't like a lot of change in their sport. But we believe what we believe and the good thing is you can rarely find us fighting over our beliefs like you can in other sports. We're good people.
Have a great Thanksgiving. Look forward to the mailbag next year when Jeff Gordon wins the title....hopefully.
— Wes R
Well, Jay, now you've done it! I've been following the reactions to your "booing" column on Michelle Obama with great interest, and often, great amusement. If your job as a writer is to generate responses, you've succeeded!
I'm like you, old school. I treat women with respect. Would I boo a woman? Likely not. That woman would have to cross a fairly great expanse in heinous conduct to cross that line. That's not to say, of course, that a woman should not have the same opportunities that any man has, up to and including serving in combat as they do more and more so today, with great distinction. The point of respect is particularly important; I have two daughters, both of whom I hope someday will marry men that respect them.
Was it a wise decision for the wife of a President who is widely despised by the NASCAR populace to attend the season ending race? The same was said about booing "enemy" hockey players on a "beat cancer" video shown at a hockey game. Does a woman deserve rape walking home alone from a bar in a nice outfit? Come on, people! It should not matter; she was there for a good cause. I would boo Obama until the cows came home on a political speech (with the proviso that I were not in uniform), but if he were supporting a good cause I'd bite my tongue and applaud. It's just good manners to treat someone with respect when they are in your house.
— Jeff "Sarge" Smith
SSG, Retired, US Army
Imagine you've set up a romantic night for your significant other. You've made dinner, you've poured the wine, you've lit the candles, and your significant other looks upon you with eyes of love and admiration. You lead them to the table, and you're about to enjoy the well-deserved fruits of romantic labor. And then, right before you get to the table, you trip on a fold in the carpet, you yank the tablecloth off the table, you knock your S.O. right into a chair and they chip a tooth, a steak knife flips up in the air and jabs you in the back of the hand, and the wine bottle rolls off the table right onto your skull. Yeah, that's pretty much what happened to me with that Michelle Obama article.
I had good intentions, really, I did. I think in MOST cases, it's low-class to boo a woman. I think the Office of the President deserves respect, no matter who occupies it. I think First Ladies don't deserve criticism based on their husbands' actions, particularly if they're engaged in charitable efforts.
I took one step too many. To say "you don't boo women," as I did, came across as patronizing and sexist. I get that. It can be read as the gender equivalent of the classic political trope "soft bigotry of low expectations." My intention was to both defend the honor of women in general and defend the mass of NASCAR fans from the cheap stereotyping that this event only inflamed. I actually didn't mean it as any kind of defense or justification of the president at all. Of course, that didn't stop a certain chunk of the internet from seeing connections that weren't there and going batcrap-crazy on political rants all the same.
And that's the only thing that really troubled me about all this. I'm long past caring if some commenter hiding behind a fake name thinks I ought to be fired, but how venomous the rhetoric is against the president is troubling. (Yes, yes, it goes both ways. Chill out. I'm making a point.) Seriously, Obama could go door-to-door handing out candy and people would lambaste him because he was handing out chocolate and not peppermints, or because he started on that side of the street and not this one, or because he knocked rather than using the doorbell... There is literally nothing that the president, whoever he is, can do now to satisfy a certain segment of his opposition ... and friends, that demonize-without-compromise entrenchment is going to screw us.
Deep for a holiday, huh? Anyway, I've now been called one of the socialist Obama-loving pansy pantywaisted liberal media about as much as I've been called a racist hard-right gun-toting NASCAR-loving inbred toothless hack, so I guess it all evens out.
[Aside: if you'd like to hear me discuss this in more detail amid talking about Turkey Bowls and other silliness, be sure to check out the WHY IS THIS NEWS podcast, right here. Subscribe, enjoy.]
Now, let's move on and enjoy ourselves the rest of the way, shall we?
This past Sunday, I sat with my family enjoying what was turning out to be the closest championship race in NASCAR history. I was also keeping an eye on the clock. As time ticked by and the evening Worship service drew nigh, I came to the realization that I was going to MISS the end of the 2011 finale. Why, in God's name, can't NASCAR run more Cup races on Saturday!?!?
— John Davis
Hey, you only missed the end of the race because of the rain delays. And that's God's fault. So you could have legitimately argued that God wanted you to skip evening worship and watch the end of the race. God's cool like that. Boogity, boogity, boogity, amen.
Was Tony Stewart purposely keeping his back on Brian France on the Victory Lane stage? Am I the only one who saw that? I thought he was. France even took an awkward kick at him once to try to get him to turn around and take the trophy. France had to wait because he didn't turn around until he damned good and ready. Or am I just seeing things?
— Robert in Richmond
Did you mean Mike Helton? I didn't see France up there, but I freely admit I was a bit busy during the trophy presentation. As you can see in the photo above, Stewart is the belle of the ball and Helton is like the nerdy guy trying to get a word with her. I don't begrudge Stewart throwing a cold shoulder or two; dude probably can't even remember what he's done for the last three days. If he'd done the old handshake-pullback-psyche! move, that would have been something different ... and something awesome, might I add.
It's way too cool having Smoke book-end the five year reign of Jimmie Johnson. He's one of only three owner drivers to be Champion, he's the only one with a Winston Cup, a Nextel Cup and a Sprint Cup and he's proven most decisively that turning 40 isn't a death sentence for talent and wins. The man is AMAZING and Darian Grubb controlled the team behind him when it really counted. That said, I can't help, but think of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus. I wonder if Jimmie would have had the long reign or the five Cups if he had not had Chad as his crew chief. And if you are wondering, yes, I ask that with some suspicion considering things which have come out recently.
— Joyce Keith
Aw, let's let the Jimmie/Chad thing go. We've got our new champion now. Did Knaus bend the rules to get his guy a few wins? Sure. Did he cheat? Can't prove it, and therefore can't assume it. Knaus and Johnson had everything break the right way at the right times, up until this year. You don't get to the heights they reach without talent, but you don't stay there without a bit of luck, too. Congrats to Stewart, but a tip o' the cap to the 48 era ... which, let's not forget, might not be over, just paused.
Call me a skeptic (I do like to point out how many mystery cautions NASCAR comes up with) but does anyone else find it the slightest bit odd that Tony and Carl's cars were THAT much better than everyone else? I know they are the top two in points, but running away with it by 8 seconds? In a season where 18 different drivers won races this year? I find it so hard to believe that NASCAR wasn't manufacturing some added drama in the finale. I realize we will probably never know, and maybe I'm just looking too much into it, but what do you think? Is that a possibility?
Sure, it's a possibility. But I think it's more likely that these two got the benefit of every single engineering genius that Roush Fenway and Stewart-Haas (*cough*Hendrick*cough) could round up to work under the hood. And I'd bet that there were at least a few drivers who, once the big prize was off the table, let off the throttle just the tiniest bit. (Witness how easily Stewart carved through the field at Homestead. You think he's doing that if all 43 drivers are racing for position?)
Conspiracies are healthy to an extent, but I think the number of races that ended under multi-lap green this year is a testament to the fact that while NASCAR does manipulate events in some cases, it doesn't manipulate events in every case.
Let's end the regular season mailbag with this fine missive ...
I have been interested in racing for over 50 years, long before it was "Cup" racing. I started listening to races on the radio when the Petty, Baker and Earnhardt they talked about had first names like Lee, Buck and Ralph. I remember Little Joe Weatherly winning his second championship. I remember the King's first championship, before he was The King. At the time he was just That Petty Kid. I listened as Dale Jarrett's dad Ned won races and his second championship. I saw the first live telecast of the Daytona 500 that ended with the famous fight between the Allisons and Cale Yarborough. At the time Yarborough was driving for that 'other' Johnson, the one named Junior.
Never, since they started televising races, was I glued to the TV like I was Sunday night. Since I didn't have a dog in the hunt anymore I enjoyed the tension. I kept waiting for a Stewart bobble or a puff of smoke from another Roush engine. NASCAR finally got what they have long wanted, a season-ending race that had some meaning. If that don't rekindle interest in the fans, then they ain't never coming back.
— John Edwards
Amen, brother. I'm hoping that we see a huge bump starting next year. But until then, we've got an offseason to get through, so let's get through it together, shall we?
Thanks to all our writers this week. You want in? Fire up the computer and hit us with whatever's on your mind, NASCAR-wise, at email@example.com, find us on Facebook right here, or hit us up on Twitter at @jaybusbee. Make sure to tell us where you're from. We'll make you famous.
And happy holidays, everybody! Enjoy your turkey!
- Michelle Obama