Welcome to the latest Happy Hour mailbag! You know how these work: You write us with your best rant/ joke/ one-liner at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee, we respond to your messages, everyone goes away with a smile on their face.
I was in New York City over the weekend. I took a little run through midtown Manhattan wearing a Jimmie Johnson t-shirt, and oh, the looks I got. I walked down to the Occupy Wall Street protests, and I so wished I had some posterboard to make up some good slogans, like
SHARE THE WEALTH, JIMMIE
HOW ABOUT TEARING UP SOME OF WALL STREET'S PROFITS, KURT?
Send me your best NASCAR protest slogans, or post 'em below. (Hint: Photoshops get moved right to the front of the line.) Now, let's get to your letters.
Where did good sportsmanship go? Saturday night Jimmie Johnson was in a wreck that mirrored Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s and it could have been very, very bad. Without HANS, SAFER barriers, etc, NASCAR could be in mourning just like IRL is this week. And what could you hear from the crowd? Cheering! Now, my driver is Tony Stewart, and I really want him to win the championship, and like most people, I'm ready for a change in champ. But even if that had been my least favorite drivers (Busch brothers, Montoya) I would have still held my breath until they walked away.
Big Spring, Texas
Tragic and near-tragic moments can bring out the best in people, but they can also bring out the worst as well. To be fair, I can't imagine that anybody with a basic grasp of humanity was actually cheering at the possibility that Jimmie Johnson was hurt (or worse). Sure, we see people around here all the time saying they want to see this driver or that driver put into a wall (or worse), but they're viewing these drivers as characters in a game, not as living, breathing human beings with families.
Now, as regards Johnson specifically, people were cheering because the dominant five-time champ took a possibly crippling hit to his Cup chances. People are tired of Jimmie Johnson, tired, tired, tired. That's no reflection on Johnson's character or his talent; fans just want some change at the top of the standings. I get that, and since the wall seems like the only thing that Johnson can't run over, I can see why people would be elated at anything that could slow down the 48. Hell, the other drivers can't do it.
Still … don't ever cheer a wreck, folks. Show some class.
In a recent column you said:
That's one of the big knocks against the Chase, that fans of certain drivers don't have anything to root for, but then again the Super Bowl and World Series seem to do OK with only two teams participating and everybody else at home watching.
How well do you think the ratings would be if the World Series coverage only showed Derek Jeter? When the opposing team was at bat, we'd be looking at the shortstop. When Derek had a hit, we'd watch him run to first base. Derek would be on 1st base with Albert Pujols and the outfielder would throw to 2nd to keep him on base, but we wouldn't see that because the right fielder and 2nd baseman weren't part of the planned storyline for the game.
I'll tell you this: the World Series ratings for this year would be better if they just showed a streaming feed of Derek Jeter watching the World Series, not the Series itself. Cardinals-Rangers? Yikes.
Anyway, to your email. I get the point you're trying to make, that focusing on one player gives a skewed view of the game, but you're drawing this too narrowly. My point is that the focus in the playoffs ought to be on the teams/drivers that actually have a chance in the playoffs. Don't like it? Hey, your guy had 26 races to get into the Chase mix; who's to blame if he didn't? (And this is coming from a Braves fan still repairing holes I put in my drywall after their collapse this year.)
Besides, there's already a channel that focuses exclusively on star Yankees or Red Sox, no matter who else is playing. It's called "ESPN."
I'm having a hard time getting worked up about David Ragan and Brian Vickers looking for rides. I know Vickers' story is inspirational, but how successful has he been? One Chase berth where he was a non-factor for his highest finish, which was 12th? Two career wins? Ragan has one win, this year, in five almost full seasons, and no Chase berths (highest: 13th).
On the other hand, Dale Earnhardt Jr.,, just signed to a lucrative extension and subject of much Kournakovian (new word!) scorn for lack of success, has 18 wins, several Chase berths, and at least two years where he was a factor in the Championship.
Cry me a river, because I'm just not that worked up about where they'll land. I'd rather see Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Austin Dillon, or Justin Allgaier given their shots. If some guys have to start their own teams and Start 'n Park for a year, so be it.
—Jeff "Sarge" Smith
I never want anybody to lose a job, but yeah, this is kind of like the Casey Mears phenomenon: just because you've been in NASCAR for years doesn't mean you're entitled to a ride in perpetuity. There's no tenure in NASCAR.
Here's the question, though: have these two guys maximized their talent? I get the sense that Ragan would be driving about as well as he's driven no matter whose car he was rocking, but that Vickers might have a little something extra if he was behind the wheel of a Hendrick car again. Still, there is certainly the idea that if you haven't proven yourself by now, when are you going to do it?
I have to share a different view about profanity in NASCAR. If this is really a family sport then NASCAR needs to get serious about this problem. It is truly something "detrimental to the sport" (Actions Detrimental To Stock Car Racing - NASCAR Rulebook Section 12-4-A). To allow profanity to proliferate under the excuse that this is just a way to express anger is just not sensible or profitable to our sport … My definition of a true hero is one that I could invite to my home to eat dinner with my family and kids. I will not be "inviting" Michael Vick, Mark McGwire or a number of other sports figures who have disqualified themselves by their actions. The list of NASCAR drivers I would invite is getting smaller all the time as I hear words I should not have to hear or bleeps where I can guess what was omitted.
I have to disagree with your comparison of a guy who cusses when he gets spun out with a guy who killed dogs for sport or (allegedly) took enough medication to disrupt an entire sport. I respect that you don't want to hear the profanity, but please bear in mind that drivers usually cuss on a private radio channel, not during autograph sessions. (Though there was this one time I saw Trevor Bayne go absolute drunken-sailor on a grandmother … kidding, of course.)
Again, they're just words, people. Maybe this is my sliding scale of morality, but I don't see that throwing a few f-bombs now and then is part of an inevitable slide into reprehensible behavior. A driver who cusses out a rival today isn't going to suddenly start putting school buses into the wall tomorrow.
Hey NASCAR, great idea for you to try….broadcast night races in real-time all across the country at drive-in theaters. This would allow a whole bunch of people who wouldn't otherwise experience a race live to experience it with a motivated crowd…and think of all the next-day chatter, people telling friends what they did Saturday night….(again increasing the fan base). You could sell headphones with in race broadcasts just as at the track, concessions, souvenirs, etc. I understand maybe it would be blacked-out in a region near the race, but the rest of the country would be a-watchin'.
Didn't they used to do that with boxing matches? Closed-circuit broadcasts in movie theaters? That was before my time, but I like the idea. Thing is, you've got to get a theater owner to buy into it, and let's face it, we NASCAR fans can be a pretty filthy lot. If you've got a horde of half- or all-drunk NASCAR fans barreling into your drive-in, you're going to be sweeping out beer cans, bones of undetermined origin and pickled fans for a week. And how would patrons of the other movies react? (Then again, if a roof-rattling NASCAR race disrupts the girls' night out watching "I Don't Know How She Does It", fine by me.)
Another question: do they even have drive-in theaters anymore? I remember being a kid watching one of the Star Wars flicks at one, but we spent the entire time looking over at the other screen to see if that 40-foot-tall woman would lose some of those clothes … and if some of the women in the cars would, also.
Bottom line: I love the idea, but this would've worked a lot better back in the '70s. Everybody's got their own personal movie theater now, which means we don't have to deal with anybody else if we don't want to. And thank heaven for that.
For me, one of the "Kenseth gets no love things" that drives me crazy is that the media treats Matt differently than other drivers in similar circumstances. I would be happy if the media treated him the same way they treat the other drivers.
Here's one example courtesy of Larry McReynolds. Earlier this year, before the points reset, there were 6 drivers very close together in points, and then then the dropoff to 7th was a full race. Matt was 6th, a couple points behind 5th and then 40+ points ahead of Gordon and others … Larry, the brains of the outfit says, "I believe these top 5 cars are the best teams right now and the ones to beat." How is that not a deliberate slight against my guy?
I had to trim some of Stephanie's letter and other evidence of media bias; she was as loquacious in her call-out of media slights as Kenseth is taciturn. (Today's mailbag brought to you by the thesaurus.) Anyway, here's the thing with Kenseth: while he's now a legit Cup contender, he's rarely demonstrated the ability to jump up and win a race the way many other drivers have. (This year is DIFFERENT, Kenseth fans.) But the very quiet consistency that fans prize is the same thing that makes outside observers wonder (again, until this year) whether he's got what it takes to throw that extra gear you need to win a Cup. And this year, he very well might have found it.
Basically, Kenseth fans, chill out and enjoy your run of success. You don't want to be as annoying as those Jimmie fans who complain they don't get enough respect. You really don't.
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Let's wrap up by continuing our NASCAR ultimate infield playlist. Last week, I threw out "Chicken Fried" by the Zac Brown Band. More contributions: Deep Purple's "Highway Star" (Bob Delveaux), Toby Keith's "Beer for my Horses" (Raldo from CT), Dierks Bentley's "Sideways" (the mysterious HS). Add in your contributions and we'll create a combo that you can use to make any day race day.
And on that note, we're out. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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!