Big topics this week – NASCAR, the Yankees – which means a big, big batch of emails. Before we get to it, in a column about St. Joe's I wrote that 47 states have D-I basketball teams. Many wrote in to ask about the other three. They are Alaska, North and South Dakota.
Now on to the People's Voice. ...
GROWTH OF NASCAR (Feb. 12: "Sea change at Daytona")
I totally agree with your comments. NASCAR has forgotten its old fans while looking for new ones. What about N. Wilksboro that use to sell out every race? And even with crappy dates Rockingham is a great track. Isn't our money good enough for NASCAR anymore?
Pilot Mountain, N.C.
I hope NASCAR doesn't take the route of NHL. 'Cause I went from watching good hockey to poor hockey to no hockey. Instead I started watching NASCAR.
In your article you wrote: "NASCAR is confident it can get bigger and better, reaching into urban markets where subways and taxis are preferred modes of transportation and stock car racing (rightly or wrongly) is considered the sport of simpletons."
Rightly or wrongly? How about just wrongly. Can you honestly claim that it could be either? I am well-aware of how the rest of the country views the South. We are not all inbred hicks down here.
Red Springs, N.C.
Fair enough. Anyone who thinks this is merely the sport of simpletons is flat-out wrong.
I have been a longtime fan since the early '80s as a young teen. The love of the sport got me into racing myself. Now on Sundays if I'm watching a race, I either fall asleep for a short nap before my night of racing or, if the wife asks if I would like to go to Wal-Mart, I put my shoes on and then just look at the finishing lineup in the Monday newspaper.
Although you make some good points, I believe you are clutching at straws. NASCAR is No. 2 on TV and growing. NHL has never been good to watch on TV. There are empty seats at hockey games all over the country. Every seat in every NASCAR race is sold out. These races occur in all four corners of the country. NASCAR is the future and TV execs are fully aware of this.
New Orleans, La.
I don't think the sport has slipped, but I do think NASCAR has to be careful not to alienate its base.
I have gone to every race I could since 1987. I live next to Bristol Motor Speedway, but I feel like we "the older fan base" are being sold out to the greed that totally involves NASCAR now. They don't care about the tradition, the lifestyle that goes with the Southern racing family. I think in my lifetime, we will see a big decline in NASCAR popularity, because the fans that "made" racing what it is today are forgotten in this "new" Bill France Jr. equation.
Some of us longtime (35 years) fans might regard the golden age of NASCAR ending on February 18, 2001. That's when the new TV partners took over, and we lost Dale.
Why should NASCAR be different from any other sport? The bottom line for sports now seems to be alienating the true sports fan and catering to the corporate types who are more interested in "being seen" than the sport itself.
TOYOTA IN DAYTONA (Feb. 13: "A brand new world")
Great article. It is one of the few I have seen to shed a more accurate view on what "Buy American" means. Thank you, keep it up, although I am sure the bashing you will get for the article will far outweigh the praise.
P.S. I own a Toyota Tundra.
El Paso, Texas
I just started selling cars at Ft. Myers Toyota last week. I've already heard from customers about their mixed feelings buying a Japanese car. But, they aren't Japanese! They are Made In America – in Kentucky – by Americans.
When customers buy from me, they are supporting an American family. They support the dealer who is American, the secretaries, mechanics, parts, service and prep department, all Americans. There isn't a citizen of Japan in our entire dealership of over 250 people.
As a NASCAR fan and an American who served in the military, I'm proud to work for Toyota. I'm not bothered at all by it. In fact, I started working for Toyota after my job with Sony was sent offshore to India. Thanks again for pointing out the obvious to the oblivious.
Ft. Myers, Fla.
I will never watch the trucks again. Send the Japs home.
Excellent article, I hope it helps people realize that their "American car" just isn't so anymore. The problem is that a lot of people can't accept the facts and use their lack of knowledge to badmouth a project like Toyota's truck deal. I can't wait to see the comments after Toyota wins their first Cup race.
Veracruz, Republic of Panama
Actually, I was pleasantly surprised when about 80 percent of the mail was positive to my position. Many of the negative ones went unsigned, which as a policy I won't print.
I just finished reading "A brand new world" and wanted to say thanks for having the cajones to write it. Narrow-minded, hypocritical guys like Jimmy Spencer are the reason so many people outside of auto racing have stereotyped NASCAR and its fans. That's unfortunate.
Comments such as Spencer's also reinforce the idea that NASCAR is not a welcoming place for people of color. It is still shocking to see a crowd of 200,000 that is virtually all white. But if you were an Asian-American considering attending a race, how do you not think twice after hearing that crap from Spencer? NASCAR will never be a true national sport as long as its fan base is devoid of huge segments of the population.
After 30 years of going to at least three races a year in NASCAR, I quit because of TOYS (Toyota). This was an American sport thru southern boys that had little money to work with, then Japs are going to hand out money to whoever will accept it. Can't wait to see the stands become empty.
It is refreshing to see a journalist take on a potentially hot issue and actually speak the truth. All too often today we see too many articles written with a bias either toward special interest groups or politics that don't come anywhere near to telling the truth. Jimmy Spencer should take a close look at where his paycheck comes from and Chrysler's profits go before he opens up his wide mouth to expose his narrow mind.
Kansas City, Mo.
"Buying American" means buying a product that's made by an American-based company. One in which the proceeds stay in this country (U.S.A.). When you purchase a Toyota the money goes to Japan. People have a way of justifying the purchase of a foreign product by saying it was made in USA, thus creating jobs on American soil. If the void was filled with American products made on American soil we'd all be better off.
But American companies Ford and GM manufacture lots of cars in Mexico, so you have to be careful. I support the UAW, and anyone else interested in doing the same can check out their web site (www.uaw.org) where there is a list of all the cars its members make, for both foreign and domestic companies. Pick a Ford or GM off that list and it's about as American as you can get these days, I guess.
As a U.S. born and bred, through and through New Englandah living overseas, it's an embarrassment to see idiots like Roush and Spencer dissing the Japanese or anyone else, for that matter. As I write this, I'm sitting in a hotel in Seoul, Korea, setting up a 100 percent Massachusetts-owned company's office selling 100 percent American-developed software to ... Hyundai, Kia, etc.
I live in Germany and our top customers are the German car companies. In Japan take a guess who is using our stuff to speed up and test the development of their cars for racing, production, etc? American software developing Japanese cars/trucks so that they can be good enough to race in a great American race.
KURT BUSCH (Feb. 14: "No love lost")
I think Kurt Busch has taken a pretty bum rap. The whole thing with Jimmy Spencer (whom I think is awesome) was blown way out of proportion. It's a sad day when the fans of NASCAR start siding with the words of a driver like Bobby Gordon.
Kurt Busch has a lot of potential and will go far in NASCAR. I think he will one day be a champion of this sport. Kurt just needs to remain focused on the job at hand and press his way to the front. Good things will come for this driver and his team.
Why does the driver of the No. 97 car not understand the fans' disgust with him? Simple Kurt: Do most think you paid your dues? Hell no! Are you really like the good ole boys of the past? Hell no. They backed it up off the track as well as on! Are we tired of the new breed of drivers (No. 97, No. 12)? Hell Yeah!
Lake in the Hills, Ill.
Kurt Busch drives hard and gives paybacks when due. Sounds a lot like Earnhardt Sr. ... also a villain to some. Keep promoting that style of racing and the sport will continue to grow its fan base.
DALE JR. WINS (Feb. 15: "Little E's day in the sun")
As a die-hard fan of No. 3, I am so glad to see that No. 8 has brought so much of his father's style of racing to NASCAR. To hear Dale Jr. say that his father was in the car beside him, watching him take the checkered flag at Dale-tona only shows the many personal obstacles this young man has had to overcome in the past three years ... Thanks for the great article.
GEORGE STEINBRENNER (Feb. 16: "Big Stein: A fan's dream")
I just wanted to let you know how refreshing it is to see a flip side to the A-Rod trade. I hold a lot of respect for you for not just following the flock and rehashing the same, tired, "George Steinbrenner is bad for baseball" argument.
With the billions upon billions of dollars sitting in the coffers of guys like Carl Pohlad (of the poor, poor Minnesota Twins), it's nice when someone acknowledges that while Steinbrenner can get out of hand to say the least, blame for other teams' inability to compete shouldn't lie in New York; rather, it should be with owners who have the money yet don't spend it.
No argument here ... I would, however, like to point out that should they fail to win the World Series or (heaven forbid!) even make the playoffs, the Yankees would not be the first team to have the best team on paper and still come up short. Too many things can happen over the course of a season (injuries, off-years etc) to ground the Good Ship George on a sand bar.
Then it will be fun to watch him fume.
All part of the entertainment. I'm not convinced he has a better team than Boston and I think everyone is sleeping on the Orioles.
I guess next year Nomar will be asked to play second base and be next to his friends Jeter and A-Rod. This really has to stop and Bud Selig knows that there is no parity or never can be as long as this is allowed. A hard salary cap is needed.
I don't argue that baseball needs to examine its situation, but until that is done, to use a horribly cheesy phrase from a few years back: Hate the game not the player.
As usual, you have hit the nail right on the head.
No one called Jerry Buss evil when he went out and signed Gary Payton and Karl Malone this past summer. Nobody twitched when Detroit scarfed up two of the top four (arguably) goaltenders in hockey. No one in Europe whinges (yes, whinges) when Manchester United signed Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Louis Saha and let David Beckham leave last summer.
George has his faults ... One of them though is not (his willingness) to reinvest his millions into his team, though. At a point in time when baseball itself is slipping from the national consciousness, a little revolution isn't all a bad thing.
I am a transplanted New Yorker living in Chicago. I am sick and tired of how Cub fans moan about the Yankees and the way they spend money. I absolutely agree with you and your comment regarding how poorly and cheaply the Tribune runs the Cubs.
If the Cubs were owned by an individual with a competitive drive and not a corporation concerned with its stock price and profit margins, then the franchise could be just about as big as the Yankees. The Cubs have a national TV deal, a national fan base and dominate a big market. Another half-dozen teams aren't far behind. But none are as well run on the business side as the Yankees. Steinbrenner deserves credit for taking the Yankees from big to monstrous.