Manifold destiny

Balls, pucks & monster trucks
By RICK WORMWOOD  |  February 23, 2011

The media is great at remembering anniversaries, mostly because those dates give us something to write about. Just recently there were articles commemorating the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and about President Reagan's 100th birthday. This past weekend brought us another such reminder: 10 years have passed since stock-car racing giant Dale Earnhardt was killed in a wreck during the last turn of the 2001 Daytona 500.

As someone unfamiliar with the finer points of auto racing, I sought help understanding from a friend, the pride of Morristown, Tennessee, fantasy author D.A. Adams (check out his Brotherhood of Dwarves on Amazon). An avowed racing fan, Adams once spent a summer working in souvenir sales on the NASCAR circuit. We went to the University of Memphis together. (Go Tigers!) To my surprise, Adams had some harsh words for racing. "To me, in the last 20 years NASCAR turned its back on hardcore fans," Adams said. "Look at Darlington Speedway, one of the most historic tracks in America. Darlington was always sold out. But instead of focusing on competition, (NASCAR) just ask, how many people can we fit inside the fence? They kept chasing the dollar." Darlington, which seats 75,000, lost one of its two Sprint Cup Series races, the Southern 500, held every Labor Day weekend since 1950, to the larger Auto Club Speedway, in California. Adams likened this NASCAR trend to NHL teams leaving Canada to play in large, Southern American cities. (I guarantee, someone in Winnipeg is still crying in their Labatt's Blue over the Jets relocating to Phoenix.) "It's great for a few years, but then it wears off, because the south isn't hockey country," Adams said.

But the south is NASCAR country, and the allure of the #3 car hasn't faded since that terrible last turn in Daytona. Why? According to Adams, it's because Earnhardt represented a blue-collar sensibility shared by NASCAR fans. "Dale Earnhardt never had shit. He grew up as poor as could be," Adams explained. "He came from nothing, and yet he had this iron will that he was going to be successful. People just admired that. The tenacious, I am going to win mentality. To half the fans he was the hero, to the other half he was the villain.

"He's the icon of what (fans) wished they could do with their own lives, and the people who hated him hated him for the same reason. He put people in the stands," Adams said. To him, Earnhardt's determination to win can only be likened to another sports icon, Michael Jordan. "I know that sounds nuts, but it's true," Adams said. "If you and Michael Jordan are both walking to a bus stop, Jordan is going to get there before you. He's going to make sure of it. It was the same way with Earnhardt. If you were leading a race with three laps to go, and he was behind you, everybody — the drivers, the people in the stands, the commentators — everybody knew that he would do anything he had to do to win that race.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: News Features , Sports, Holidays, NASCAR,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY RICK WORMWOOD
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   SENDING OFF THE BAXTER SCHOOL’S MOST NOTORIOUS ABUSER  |  December 19, 2013
    A sadistic, voracious pedophile whose globe-spanning career of devouring children would ultimately prove long and completely unchecked, Dr. Robert Kelly was Mackworth Island’s original vampire, the keystone figure of the school’s dark past
  •   STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE: PROFESSORIAL NOTES  |  September 25, 2013
    Unsolicited free advice from a former college freshman who has been a college professor for eight years.
  •   WHAT THE PERSON STANDING IN THE FRONT OF THE ROOM REALLY WANTS YOU TO KNOW  |  September 12, 2013
    Matriculation was only the first hurdle, though, and at the risk of seeming gloomy at such a hopeful time, the truth is that a great many of the fall semester’s shiny, new students will never wear the cap and gown.
  •   NEVER GO FAR  |  July 25, 2013
     Without a little Big Star
  •   FINALITY  |  June 13, 2012
    Every June, students wrestle with finals, before either graduating or going off to their summer jobs, waitressing in places that specialize in fried full-belly clams.

 See all articles by: RICK WORMWOOD