Sunday, July 30, 2006

TAS: Stock cars and fisticuffs

February 17, 1993

Let's conduct a little thought experiment today, okay? I'll say a phrase and all of you shout out the first thing that comes to mind.

Professional auto racing.

If you shouted, "Boring--except for the crashes," "Fat guys with huge beer guts," or "Pointless!" you are all wrong.

If, however, you shouted, "Fights!" you would either be clairvoyant or a fat guy with a beer gut who happened to see the Daytona 500 last Sunday.

Here's what happened.

The Daytona was nearing its completion when a caution flag came out. Immediately, the cars began to slow. But, Bobby Hillan and Al Unser, Jr. managed to get in each others way and their cars bumped. Unser managed to stop his car on the edge of the grass and away from danger, but Hillan rolled off of the grass and back onto the track.

Kyle Petty tried to avoid Hillan's coasting vehicle by slowing down considerably and driving near the outer wall, but he could not guess correctly what Hillan was trying to do and plowed directly into Hillan's car.

Petty leaned out of his window and gave Hillan an opinion on his driving skills, then began to walk away. Hillan obviously took offense with Petty's words and chased him down. They again exchanged words and again Petty walked away. Then Petty turned around again and let Hillan have a few more angry words.

By this time Hillan had enjoyed just enough of Petty's opinions and decided to give Kyle some of his own. They began pushing and a fight looked imminent until the race officials arrived and broke up the forthcoming punches.

According to Petty, he only asked Bobby why he had not used his brakes to avoid entering the track. Hillan countered by saying that he brakes were not functioning, or he would have used them.

Hillan summed up his feelings by calling it a stupid accident. Petty obviously saw it differently, because he was in contention to win when the accident occurred. Petty did manage to complete the last twelve laps to finish in 31st place.

What a breakthrough! I mean, come on, auto racing is by far the most boring sport televised. Anything that can make it the slightest bit more interesting would be a godsend.

Why don't the auto racing gurus take this precedent and expand upon it? Sure! Can't you see it now? Pretty soon we can combine two equally mindless sports--auto racing and boxing--into a huge pay-per-view event!

Riddick Bowe and his challenger get in their cars and race around the track until they run into each other. Then they exit their vehicles and beat the hell out of each other until someone eats the asphalt.

As the craze catches on they can expand the matches into some sort of all-star event. Sports stars known to have a habit of wrapping cars around lightpoles like Jose Canseco will be invited, and the last one who can drive away in the car he arrived in wins.

The only reason we watch auto racing anyway is to see cars flip end over end, right? The problem is, the cars are built so safely, no one even catches fire anymore. At least following my plan, spectators might get to see a little blood now and then.



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TAS: Farewell to Arthur Ashe

February 10, 1993

He was the only African American male to ever win a singles championship at Wimbledon. He was the only African American to win at the U.S. Open. He meant more to the world than being just another tennis player--and now he is gone.

Arthur Ashe died on Saturday from pneumonia related to the AIDS virus.

I have always enjoyed watching tennis and I have always enjoyed trying to play tennis. I wish that I was old enough to remember Arthur Ashe when he was in his prime.

They say that he had a fluid style very distinct from other players. They say that he always played at his best. Jimmy Connors--the ultimate showman of two generations of tennis players said that he always put on a good show for the spectators. He certainly was a great tennis player, but he was more as well.

Ashe enjoyed the distinction of being a groundbreaker. He helped surmount the color barrier in tennis in much the same way that Jackie Robinson surmounted the same barrier in baseball, but Ashe never received the same amount of praise--until he died.

It is a sad fact that many deserving people remain unknown or underappreciated until they are gone. But I suppose that is the lesson taught in It's A Wonderful Life--we never know how important someone is until they are gone.

The papers were filled with tributes to him on Monday. Martina Navratilova called him "an extraordinary human being who transcended his sport, his race, religion, and nationality . . . ." President Clinton called him "the embodiment of true sportsmanship."

Everyone was filled with words to say about the man that grew up in Richmond, Virginia and helped give other African American tennis players like Zina Garrison a chance to fulfill their dreams. Even Frenchman Yannick Noah is in Ashe's debt. "It was thanks to him that I could have a career in tennis," Noah said. "It was him who, when I was young, gave me the dream."

Sadly, Ashe's life was shortened by AIDS, which he contracted from an unscreened blood transfusion while undergoing heart surgery in 1983.

The news of his illness did not become official until last year however, and it made big time news. Following closely on Magic Johnson's admission of having AIDS, Ashe was shown as another sports hero stricken with the disease.

But I don't care what he died of. So many people die of AIDS all the time these days--that is not the point. Ashe was more than a tennis player. Certainly his life revolved around the game, but he tried to be more. I hope that people will not remember him as just a tennis player or as just someone famous who died of AIDS, but as someone who tried to open more doors for the underprivileged and the oppressed.

I think that is what he truly deserved.



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Feasting on Asphalt--another missed opportunity

I think I've said this prior to now, but it seems that everywhere I look now I see my dissertation topic staring me in the face. Is this like that joke where God keeps sending flood victims rescue craft and they keep waiting for God himself to come down and pick them up?

Anyway, the latest incarnation of my unfulfilled million dollar idea is Alton Brown's new Food Network mini-show Feasting on Asphalt. It debuted last night at 9 pm (one hour) and will play for, I think, the next three weeks. The premise is that Brown and his small band of TV producers and camera men will travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, keeping OFF of the Interstates and taking what the road gives them--food and lodging wise.

Since this is a cooking show, the focus is on the food, but he doesn't just pop in, eat, and drive away. At least in this first episode, he hung out a bit with the owners, got some kitchen tips on how to make real, authentic local food, gives you history on the development of American roads and the service industries (restaurants) that sprung up to deal with them.

Certainly, Brown won't be spending time at McDonalds on this trip and probably won't be spending much time describing the history of franchise restaurants, but if you leave that (admittedly important) aspect out, he is touching on the subjects that I began writing about.

That is why I am putting this post about the show on WWYW?! instead of over on WWYG?! The subject is spiritually connected to what I am placing here.

I highly recommend that you give up an hour of your weekend to watch this show. You can tape/DVR it if you are usually out of the house on Saturday nights.

If you don't believe me, check out the website. It's well constructed, has nice features, and give you a good overview of what's going on.


Blogger David said...

A news article sent to me by my brother MSquared fits right into this post's sense of history and ideas that I have some connection to.

This article talks about the National Road, small towns, and even Zanesville. In the most recent phase of my research on the Interstate project, I focused (to a degree) on Zanesville, OH, home of the famous "Y" bridge.

I'll get that part of the story transcribed someday.

4:12 PM, July 30, 2006  

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