Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Will the real Super Bowl Sunday please stand up?

Sports on TV, for me, has always been football, baseball and basketball. Going to college in Michigan and then living two years in Detroit opened my eyes to the joys of sudden death playoff hockey. But that is as far as my sports watching habits really go.

I will admit the Olympics are a good thing for an insomniac like myself. I watched NBC’s late night primetime replay just about every night since the Torch was lit.

You have to admire passion. Seeing the Dutch go crazy for speed skating and the Norwegians and Italians for cross country skiing is fun to watch. I love how they adore their athletes and yet praise the champions of whatever sport they love regardless of nationality.

To me that deep of a love for sport transcends whatever preference I have. Yet at the same time, I have never seen the appeal of NASCAR. I will spare you the lame four left turns jokes or having your biggest race first garbage that uncreative writers who are haters make. My father wasn’t into cars, so I wasn’t. I could point a few drivers out of a line-up, but I couldn’t tell you who hates who or why. It is a world I have never visited.

On Sunday at 11 a.m., I conducted the first of what turned out to be 24 phone interviews that day. (Please don’t call and complain why your child wasn’t the 25th one. I called really, your phone was busy.) I had NBC on with the sound off watching the end of the TEAM USA hockey game. Before long, it evolved into NASCAR. I just kept working and never bothered to change the channel.

But I kept finding myself distracted and my eyes pulled to the screen. Finally I had to turn the sound back on. I know that the Daytona 500 is called the Super Bowl of racing, but why didn’t anyone ever tell me that meant for commercials too.

What great stuff!

There was one with some young kid and everyone was begging him to do his trademark back flip. He shook it off and then this old time racer guy (Mark Martin, I believe) radios a stunt double to take his place. He ohhs and ahhs the media and crowd with these great theatrical flips and lands behind a row of tires where Martin pops up waving to the crowd like he did it. Then the young guy says, “crazy old man.”

I liked the one with the UPS truck racing around the track and the UPS pit guys discussed how to make it go faster. And there was one with a retired driver waving like a madman in some tool truck.

For fans of Seinfeld, the Newman commercial was classic. The stars of NASCAR wake up one by one to find the number 12 shaved into their morning beards, each yells “Newman” in reference to Ryan Newman who apparently likes to sneak into fellow drivers’ rooms and play practical jokes. In ends with the punch line of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s number 8 shaved into the back of an unawares Newman’s head.

Junior’s number 8 also played a huge role in another great commercial. Playing off the NASCAR fan’s borderline obsession with a driver’s number, Earnhardt has a press conference announcing he is shaking up his team (which pokes at the criticism he had for switching team crews last season, the worst in his career). He tells the assembled media he is changing his number to six and half. His fans go crazy and panic before he says it is a joke.

I think my favorite was when several drivers including Junior, Jeff Gordon and defending champion Tony Stewart are together enjoying dinner at a high class restaurant and toast each other with their beer of choice. After all the friendly toasts, they each dump the beer on their own head. Earnahrdt’s yell cracked me up.

No wonder they have their biggest race first, they need the off-season to make all of those commercials. I didn’t count them because I didn’t think I would be watching, but no sports celebrities in any other sport does anywhere close to the number of commercials these guys do since Jordan in his prime or Joe Montana became a desperate has been.

As for the race, I paused the phone calls to watch the last eight laps and they didn’t finish those because of a yellow flag. I am fuzzy on why. But the interesting part was the post-game interviews. These guys really dislike each other. Best trash talk I have seen in some time.

Now I am not saying I will be joining a NASCAR fantasy league, or hanging out at the bar to watch a race (unless Merry Arts offers dollar drafts during races), but if I ever met a really hot chick who wanted me to watch NASCAR with her, I would. I might even try to figure out why Jimmy Johnson has so many haters.