Aug

14

Lucille Ball was once asked which television shows she enjoyed. Upon reflection she mentioned Three’s Company. As you remember this show’s premise was a bachelor sharing an apartment with two single women. The original cast included John Ritter who played the handsome and very available Jack Tripper and supported by Suzanne Somers, as the gorgeous yet ditzy Chrissy Snow, with Joyce DeWitt as the cute yet practically minded Janet Wood. Three’s Company was one of many situation comedies of its era that had very little depth to it and whose story-lines were very simple and oftentimes insulting to one’s intelligence. Although fun to watch, the show was extremely transparent and cutesy. Surprisingly or not, it enjoyed a run of seven years on television and spun off a sequel entitled The Ropers.The interviewer asked Ms. Ball, who took her acting and role as executive producer of Desilu Productions very seriously, why she would watch such a basic show as this. Her remark was “Sometimes you just don’t want to have to think a lot.”

I muse over this quote from Lucille Ball when I observe the great and ever increasing popularity of NASCAR racing. Only Professional football ranks higher in popularity in American Sports, and NASCAR has become hugely popular with women. If you have ever been to a race you will see this extraordinary phenomenon at work. Fans come adorned with t-shirts exhibiting their favorite driver and they outfit their cars with numbers reflecting their car and/or man. They flock to on-site retail trailers and consume great volumes of memorabilia which are sold during the event. Many, will drive their Motor Homes, buses and other RVs from all over the country and park them in the infield of the track for the week. Dale Earnhardt ‘the intimidator’, probably the most popular of all modern day drivers and founder of an amazing corporation that bears his name, is revered today as a messiah rivaling that of Elvis in popularity. He actually died on the most famous of all tracks on the last lap during a wild dash to the finish at the 2001 Daytona 500, almost like a great gladiator who is finally defeated in one definitive battle in the Roman Coliseum.

On the surface, NASCAR racing is extremely easy to follow. The cars go around in a circle very fast, and the first one to the finish line is the winner. In between, you have numerous crashes, mishaps and fights in the stands along with a few inebriated souls who may just pass out beside you. If you are lucky you might be given a free philosophy lesson from the gentleman or gentlewoman nearby who seems to be missing one too many teeth. You don’t have to pass a test, you don’t need a deep understanding of x’s and o’x or explain why a baseball diamond is 90 feet from each base, or even how soccer players can be offside and a game can end in a tie.

All that is required is to know a driver’s name, his car number and that Tom Cruise really didn’t win the Daytona 500. If you wish, you may sit in the stands for 4 plus hours while you drink your favorite beer or other form of spirit, moonshine included, smoke your particular brand of cigarette, eat your favorite type of fried food, all of which are prominently displayed on the automobiles which circle the track, and scream to your hearts content. During the race, you can complain about or admire Tony Stewart for being a driving hazard, voice your displeasure that Jeff Gordon is too good looking to win a race or wonder aloud whatever happened to Dick Trickle. It could be a very rewarding experience for those who happen to be wired that way.

In the end, perhaps that is all that the public-at-large really wants, something that allows them to find relief and escape their own world for a short time… and concomitantly, this is the role of industry, to find out what it is that the masses want and deliver it to them in the least abstruse way possible.

J. T. Holley replies:

Mr. Leslie’s assumptions about NASCAR are so far from reality that it isn’t funny. Knowing his poker background, I can assure you that 100% of the pit crews in NASCAR have forgotten more math than he knows. Half the Bubbas that he would sit down at the track beside could talk circles around him in regards to the nuances of racing and what it takes to triumph. My father was part of the #21 pit crew for eight years, and I grew up in NASCAR traveling the U.S. This is where I learned competition, very much as Vic did on the beaches and boardwalks of Brighton.


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