Monday, October 17, 2005

NASCAR: The Cracker's Sport

From today's "What Next?" file, David Wright's latest Village Voice column asks readers "Why Does America Love NASCAR? Hint: It's not Black." It is Wright's hypothesis, which he argues (disjointedly) by reference to the movies "3" (ESPN's Dale Earnhardt biopic) and "Friday Night Lights," that NASCAR's popularity is principally due to the racial composition of the drivers, pitcrews and fans:
By saying NASCAR isn't black, I mean it isn't African American. And NASCAR is not at all black: Not in the cockpits of the stockcars; not on the pit crews; rarely, if at all, among the multitudes filling the 160,000-seat speedway stands. It's considered an all-American sport, inclusive and meritocratic, but to see it on TV or in person, it does have a certain flavor.
Not all of America loves NASCAR. It's mostly those who live in the "red" swath of middle America, an area that includes the South and the Southwest and that helped elect George Bush last November. These are the ones who punched Dubya's chad, the ones who did so purportedly as a vote for "values." So significant is this group that television networks are increasingly gearing their programming toward it.
Ummm . . . what??? Later, in the same article, Wright goes on to explain that NASCAR's popularity has something to do with its being free from the affrontery of black athletes. In Wright's world, Dale Earnhardt is the white man's paragon of virtue. In Wright's world, whites view black athletes, from Latrell Spreewell to Barry Bonds, as predatory, showboating, loud-mouthed, ingrates:
Where this idealized "Dale Earnhardt" is Everyman, today's American Sportsman has become, in Sly Stone parlance, Everyday People. That is to say, he's black. Specifically, urban black: hiphop; flamboyantly flashy; naturally gifted but lazy. The American Sportsman/black athlete personifies the opposite of the values that the NASCAR fans seem to hold dear. As opposed to the NASCAR driver presented in 3, a white man who leathers his hands working with tools and relying on his daring to earn victories, the American Sportsman/black athlete squanders his God-given talent and is loud-talking and brash. He is a millionaire whiner who complains about how inadequate is his pay (Latrell Sprewell), or who brawls with paying fans (Ron Artest). He is lascivious, perhaps even a rapist (Kobe Bryant). And there's reason to think he's a cheat (Barry Bonds). The 2004 US Olympic basketball team—which, despite boastful predictions, won only Bronze—represents the worst of the American Sportsman and, like that shamed team, has brought disgrace on the country before the entire world.
This, on its own terms, is stupidity on stilts. If, as Wright argues, whites have no time for sports whose star categories are populated by blacks, how then does he explain the popularity of the NFL, which dwarfs the popularity of NASCAR when the two go head-to-head on Fall Sundays. More to the point, how does he explain that professional hockey (a sport every bit as white as NASCAR) went awol for an entire season and no one other than Gary Bettman acted as if they noticed?

Hmmm. NASCAR is popular. NASCAR is white. NASCAR is popular because it is white. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, anyone? Inasmuch as Wright's argument is nothing more than a wordy logical fallacy, one suspects there must be something else going on here. What is that something else? Oh, the usual -- a gratuitous slam at Jeebus-Land, home of the unthinking crackers who elected George Bush:
The movie that we, as a people, are making to demonstrate who we, as a country, are in the post-9/11 world is regrettably just as shallow and fantastical as 3 and Friday Night Lights. Cast in the leading role is a man who, playing to this all-American narrative, has presented himself as the idealized Everyman, as a sort of politician "Dale Earnhardt:" tough; resolute; a uniter ("One man, one sport, one nation") whose multi-racial (if race-neutral) team is as hard-working and driven as him. For our president/hero, everything is facilely—and falsely—black and white, part of an "axis of evil" or of a "crusade" for righteousness and light, and no adversity will keep him from winning against those who "hate freedom."

Skeptical audience members, here as well as abroad, are disturbed by the movie we are being shown. Unfortunately, none of us can walk out of this theater.
Wright's just here to do some stale Bush-bashing; all the rest is window dressing. I guess Wright figured the only way to get anyone to read his words was to smear NASCAR and its fans. In that conclusion, he was unassailably correct.