Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Crossed Fingers

Much of NASCAR nation has been pissing and moaning about the Chase, the means by which the Sprint Cup Champion is chosen. Unhappy with a final ten race format in which only the top twelve drivers in the regular season get to participate, griper after griper, on the blogs and the radio, have presented their ideas for how to improve the method of selecting a champion.

Their main complaint is watching Jimmie Johnson, champion of the last two seasons, only driver but one to make it into every Chase since the process started, threatening history to be only one of two drivers ever to win three championships in a row, get a lead in the points race early on and hold it through track after track. Boring, they said. Jimmie was boring, our plain vanilla, ever courteous, un-cocky champion. The racing was boring - disregarding the spectacular crash at Talladega and Carl Edwards' kamikaze charge into the wall at Kansas in a video game style attempt to beat Jimmie and Jimmie's wild race through the field, passing car after car, from being a lap down to salvage a second at Atlanta and Carl's gamble that he could make it to the end of Texas when he should have been out of gas. Exciting? Nope, all that was boring.

As a new NASCAR fan, I've been struck about how much contempt NASCAR nation has for its champions. I thought sport was all about excellence....the thrill of seeing someone at the very top of his or her game, taking on and defeating all comers through skill and luck and heart. Prior to NASCAR, the only sport I've ever been seriously interested in was horseracing. To Thoroughbred aficionados, Secretariat is our version of Dale Earnhardt - an icon. But that doesn't mean we didn't celebrate Affirmed when he came along to be the new superhorse. We rooted for him when his achievements began to rival those of our hero. And it certainly doesn't mean that we aren't yearning to see another Triple Crown winner in our lifetime. We ache for another champion of champions. Not NASCAR. They belittle Jimmie's accomplishments which, of course, he achieved either because he and his team cheats or NASCAR cheats in his favor.

Poor Jimmie, he'd have been beloved if he'd been a horse instead of a NASCAR driver. Because for many in NASCAR, superb performance isn't welcome, especially if the superb performer is a freaking nice guy! They have their pantheon of great drivers and they want them to stay right there on that pedestal without competition (except perhaps for Dale, Jr...that would be acceptable).

The old days were the best and NASCAR has been going to hell in a handbasket ever since. Some of them threaten to turn completely away from their sport but seems like they don't stick to it because there they always are again commenting on how boring the next race was.

Now Carl Edwards has cut into Jimmie's points lead. I hate it. I admit I don't want suspense and I don't want exciting races. I just want my guy to win. I'd would have been happy if he'd clinched at Talladega or Charlotte or Martinsville. I'd like to see him go straight to the front and stay there in every race. That would be exciting for me! But Carl beat him by a bit at Atlanta and by quite a bit at Texas. Jimmie is now ahead by 106 points, not nearly enough to tamp down my stress (and probably not Jimmie and Chad's either). Seriously bad luck in one more race and Carl is within striking distance.

So, what I'd like to know is what the bitchers are thinking now? They've been notable by their silence so far. Are they feeling happier that the outcome is less sure than it was a week ago?

For me, I don't care how boring they think it is, I just want Jimmie to win.