People who read this blog, or people who work with me or people who are friends or even just some people I've met casually in a restaurant or on a bench know how angry I got at the primary elections this year. They know that I essentially bailed on politics. I quit reading the blogs and the newspapers and watching the t.v. shows. My Times and Newsweeks stacked up unread. I paid barely any attention to the presidential campaigns.
Instead, I got involved in NASCAR so that my weekends revolved around the races. Instead of NPR, I listened to the NASCAR channel on my Sirius radio. Instead of MSNBC and CNN, I watched ESPN and SPEED on my television. I went to NASCAR.com on my computer instead of WashingtonWeekly.com.
But now I'm as angry at NASCAR as I am at politics and about the same thing, only with a slightly different twist. One of the reasons I became so bitter about politics was the way the political media put their own special spin on their portrayal of the candidates, as they have been doing for years now. Al Gore, for instance - that brilliant man who'd led a life of public service was sold to us as a foolish and arrogant liar. Meanwhile, there was George Bush, the cool western cowboy, the one you'd like to hang out with at the barbeque, you know, the fun guy to have a beer with. The voters bought into it and so we ended up with George in the White House and how's that working out for the country?
Then there was the next presidential election where the media played the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad that slandered John Kerry about a million times for free before they got around to telling us, "uh, by the way, it isn't true."
This time, the media was in love with the idea of Barack Obama so they personified him as just this side of the Second Coming, meanwhile, branding Bill Clinton as a racist and engaging in the most brutal forms of blatant sexism against Hillary.
So, off to I went to NASCAR and what a thrill when Jimmie Johnson put himself into the record books, matching Cale Yarborough by winning back to back to back championships. Three in a row, what a feat! Something it took three decades to happen. After that accomplishment, you'd assume Jimmie would be a lock for the NASCAR.com Driver of the Year award, wouldn't you?
Well, if you assumed that, you'd be wrong because the NASCAR media decided winning the championship wasn't enough. They liked Carl Edwards better. He was more exciting. He had more personality. You know, he's the one you'd rather hang out with at the barbeque, the fun guy to have a beer with. I guess they think it's better to come in second with pizazz than to overcome the diversity of a difficult first part of the season, then run a flawless Chase and win.
The NASCAR media tried to do to Carl and Jimmie what the political media did to Barack and Hillary - spin it the way they wanted us to see it. Jimmie was "bland" and "vanilla", don't you know (and geez, people, even if you really feel that way, get your thesauruses out and learn some new freakin' words instead of repeating the same two over and over and over again, you're supposed to be creative writers, for God's sake). Carl, on the other hand, was "personable" and "likeable" and whatever, whatever, whatever, and he did that cool little backflip every time he won.
The good thing about NASCAR, unlike politics, is that the reporters can't influence who wins the actual race. NASCAR voters don't determine who is in front when the checkered flag drops. That's speed and skill and strategy and California cool and that's Jimmie. They can call anyone they want Driver of the Year but Jimmie still has the championship trophy....and the one before that and the one before that.