February 25, 2005

A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: OR, WHY GALILEO SHOULD HAVE BURNED:

I wonder if I might beg your indulgence and even asjk your participation in a brief thought experiment. The Daytona 500 was run on Sunday--the Great American Race--and some details about it are of interest. For one thing the political associations, such that democrats were recently fretting over their inability to appeal to NASCAR fans. Also, the odd fact that it is pretty much the Superbowl of NASCAR, but is the first race rather than the last. And apparently it know gets a bigger tv audience than the NBA Finals. But, at any rate, suppose you were trying to explain the race, its attraction, and its importance to someone, how would you rate the following factors (you needn't do them all, maybe just the first two or three):

The racetrack

The drivers and their stories

The cars, their owners and sponsors

The qualities of auto racing

The pit crews and the work they do

The infield

The television coverage

The win itself, the checkered flag/trophy/prize money

UPDATE: It was an unforgivable parlor trick, I know, but you'll note from the comments that the answer is not, as Galileo and the Materialists insist, the infield, despite the physical fact that the race circles it. Indeed, nothing is further from the center of the story than the geometrical center of the race.


Posted by Orrin Judd at February 25, 2005 9:53 AM
Comments

1. The track
2. The infield
3. The TV coverage
4. The cars/owners
5. Pit crews and the work they do.

Posted by: Tom Wall at February 24, 2005 9:34 PM

Coming from one conservative who feels the same way about autoracing that OJ does about soccer, I'd guess the way I'd like it explained is...

1.The qualities of auto racing
2.The drivers and their stories
3.The cars, their owners and sponsors

Posted by: bb at February 24, 2005 9:55 PM

1. The qualities of auto racing (noting for example the various inherent differences between NASCAR and Indy racing).
2. The racetrack (and how different ones each present their own unique challenge).
3. The drivers (their records but not necessarily their personal stories).

Posted by: MB at February 24, 2005 10:31 PM

this one kind of throws me; most of those factors are the same for any nascar race (jeff gordon is jeff gordon wherever he races). since all nascar races are on oval tracks i guess by "the track" they mean the sentimental signifigance of that particular track. what i would look for as far as signifigance is something about the traditions of nascar, but that wasn't really mentioned. so i have to say -- none of the above.

Posted by: cjm at February 24, 2005 10:47 PM

Having about zero knowledge of the sport and not having looked at the other responses, I would say I'd be interested in:

1. Pit crews
2. Qualities
3. Cars

Posted by: David Hill, The Bronx at February 24, 2005 11:00 PM

-Drivers/stories
-Racetrack
-Cars/owners/sponsores
-Qualities of racing
-Pit crews
-Infield
-Television coverage

(If I could add one, I would put the chance of accident in there, since in so many races the possibility of and the aftermath/affect on the race are among of the main forces that attract more casual race car fans to watch.)

Posted by: John at February 24, 2005 11:56 PM

cjm: Not all NASCAR tracks are ovals (they occasionally use road courses like Formula 1 does) and even then not all ovals are the same. They come in different lengths, widths, banking degree on corners, surfaces, etc., all of which affect the driver and race.

Posted by: MB at February 25, 2005 12:30 AM

I always assumed that the reason people went to races was to get drunk with hillbilly chicks who will take their shirts off. Otherwise, they could stay home, get drunk on the front porch and watch traffic there.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 25, 2005 1:10 AM

Auto racing is always about the drivers. Period.

Oval racing is about rooting for a particular driver because the difficulty of the racing itself is not so obvious to the fan -- kind of like horse racing.

The reason why oval racing is superior was perfectly illustrated by that last race: anyone can win. You don't have Michael Schumacher ahead by 2 minutes, having lapped everyone but 3 cars. And you get points for duct taping up your car or working on the engine and getting it back out there. It's like real life, but way more dangerous.

Posted by: Randall Voth at February 25, 2005 3:49 AM

Factors 1 thru 5 would be accidents. Put in a figure 8 track and watch the excitement. Do hot chicks really take off their tops? If so, I'm goin.

Posted by: AllenS at February 25, 2005 4:58 AM

Frankly, I always thought the appeal of NASCAR was first and foremost the chance that you might see someone get barbecued in an accident, second that it's a good excuse to sit around in your pickup truck with a case of beer and get polluted, and third, that there are lots of attractive, if inebriated, young women in the infield who will bare their breasts in response to the slightest encouragement.

Posted by: Bart at February 25, 2005 6:27 AM

NASCAR is about the drivers...nearly exclusively.

The closest analogy I have ever seen to it is reading of the Blues/Greens clashes in Constantinople in Gibbon, where the proponents of various chariot drivers became so embittered they formed political parties and factions which split on nearly every major fact and issue of daily life.

The animosity and socio-economic distinctions, or at least self-identifications of a Gordon fan versus an Earnhardt fan are real, not just assumed on weekends. Such people loathe each other.

I do not have the capacity to become a blind adherent of a man I know little or nothing about as some do, nor that great an interest in auto racing. Living in a state which buys more NASCAR tickets (in absolute numers, not per capita) despite being 49th in wealth and 42nd(?) in population, it remains a source of endless bafflement to me.

Posted by: cornetofhorse at February 25, 2005 9:25 AM

Mine is similar to bb's list, with 2 & 3 transposed.

I don't follow NASCAR, but I do follow NHRA drag racing and landspeed racing closely. One thing must be realized: watching the race on TV and watching it at the track are two completely different propositions (that is probably generalizable to any major sport).

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at February 25, 2005 9:46 AM

He only knew a single rule
Stand on it, and turn left

--Drivin' Sideways, The Ballad of Junior Johnson

You're a wild man, oj.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 25, 2005 10:11 AM


I'm not a fan and have never watched a race on TV or at the track, I was, however, at the track for about 15 minutes during the race on a professional call and can testify that the atmosphere is exhilarating. I was within a few feet of the track and noise and the ground trembling as the cars whizzed by took my breath away. I couldn't believe the drivers ability to snake in and out of the other cars at speeds that were truly a blur to me.

Just that brief glimpse made me see why racing is so popular. BTW -- I didn't see any topless women. Perhaps it was too cool in Daytona last weekend.

Posted by: erp at February 25, 2005 10:19 AM

It's an interesting one but I'm not sure it works.

Is there some kind of Feyerabend-style post-structuralist truth-relativity going on here OJ?

You could find youself in some odd company going down this route.

Posted by: Brit at February 25, 2005 10:29 AM

Brit:

Post-modernism is pre-modern and nothing more than a truism. The post-modernists' mistake was that they thought the failure of Reason meant the truth could not be known. In fact, all it does is demonstrate the primacy of faith.

Posted by: oj at February 25, 2005 10:40 AM

"BTW -- I didn't see any topless women. Perhaps it was too cool in Daytona last weekend."

Why bother? You could always go watch a freeway interchange during rush hour.

Of course I had forgotten about the crash factor. Its always cool to see a crash. Of course, If you live near a busy interchange.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 25, 2005 10:47 AM

OJ:

I'm not convinced that you can avoid lumping yourself with Derrida, Lacan, Foucault, Holocaust-deniers, deconstructionists and other purveyors of mumbo-jumbo.

Care to explain how you differ, or provide a link to an earlier manifesto?

All your Daytona analogy shows to me is that some people are most interested in the stories. The geometry still exists, whether they care or don't.

Posted by: Brit at February 25, 2005 11:05 AM

Brit:

They're right. Indeed, they're trite. We knew all along that Reason didn't work, no matter how much the Rationalist faithful wiished it to. They just don't understand the implications.

That you can not prove via Reason that you even exist doesn't mean the issue is in doubt, just that you have to rely on faith.

Posted by: oj at February 25, 2005 11:20 AM

That just sounds exactly like something a post-structuralist Holocaust-denier would say to justify arguing that the 'text' of the Holocaust history can be interpreted according to one's beliefs/wishes/faith, and that therefore 'the Holocaust didn't happen' is equally as valid as 'the Holocaust did happen.'

If Faith and Reason are identical, why do you insist on prefering one over the other?

Posted by: Brit at February 25, 2005 11:27 AM

Brit:

Yes, there's no rational way of proving the Holocaust happens. Do you believe it did or not?

Posted by: oj at February 25, 2005 11:35 AM

Reason provides a basis for which version to believe.

Faith does nothing except provide a thumb to suck.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 25, 2005 11:39 AM

I believe it because of the weight of evidence, including documentation, photographs, evidence from the sites of the death camps and the testimony of survivors, and I deny your claim that there are no rational ways of proving that the Holocaust happens.

I furthermore dismiss your truth-relativism as mumbo-jumbo of the most dismal and loony-left variety, sir.

Posted by: Brit at February 26, 2005 4:55 AM

Brit:

ooops, you already assumed you exist.

Posted by: oj at February 26, 2005 9:23 AM

Ooh, far out, maaaan.

Posted by: Brit at February 26, 2005 11:04 AM
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