A friend in college once said: “NASCAR shouldn’t be considered a sport unless the drivers have to run to their cars.”
I disagree — it still wouldn’t be a sport (kidding).
Anyway, auto racing sure has become more interesting over the past few weeks.
You see, in an effort to showcase its drivers’ personalities and reinvigorate the sport, NASCAR last year instituted a conduct policy called “Boys, have at it,” which really isn’t a policy at all.
More like a parent taking two feuding siblings, pumping them full of Red Bull and Xenadrine, locking them in a room and telling them to “sort it out.”
Let the madness begin!
But what’s truly astounding is that the sport’s governing body didn’t foresee the potential for exploitation of “Boys, have at it.” Apparently they figured a bunch of modestly educated amped-up gearheads would have the good sense to know when enough was enough.
“I know you cut me off back on Turn 3 and nearly smashed my car to bits, but I’ve been thinking and, well, let’s just work on toning it down a bit. Friends?”
What’s actually transpired is closer to the first example, with the latest spat erupting between popular drivers Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, a.k.a. the pride of Bakersfield.
In response, NASCAR officials have been maddeningly vague about what’s considered crossing the line. It appears, at least for now, that they’ve embraced the philosophy of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. (When asked to define obscenity, he famously replied, “I know it when I see it.”)
Still, I can’t help but wonder if NASCAR sort of needs this. Attendance and TV ratings for stock-car racing have declined since 2007. And there’s nothing like some drama and excitement to jump-start a franchise (unless of course you’re the L.A. Lakers).
So what’s the call: Are on- and off-track altercations actually good for the sport, or should NASCAR reconsider — or, at least, redefine — letting its boys have at it?
As always, I invite your feedback.