Posts by Spencer:
Despite this being my first semester of graduate school, I have spent a considerable amount of time watching my team, the St. Louis Cardinals, play baseball. First they made an incredible September come-back (thank you Braves), and now they are mid series with their division rival, the Milwaukee Brewers, for a chance at the World Series. However, I feel it is important to point out that more than a chance to win the World Series is at stake. The true contest is about which beer company makes the best baseball stadium. I don’t drink, or even condone the libation, but considering the annual average of twenty gallons of beer consumed by those who drink, I think it is an important question. The Cardinal’s Busch Stadium has been rebuilt twice. The first one was built in 1920, but picked up the name Busch Stadium in 1953, and it was most recently rebuilt in 2006. It has a capacity for over 46,000 fans. The three stadiums over the years have welcomed six World Series titles, the most recent was in the inaugural year of the current stadium, 2006. On the other hand, the Brewers’ Miller Park holds 41,900 fans, and was built in 2001. It has not seen any Word Series titles, or even witnessed a World Series game. The conclusion it pretty obvious, but we’ll just let this NLCS decide it.
I try to be opened minded. I listen to other peoples’ views and take them into consideration. I like to try new things. I try to give everything a chance, so for the first time in my life, I ventured to the Richmond International Racetrack and watched a NASCAR race.
After parking my car, my brothers and I made our way to the track. As we traveled through rows of parked RVs, taking note of how far many of these people had traveled, we observed the excessively inebriated and overly robust characters also headed to the field. I found my single seat in the sea of 94,000 others, nestled between several fans holding anti-Kyle Busch signs, and other fans wearing gear touting Kyle Busch’s number. My brother pointed out that every race brings fans for every driver, and just as many haters too for each racer. After the name and number of every racer was announced over the loud speaker, to the cheers and jeers of everyone, there were several songs, events, activities, and then the race started. I sat and watched 400 laps, of 43 cars, with four left turns, which is more than 48000 lefts turns. 48000 left turns later I went home.
That is the most empirical version of a NASCAR race I can describe, but I must confess, just like any sport, there is more to it than that. Some aspects can never be described, only experienced. Regardless, I’m going to try and describe them anyways. I’m going to name a few things about the race I didn’t enjoy, and name a few things that I enjoyed thoroughly.
Believe it or not, four hundred laps were too many for me. Surprisingly, by only about a hundred, the other three hundred were pleasant. Four hundred laps is three hundred miles, that is the equivalent of watching the cars drive from Richmond to Washington D.C. back to Richmond, and then back to Washington D.C, without ever leaving RIR.
It is loud. I brought ear protection, so my ears were safe, but I could not speak with anyone. It’s frustrating to communicate through text with my bothers sitting to my left and right.
To an outsider, it is extremely challenging to keep up with the cars. After the fourth or fifth lap, the beginning of the line and the end of the line overlap and distinguishing each car is too difficult.
Everyone has seen clips of racing on TV, but you have no idea what it is like until you go to a race. The cars zip by at an unreal rate. Imagine being on the interstate. You travel seventy miles with cars several yards apart on each side. In NASCAR they travel more than twice that speed, with only inches between cars on every side. That sounds fast, and close, but it means nothing until you see it.
The crowd is both appealing and irritating. The drunk behavior can be entertaining, as well as frightening, but the passion portrayed by each fan continues to impress me. Furthermore, NASCAR is perceived as an exclusively American sport; stereotypically the fans are composed of rednecks and hillbillies. I like that though, because no other sporting event is as patriotic as a NASCAR race.
Most sports arenas have American flags, and all events starts with the national anthem, but that does not hold a candle up to the fanfare preceding the big race. A choir sang “America the Beautiful.” The Pledge of Allegiance was recited (something I haven’t done since high school). We said a prayer. The national anthem was sung, as we had a fly over by Air Force jets. Several paratroopers draped the American flag behind them, amidst countless other American flags etched on hats, shirts, posters, flown from trailers, race towers, uniforms, and the sides of cars.
The two races at Richmond International Raceway are the events that bring the most Richmonders together in a single complex- not a basketball, football, or baseball game, but races. It’s not my first choice for sports, but my first experience was rewarding enough that I will probably go to another race. I will sit down again with 94,000 patriotic fans, mostly from Richmond, to watch 48,000 left turns.
The common saying, “on any given Sunday ,“ suggests that any NFL team, no matter how awful their season play is, could beat even the best team in the league, which due to the American sentiment for underdog success, helps keep us glued to the TV for the most lopsided matches possible (I’m thinking VCU and Kansas). However, last night I was reviewing the records in MLB and I realized that that saying should be expanded to any day of the week, and applied to baseball.
There are two main reasons this statement applies. First, baseball plays more than ten times as many games in a season as football, so naturally their schedules consist of games from every day of the week. Secondly, upsets are even more possible in baseball. The best teams must play their best at all games or risk an embarrassing loss. Six years ago the Yankees were cruising in August to the playoffs with the best record in the American League, but let their guard down at a game in New York and lost 22 to ZERO against the Indians, who didn’t even make the playoffs, in front of one of their biggest crowds all season long (coincidentally that was the same year they unprecedentedly gave up their 3-0 series lead to the Red Sox).
I know the season is early, but let’s look at my team’s division to make a point. The St. Louis Cardinals have the best batting average, best on base average and they are third in slugging percentage and runs in MLB, and they lead their division. The Reds, also a good team, are only half a game back. The Brewers, one game back, the Cubs and Pirates, two games back, and the Astros four. Despite being twenty two games into the season, two of those teams could overtake the Cardinals simply by taking two out of three games in a series with them. Two would take the lead if they swept the Cardinals. Even the Astros, who start a series with them tonight, could bring it within a game if they swept the Cardinals. As a Cardinals fan I hope that doesn’t happen (sorry Jimmy), but I must admit that every game does matter, and judging by the stiff competition, stats and standings so far this season, anything is possible on any given…day.