Friday, October 10, 2008

Good is probably better than perfection anyway

CONCORD, N.C. - I can’t go into my e-mail box without somebody telling me how many fans NASCAR is losing these days.

But then, I go places and I see fans like the ones I saw Friday morning at Joe Gibbs Racing and I have to wonder what they’re talking about.

The first people in line at the annual fan fest to get wristbands for autographs had been there since 10:45 Wednesday night. They wanted Tony Stewart’s autograph, and even Stewart himself told me he can’t understand why anybody would be that loyal.

I got there at 6:30 a.m. and there were already hundreds of people there. I left about 11 and a lot of them were still there, and had been joined by hundreds more.

There were open houses and things like that at several places around the Charlotte area Thursday and Friday, and I assume the stories were similar at each one.

Maybe the fans I’m seeing are the ones who have a little bit more passion and a little bit more dedication to the sport. I know that at the test at Lowe’s Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago there were people who drove from Florida just to see testing. I know that there are people who send e-mails three or four times a week asking me about a driver who you might think has only a handful of fans - wanting to know why I don’t do more on a particular driver or asking me about whether some driver who has been crowded out of the sport has a chance to get back in.

Sometimes your first reaction is “Why do you care?”

But the answer is that they’re fans.

One guy wears me out about how Steve Letarte is ruining Jeff Gordon’s life.

One guy used to call my voice mail at work about four times a week and tell me what an idiot I am. For the longest time I kept a copy of one of his messages saved and would call up on my cell phone and play it for friends. In a two-minute message, the guy probably used 500 words you can’t say on television. Not 500 different words, mind you, a lot of it was the same word over-and-over again.

If “fat” were a swear word, the count would have been closer to 1,000.

I read the comments posted when I write one of these blogs and wonder what would happen if I ever did something that really had a real impact on these people’s lives.

That’s OK.

For all the little annoyances that crop up during a race weekend in Charlotte I also get to write at least a little bit about things like Jeff Gordon’s Foundation helping to raise $310,000 in one day for bone marrow research, or Brienne Davis’ friends getting $100,000 in one evening for the scholarship fund that honors Davis, a NASCAR official who was killed in an automobile crash earlier this year.

Fans paid to get autographs at Joe Gibbs Racing Friday, but that money will go to the Mooresville Soup Kitchen, which provides more than 20,000 meals each year to people who otherwise might not have anything to eat. That’s a very good thing.

More than 1,000 motorcycle riders are expected to ride to the Victory Junction Gang Camp to raise money and honor their friend, Click Baldwin, who was killed in a motorcycle wreck in Montana a few months ago. They’ll leave from the Harley-Davidson dealership Baldwin ran in Gastonia.

They’ll tell stories, laugh a lot and maybe cry just a little bit, and then they’ll go help make the magic that the camp founded by the Petty family manufactures here in North Carolina and, soon, in Kansas at a second camp that will be built there.

Things might not be perfect, either in racing or in the world we live in. But they surely aren’t as bad as we sometimes let ourselves believe they are.

I am going to try to work harder remembering that.


Russ Walker said...

Excellent observations David. I'm sure most of my fellow NASCAR fans understand that giving back is what makes the rest of our lives enjoyable. I can't think of anything that's bad about hanging out at the track with your friends and other fans while raising some cash for a charity that can make a difference in someones life.
After all, making a difference is what it's all about.

Carolyn said...

David: Great blog - I had to laugh at your experiences. Nascar fans are passionate. If I lived in the Charlotte area, I would probably have been in line for an autograph at JGR also.


Anonymous said...

The fans are the reason that NASCAR is the best sport out there. No other sport has fans that tailgate 3 days, watch a race (or 2...or 3!) and still don't leave for another 5 hours or sometimes even another day. It's really the best you can find, and I love that. Passionate fans make the sport exactly what it is: take it or leave it.

Anonymous said...

"if I ever did something that really had a real impact on these people’s lives."

well, dave, that's why i stopped sending you once a year hateful emails.

Richard in N.C. said...

DAVID- You are a fine writer and one of only 3 that I check out virtually every day. Now if you would just quit writing that 1 column each month that really PO's me, you would rise from only very good to almost perfect. Thank you.

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