Many people know that while now unofficially retired, I was involved in 1/4 mile dirt-track stock car racing since the early ’90s and drove my own car since 1996 — with some occasional success, including a track championship in my class in 2008. Its an understandable assumption that I would follow NASCAR and eagerly anticipate the F1 track coming to Austin. Nothing could be further from the truth! I find the worship of billionaire sports superstars very distasteful. F1 racing epitomizes that. If you attend an F1 event, you get to pay some huge amount for the privilege of seeing some aristocrat zoom down a track at 200 mph+. NASCAR — ditto. And, unless you are also an aristocrat, you don’t even get to see it up close. The experience is 100% vicarious — totally lacking in any participation or community with the racers and the racing effort. Sad that sports to so much of the public means watching from a distance — TV being the ultimate distance — and NO participation. Here’s a contrasting example: I am racing at a dirt track south of San Antonio and there is a wreck resulting in a flat tire and possible other damage. I pull into the pits where I am greeted by three generations of the Mares family. My buddy and fellow racer Abraham Jr., is a warehouse manager at Acme Brick — hardly an aristocrat. Father, son, grandson, cousins — you name it — swarm my car. They change the tire, quickly pry out a fender, do a quick inspection and gesture to me to get the hell back out before the track goes green. Later Abe Sr. gets a feature win in the Super Stock class and I would like to think it is in part because I helped tweak his carburetor earlier. THIS is what I call exciting and real! You can be directly involved with grass roots sports regardless of physical condition. I am far too clumsy to attempt roller-skating, but I sure get a kick out of sponsoring two TXRD rollerderby teams. School teachers, nurses, barmaids, state workers, students, they get to be local heroes on a banked track every 2nd or 3rd Saturday night, while we go wild for the jammer who just took the lead. Many league members have become my personal friends, many are customers at my shop. Seeing these ladies kick ass is a thrill.
Everyone has choices in their involvement with sports. You can sit in some seats that cost you hundreds of dollars, drinking too much beer and eating junk food, while the wealthy do their thing in the far distance and laugh all the way to the bank. You can get a similar totally vicarious experience much cheaper through television. But you can also get involved with you child’s, or your grandchild’s, or your godchild’s little league team. You can become a roller derby sponsor, you can help set up the roller derby track, as my stepson and one of my other employees do. You can go bowling with your co-workers. You can participate in the Capitol 10,000 — it doesn’t matter at all if, like me, you are not a front-runner but walking is your speed. You can get together with a bunch of bubbas who race riding lawnmowers! Instead of passively expecting to be fed entertainment, invest something besides the cost of tickets and beer and get a real payback.
Speaking of which, since I recently started taking Thursdays off, I really need to ride my bike over to The Driveway and check out some local bicycle racing! I have a friend who sometimes bike rides with us in the evening and is also a Don’s Automotive customer who races there.