Sunday: a day in which Americans can gather around a central focus point and hear commentary from a central figure.
No, I’m not talking about Sunday mass — Sunday sports are back.
I, along with many of my fellow Americans, watched the NASCAR season opener Sunday. The race is the creme-de-la-creme of NASCAR, the Daytona 500. It is a sigh of relief to the February Sunday boredom that follows the Super Bowl.
Before we proceed I want to be clear, I’ve never watched even half of a NASCAR race before.
In fact, I’ve come into this conundrum with a very broad, stereotypical understanding of NASCAR which involves southern rednecks driving as fast as they can and turning left. It’s not.
Forgive me, I’m a northerner suburbian who grew up with pond hockey instead of racing tracks.
In watching the Great American Race, I learned NASCAR involves much, much more skill and knowledge than I had previously thought.
The races involve stopping in a pit box, where crews adjust cars as quickly as they possibly can. Pit stops can be the difference between winning a race and taking fifth.
Physics and aerodynamics also play a significant part in NASCAR racing, as utilizing draft forces can assist in making a car go faster or aid slowing down nearby cars.
Then there’s the mere aspect of driving for three-ish hours at top speeds with total concentration, trying to avoid wrecking a car and maintaining a position which is mere feet away from surrounding cars.
Watching the cars wreck is fun also, assuming nobody gets hurt and everyone walks away from the crash.
Basically, NASCAR is mad insanity mixed with physicist mixed with people who love to go fast and turn left.
A more off-track benefit of watching NASCAR is that there is an excuse to do nothing but stare at a screen watching cars drive around in a circle for three-ish hours.
It provides a way out of cleaning your room, thinking about work or listening to your boyfriend or girlfriend rave about what their old friends from Kindergarten are doing.
One aspect I didn’t like of NASCAR, an aspect which is new this season, is the introduction of staged races.
The stages break normal races into three parts, with the winner of the first two stages receiving a playoff point and the winner of the third stage — and the race — winning five points.
To me, the stages are counter to the very thing that a race stands for, built on the foundation and premise of showing that winning the race means the winner is literally better than everyone else who participated.
Did the Atlanta Falcons get half a trophy for winning over 50 minutes of the Super Bowl? No. Did the Cleveland Indians get a World Series under their belts for winning three of the seven games in the series? No.
Hell, Ricky Bobby’s daddy even said it best, “If you ain’t first, yer last.”
Ultimately, repeal the stage standard and let newbies like me watch the sport many ‘Muricans love dearly without having to worry about how stages work.