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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Sportztyme!: America's Revved Up For NASCAR

OK, I'll admit it: I personally don't get NASCAR, although I can't resist watching it from time to time in HD (you can practically smell the burnt rubber and spilled Hamm's). But I can't deny it's becoming bigger every year. Hmm... sounds like a great topic for Uncle Buster to tackle in this week's Sportztyme!

This week's report is filed from the infield at the Daytona International Speedway. Before you stop reading, check out the ratings for NASCAR on any given Sunday during the season. It's the second biggest sport our country has behind the NFL and television has played the biggest role in its growth.

Being a northerner by birth, I was relatively unaware of the sport's influence south of the Mason-Dixon line. But, I can tell you why it's becoming so popular. One, it's an activity that everyone over the age of 16 participates in. No matter who you are, at some point in your life behind the wheel, you have imagined being some sort of race car driver getting to the doctor's office or to the grocery store before it closes. You can't dunk a basketball, you can't hit a 300 yard drive, and you can't knock a baseball 500 feet without the help of steroids. But you can drive a car... and according to the state police, you can drive pretty fast at times too.

Secondly, television has picked up on this sport and given it premium status among the major sports leagues in this country. Fox and NBC stepped up to the plate some 4 years ago and threw an ungodly amount of money at the NASCAR folks for the right to half of their season. And, the way they cover the sport has contributed to neophytes being able to get up to speed quickly.

I know the traditional yellow flags that wave when this subject comes up. It's a redneck sport, those guys all failed English in junior high and they all married their cousins. I can't argue that some of these guys sound like they are graduates of the Dr. Phil school of public speaking. But the scope and reach of the sport is starting to bring in different cross-sections of the population. It takes money to go to these races, and some of these fans spend thousands more on their sport than football and baseball folks ever thought of spending.

So if you are sitting around on Sunday, wondering where the football games went, turn over to the 500 and look for me. I won't be waving the green flag, but I'll be part of the quarter-million people taking in the Great American race in person. You could be one of the millions at home. Oh, did I mention it's near the beach in Florida? At least these people know how to spend a week in February.

Uncle Buster's Sportztyme! appears every Thursday.

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