The Last Man Standing
I'm not sure how many years ago it was; let's go ahead and call it between fifteen and twenty, but I wrote a column about being a NASCAR fan and how you became a fan and how you got other people interested in it and how you were doing your part to grow the fan base of the sport. I took a lot of pride in that column that I believe originally ran on Ron Felix's "Insider Racing News" website.
So, it was my father that first got me into racing, somewhere around 1989 or so. I didn't jump on it immediately… for about a year and a half I just kind of asked him who won. He lived in Virginia and had cable TV, and I was in Maryland, and didn't have cable, so even if I was that deep into it, I could only watch four races per year. I think it was Daytona, Atlanta, Talladega and Michigan that were on network TV back then.
But then I watched them when I went to visit him, and got more into it, and after a while I was hooked. My first real job was at a Texaco station, so, BOOM…I naturally became a Davey Allison fan. For all of 1991 I watched what I could and listened to the rest of them on the radio. I was hooked. The following year, I bought cable TV for our house, just so I could watch racing. So, yeah, it started with my dad. Then I got some friends interested in it, got my sister involved, my wife, people I worked with, heck, I even got my grandmother interested, even though to my dismay she pulled for Earnhardt. So, I called that the race fan lineage… it was who got you into it and then whoever you got into it. Mine was strong.
But, now, fast forward those fifteen to twenty years since I wrote about it. Something has drastically changed. There are still cars on the track going fast and turning left, and while the faces and the names have changed, I'm still here watching. But I'm alone.
My father has passed, but even before then it just didn’t seem like he was into it as much as he used to be. There were Sundays that butts would be parked in front of the TV and didn't leave until the checkered flag fell. In his later years, it was as if Dad would watch it if there was nothing else to do, but it wasn't like a "Hey, it's Sunday and we're going to watch the race" deal anymore. Years ago I would often go to a friend's house to watch racing with them, but they barely follow the sport anymore. My sister tuned into the Daytona 500 this week, but only because she heard J.J. Watt was going to be there. My wife actually chose to take a nap instead of watching it.
What happened? I know a lot of folks reading this are saying "the sport has changed, it's not the same anymore, racing now isn't the same as racing used to be" and so on. Yes, I get it; you long for "the good ol' days of racing" with drafting and slingshots and bias-ply tires and "stock" cars, and you're bitter. Time marches on, things change… roll with the punches. It is still racing, right? Maybe I'm not telling you anything special, and maybe I don't even have a point. But I'm curious to know what it is that makes so many of us fall out of love with something that we used to be so into. Because it hasn't happened to me yet. Maybe it will, and then I'll know, or maybe it won't.
All I know is for me, for right now, I'm still here and from my race fan lineage, the last man standing.