The Rusty Nail

NASCAR satisfies the need for speed

I often ask myself, "Is AU really below the Mason-Dixon line?" Despite the evidence to the contrary (liberal attitudes, no accents, black people regularly winning elections without white interference), the District of Columbia really is a Southern colony.

Drive an hour south and you'll see what I mean. I was dragged down there for a Republicans versus Democrats paintball match and, after 30 minutes on the road, we were in the middle of a rural paradise. Farms, the open road and the National Rifle Association Headquarters. Heaven.

As a freshman, I was looking forward to a Southern atmosphere. New England hospitality is as cold as the weather. God forbid you make eye contact with an acquaintance; you might have to talk to them. Instead, American University was overrun with New Yorkers and the considerably less trustworthy folks from New Jersey and western Connecticut. That was O.K. - I could tolerate them as long as they steered clear of me.

(This is a complete side note, but how annoying are Connecticut Yankees fans? Have you ever seen a group of people so desperate to be accepted by the Big Apple than western Connecticuters? These people are too weak to handle New England, and every day I pray that New York will swallow Fairfield County whole so they can get a taste of the real New York: prostitutes, homelessness, characterless sports fans who only root for the winning team, etc.)

It wasn't until my first Sunday here at AU that I realized how much of an outsider I really was. For those of you not in the know, Sunday afternoons are about two things: One is New England Patriots football, which is rarely shown in Washington, and the second is the grand tradition of 43 American stock cars traveling around an oval. That's right, none other than the National Association of Stock Car Automotive Racing. NASCAR, baby!

New England isn't exactly a hotspot for NASCAR racing, but there are just enough locals with nothing better to do than to watch cars making left turns. Fortunately, some of those locals got to me, turning me into a fan. I fully expected that a Southern school such as AU would be able to foster a thriving NASCAR community. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Every person I approached to try and goad into watching a race didn't even bother to politely refuse. They all flat-out laughed at me. I understand that NASCAR fans don't exactly have a reputation for being incredibly smart. I also understand that if you don't know what's going on, NASCAR is the most ridiculous thing to watch. Just cars going around a track. Woooo.

I tried convincing the unconverted that watching just one race could make you a fan forever. And I even managed to sucker unsuspecting friends into watching races under the pretense of getting hammered on a Sunday afternoon. They argued with me to change the channel to a movie, figure skating or even ATV. Anything but NASCAR!

Once the green flag dropped, though, their eyes were fixed on the television. Since they were NASCAR newbies, I was there to explain rule changes and other NASCAR terminologies. Granted, they, like other new NASCAR fans, were most impressed with the fiery crashes. But they still developed a respect for the sport that they didn't have before. They still don't watch races alone, but they don't mind watching them with me or even with other friends.

Sunday marks the beginning of the 2004 NASCAR season with "The Great American Race," the Daytona 500. I urge you, my faithful readers, to take my word for it and watch the race. You may enjoy yourselves if you find someone to root for (pick a color scheme or a sponsor that you like and go with it) and if you ignore the commentators' ridiculous accents and Southern expressions. NASCAR is America's fastest growing sport: Get in on the action.

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