Friday, August 31, 2007

An Ivy League lawyer goes to his first NASCAR race 

[Bumped, so you see the great new photos.]

Before I die I want to see a real NASCAR race in the heart of some red state. A good friend of mine -- a corporate litigator educated at the second best university in the country and now a partner in one of the five largest firms in the world -- beat me to the punch. He took his family to the Bristol Motor Speedway last week, and reported via Blackberry on the invocation before the race:

Words can barely capture this. But picture a stadium of 170,0000 people who have just held up placards to make the largest card display in world history, a display, of course, of the stars and bars. This is then followed by them piping through the PA "And I"m Proud to Be an American" as a sole paratrooper (incredibly skilled) parachutes into the middle of the track towing behind him all the way down a giant American flag. How he did that I honestly don't know. Then, of course, we have the obligatory F16 fly by, which makes the crowd go nuts. And then the invocation, at the end of which the minister, who at this point has referred to several trademarks (something you don't always hear in prayers) and used the name Jesus about 100 times says "And finally Jesus, bring our troops home safely and quickly." And then there is this pause, and I am thinking to myself, can he get away with that? At which point, and after a very dramatic pause, he says "and victorious" and the crowd just goes literally nuts. One of the most moving things I have ever seen.

And then they fire up the engines, the ground literally shakes and we are off racing.

Yes, there are two Americas.

MORE: Our correspondent sent along a couple of nice photos. We note for the record that those are not the "stars and bars," which is a term of art for the Confederate battle flag. I am a bit relieved, because my first thought on reading the email was "huh, I would have thought NASCAR would not want to piss off every African-American."

Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol Motor Speedway


By Anonymous Locker Room, at Thu Aug 30, 06:55:00 PM:

Of the two Americas, this is the better one. Folks at Bristol really want our troops to come home victorious and actually understand why it's important.
No spectacle is more exciting or colorful than auto racing at a huge sold-out track in the good old US of A. Seeing it on TV gives you absolutely no idea.  

By Blogger Sissy Willis, at Thu Aug 30, 06:58:00 PM:

Totally awesome. Governor WInthrop's "City upon a hill" lives on in the stands of the Bristol Motor Speedway.  

By Blogger Pal2Pal, at Thu Aug 30, 07:22:00 PM:

If he thinks 170,000 at Bristol is awesome, he should attend the Brickyard 400 with over 400,000. I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural race there and it turned me into a diehard NASCAR fan. Go Jeff Gordon! and Jimmy Johnson!  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Thu Aug 30, 08:11:00 PM:

parachutes into the middle of the track towing behind him all the way down a giant American flag. How he did that I honestly don't know.

I did a demo jump into a small dirt track racetrack a few years ago. Its really not all that hard with a large stable parachute. The turbulence off trees, stands, and fences can be tricky, and you have to do it right on the first shot of course ;->

The people who do this kind of stuff on a regular basis can land that parachute within a 10' circle every time. The demo license requirements were tightened up considerably a few years ago after a few spectacular accidents.

The flag would be packed and stowed in a deployment bag to keep it safely contained until the main is deployed. You definitely don't want a flag getting in the way of the parachute deployment.

The flag very likely also has its own 3-ring quick release mechanism sewn onto the harness somewhere. If there is a problem with the main and you need to hit your reserve, you'd definitely need to get rid of the flag before deploying the reserve.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 30, 10:29:00 PM:

Show off ! :D

Wow, PA, that must have been cool.


By Anonymous Bird of Paradise, at Fri Aug 31, 12:35:00 AM:

Nothing ever surprises the NEW YORK SLIMES  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Fri Aug 31, 12:39:00 AM:

I was a little nervous - it was my first demo and we didn't have the center area of the track to land on, that was a cluttered pit area, and the straight aways were spanned by some wires, so going in on those was a no-go too.

That left us with landing on a banked end of the oval. Naturally it had rained a half hour before and the track was slicker than snot on a doorknob. I came in and skidded about 5' in the muck but managed to stay on my feet.

The getting in part wasn't too bad, but once you were below about 500' there were no more abort windows to a clear area off-track in range anymore because of trees and parking areas. You were committed to that banked corner of the oval.

The chute I was flying was a large 260 square foot Triathlon made by Aerodyne. Its an ultra-stable 7-cell design that has no surprises in the way it handles. They're frequently used for stuff like demos and parachute formation flying where stability and predictability are favored over raw performance.

Demos can be a lot of fun, and not really that hard if you're very conservative about planning, gear, exit altitudes, landing, etc. Things like a flag or smoke canisters do add another major dimension of complexity though and require different/additional emergency procedures and a lot of practice before doing them before a crowd.

Demos like the one TH described come off looking effortless because the guy doing it has done it hundreds of times before in practice. You don't just strap on a flag and whip it out on a whim ;->  

By Blogger Karl, at Fri Aug 31, 07:50:00 AM:

It's definitely hard for me to stomach sharing America with people who are so much unlike me. Fortunately I and they mostly keep to ourselves.  

By Anonymous IndispensableDestiny, at Fri Aug 31, 09:27:00 AM:

Hey TH, don't just go watch, go drive! See:


It's great stuff. I recommend Talladega, then take a short hop to Ft. Myers or drive to the red neck Rivera for some relaxation.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Fri Aug 31, 09:35:00 AM:

It's definitely hard for me to stomach sharing America with people who are so much unlike me.

I see no chains holding you here.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Aug 31, 11:39:00 AM:

"It's definitely hard for me to stomach sharing America with people who are so much unlike me."

Karl...as in Marx? Well, I'm sure you're into "sharing".  

By Anonymous Dr. Mercury, at Fri Aug 31, 02:01:00 PM:

It was on a beautiful summer's day about three years ago.

The radio deejay and me (the engineer) had tooled out in the big broadcast van to a tiny, rural hamlet buried deep in the South. A local church was selling donated goods to help the community, and we offered to help spread the word. The jock would break in for a minute about three times an hour and urge people to c'mon down, have a free hot dog and Coke, and maybe buy something while they're there to help out the cause.

One of the things I'd taken care of since arriving at my new job was updating the music CD we'd play during the event over these loud portable speakers. Naturally, knowing my audience, God Bless The USA by Lee Greenwood (the "And I'm Proud to Be an American" song the article refers to) got put on the list, along with "Song of the South", "Alabama", and other Southern staples.

So, on a beautiful summer's day in the parking lot of a rural church in some tiny Southern community, suddenly Lee Greenwood's song filled the air.

As the first chorus rolled around, five or six girls linked arms and, singing loudly, did this kind of sashay thing across the parking lot.

Others joined in the singing.

By the end of the song, there must have been fifty people singing at the top of their voices. Everyone inside the church had come outside and joined in.

It looked like every person there, for 8 to 80, knew every word and nuance of the song by heart -- including that tricky little pause at the end -- like they'd sung along with it in the shower or the car a thousand times.

Nowhere was anyone walking around with an anti-war placard.

Nowhere was anyone handing out leaflets defaming our president.

Nowhere was anyone, but Americans, joined arm in arm, knowing that, whether we personally believed in some of its policies or not, we stood behind out country 100% as we sang out defiantly in the face of those who would tear this great nation apart,

'Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land!

Like the author in Tiger's article, it felt like a really special moment to me. And yet what's interesting is that, in both our cases, to the people involved, it wasn't special at all.

It was just the American heartland's moment to sing.  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Fri Aug 31, 02:40:00 PM:

"I am a bit relieved, because my first thought on reading the email was 'huh, I would have thought NASCAR would not want to piss off every African-American.'"

That is what I took from the initial stars and bars reference, too, for that is what it means. Glad it wasn't.  

By Anonymous Phrizz11, at Fri Aug 31, 03:53:00 PM:

If you're so enamored of the "other" America and its vulgar displays, then why don't you vote with your feet and go live there? It's not like housing prices are high. Hell if you want displays like that in a city, go to an NFL game.

You guys sound like David Brooks, infatuated with the idea that only among the strip malls and identical housing developments in the soulless exurbs of the waste lands of conformity in this country can "real Americans" be found. There's a reason most of us live in cities, and it's cheaper out in the boonies, so it isn't the price.

Stadtluft macht frei.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Aug 31, 07:04:00 PM:

It's telling that you hold simple, patriotic people in such contempt, Phrizz.

And to think I was starting to like you.  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Fri Aug 31, 07:07:00 PM:

"the "stars and bars," which is a term of art for the Confederate battle flag."

Actually, the stars and bars is the flag with a circle of white stars on a square blue field in the upper left-hand corner, with two bars to the right of it (red over white) and a third bar (red) that goes across the bottom of the entire flag. This was the first national flag of the CSA.

The battle flag is what people generally think of as the Confederate flag, i.e., the diagonal blue bars (a "saltire," technically) with white stars on them, against a red field.  

By Anonymous spacecommando, at Fri Aug 31, 07:33:00 PM:

"Stadtluft macht frei." oder Arbeit Macht Frei

Godwin's law, yay!  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Fri Aug 31, 08:32:00 PM:

There's a reason most of us live in cities

That would be? I must admit, the foul air, less privacy, less space, surly public servants, constant noise, and higher crime are certainly appealing.  

By Blogger Karl, at Fri Aug 31, 08:53:00 PM:

I'm not Karl after Karl Marx. My middle name is "Martel," named after Charles Martel who kicked the Muslim Moors out of France.

See, Dr. Mercury's description doesn't have nearly the same divisive effect on me, because hearing him tell his own story, he sounds like someone like me, someone I can relate to. To me Mercury's story sounds like an expression of patriotism and the Nascar event sounds like a Hitler rally. (hey, Godwin's Law is already hanging over the thread, besides, you know the tone I mean)

That "Proud to be an American" song is really an anthem for our times, isn't it? I remember singing it in the auditorium of my Lutheran grade school during the first gulf war.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Sep 01, 12:33:00 AM:

Yeah dude, it totally sounds like a hitler rally. Like, how dare they show the flag. praying for victory in Iraq is like totally something that nazis would do.

You're probably the type of dope who watches soccer and gets excited when the residents of whatever third-world hellhole happens to be playing do the same type of shit. Hey, maybe these people shouldn't be allowed to vote anymore?  

By Blogger Karl, at Sat Sep 01, 05:10:00 AM:

anon, the way I read the description, that wasn't a prayer -- it was a cheer.

But there's a big difference between a government-required rally like Hitler rallies and a self-arising citizen rally like this one. A good difference. So maybe I should have heeded Godwin's law after all.  

By Anonymous Phrizz11, at Mon Sep 03, 09:33:00 AM:

Spacecommando: ironically, you are the person who made Godwin's law come true, not me. "Stadtluft macht frei" means "the city air makes you free" and is originally from the saying "Stadtluft macht frei nach Jahr und Tag," which referred to the process by which a serf could become a free man by living in a city for a year and a day. Later on, it came to describe the increased freedom and economic and social opportunities that were available in cities. The Nazi slogan you mention was a cruel mockery of the spirit of this saying.

But of course, you couldn't actually bother to think before your ignorance and xenophobia kicked in. Typical.  

By Anonymous Bird of Paradise, at Mon Sep 03, 11:18:00 AM:


By Anonymous spacecommando, at Mon Sep 03, 09:14:00 PM:

Sure, Phrizz. You got me. Ignorant and xenophobic (and worse, typical). The serfs could gain their freedom by building up the settlement for their overlord during the course of a year. It was a great deal. The working class has always done well in Metropolis. Thanks for setting me straight.  

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