Commentary

NASCAR fans unhappy ... but why?

Updated: August 18, 2010, 4:20 PM ET
By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

I have detected a pandemic of NASCARmyalgia. It is race fans' version of fibromyalgia -- you know, that vague syndrome of phantom aches and pains all over the body, cause unknown, that you hear about on TV.

The symptoms are everywhere in your feedback to last week's request to tell me when, exactly, you think the racing was better than it is now.

Some of you did specify years or periods. Some of you agreed with me that the racing has never been better.

Others answered the question with questions: Am I on drugs? How much is NASCAR paying me? Has NASCAR fined me for talking bad about the sport? Do I hang out at Brian France's beach house?

(Actually, my understanding is that he does his hanging out on a yacht, and I have never been aboard. Neither am I watching my mailbox for an invitation.)

Pro and con ran roughly equal, although exact percentages just can't be calculated because you were all over the place with your answers, both in e-mails to me and in the ESPN Conversation.

Very few of you stuck to the point -- the pure racing itself.

[+] EnlargeRichard Petty
ISC Archives/Getty ImagesSure Richard Petty won the 1979 Daytona 500 on a thriller of a final lap that spawned the famous fight. Know what? The first 199 laps were deadly dull.

Most who agreed that the racing itself is as good as ever still couldn't help complaining about this, that or the other … a nagging Chase in the butt … a shooting COT in the arm … a green-white-checkered headache … cookie-cutter track nausea … the bland driver blahs … lucky dog rash …

Among those who thought the racing was better back whenever, there still were no grave symptoms, just aches and pains all over.

See? NASCARmyalgia.

So far afield ran the complaining that I got blessed comic relief from screen name KaSynsfan on the Conversation. The racing, she said, was better "Before there was so much Internet and bloggers."

How am I sure your maladies aren't serious? I've just been around long enough to recognize most of them as nothing new.

Take Dan from Riverton, Utah, who wrote that among other annoyances, what "really drives me nuts" is "the competition yellow."

If he's seeing a rash of them this season, he should have seen them fly during the tire wars of the late 1980s and early '90s. And the competition yellow was around long before that. It didn't land here from outer space this season.

"We're never gonna have another Yarborough-Allison fight at Daytona," lamented screen name isthisonegood. Well, I was there for that race in 1979, and I have watched the video in recent years.

Have a look, and you'll fall asleep. Before the wreck and the fight at the end, that was one of the dullest Daytona 500s in history. Donnie Allison led and led and led, with a rookie named Dale Earnhardt tucked right on his bumper, until Earnhardt had to pit for gas and left the dogfight to Cale and Donnie.

To bolster my point about the selective memory of the good ol' days, Jackie Jones was spot on: "I watched a race from Rockingham on ESPN Classic and with about 97 laps to go there were only four cars on the lead lap."

Pat Seccomb of Butte, Mont., reckoned that "maybe folks just like to bitch. The posts you read are from people who are obviously watching the races in one way or another."

"How much are you being paid by NASCAR to report this garbage?" asked Steven L. Wickline of Union, W.Va. "It's become evident to me that guys like you only get to stick around if you play the game and go with the flow, even if it means writing articles that are totally B.S. like the one I just read."

Yeah, right. I've played the game. Think I'll show that e-mail to the entire NASCAR hierarchy in the trailer sometime. Brian France, Mike Helton, et al, would get as good a chuckle out of that one as I did.

My bad on eliminating driver personalities from the parameters of your answers. A groundswell swept over that dam in a hurry.

"I could tell you the differences between Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Terry Labonte," wrote Alex J. Grossberg of Novi, Mich. "I can't tell you today if I could differentiate, from a personality standpoint, Denny Hamlin from Jimmie Johnson from Clint Bowyer from Greg Biffle from Ryan Newman from heck, even Dale Earnhardt Jr."

Can't argue with that, Alex.

A prime example of the phantom, shooting pains of NASCARmyalgia came from Tyson Frantz, who began, "I couldn't agree with you more that NASCAR is better now than it has ever been," but quickly added, "I do think it could be made much better."

[+] EnlargeJack Daniel's
AP Photo/Morry GashTry some of this with aspirin and get back to Dr. Hinton in the morning.

He asked himself "why my attention to the sport has diminished over the years. The first two things that enter my mind are: 1. Length of races. 2. Length of season."

Then he added a sage observation: "We've become a society of instant gratification. Missing the entire race isn't such a big deal anymore. We can always catch the video highlights, whenever we have free time, on ESPN."

"I am sick and tired," wrote my longtime e-mail pal Dave Norris from Idaho, "of all the young folks who believe that all, yes all of the world's problems can be solved in no longer than 120 minutes … When they see a race, any race that is boring for a time, they complain and really do not understand the time-honored commitment [that] to win, you have to be there at the finish."

"If fans want the days of Earnhardt turning people and Petty winning everything under the sun," wrote James Lins, "watch the classics when they're on TV, but leave my NASCAR alone. The thing that keeps me looking forward to every Sunday's race is not a memory from 10 years ago; it is the memory of watching the boys 'have at it' on the track just a few short days ago."

The perspective of a purist and traditionalist came from Jared Taylor: "I actually liked it when there were only 10 cars (or six, or four) on the lead lap. In most cases, those had been the best cars all day …"

"I think, to some degree, the 'NASCAR is dying' sentiment stems from the Internet culture," wrote screen name ODU Cowboy on the Convo. "It's easy to be boisterous and inflammatory behind a keyboard when no one else knows who you really are."

"You shouldn't write crap like this, it just brings your cred down, and you had decent respect from old time fans out there," wrote screen name vegasbeater from north of Atlanta.

"People always long for the good ol' days," wrote Michael Max of Atlanta, "but seem to forget air conditioning, power steering, fast food and ESPN."

For the widespread NASCARmyalgia, I'm not going to recommend any sophisticated pharmaceuticals like the fibromyalgia ads on TV.

Just take two aspirin with a shot of Jack Daniel's, and e-mail me in the morning.

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn.com.

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