The day I write this, the greatest sportswriter who ever lived–Frank DeFord–spun a fantasia of lexicography on NPR about why NASCAR is losing ratings on TV, crowds at races, and general interest among non-rednecks. NASCAR ain’t what it used to be and is about to get even farther away from what the fever-dream of its executives bizarrely thought it could be. Do not worry about NASCAR disappearing forever from the airwaves. I mean, if we’re lucky–am I right? In the meantime, we have these lovely memories of NASCAR on TV the way NASCAR on TV was meant to be.
King of the Hill
Auto racing is a way of life for the residents of Arlen, Texas who are the center of “King of the Hill.” NHRA legend John Force voiced himself in character in an episode that actually centered on his needing Dale Gribble for an organ transplant. But NASCAR takes front an center when Boomhauer races for the checkered flag that will allow him to drive the pace car when Dale Earnhardt (before the accident) comes to town. “Life in the Fast Lane: Bobby’s Saga” shows what a twisted perspective Americans have on NASCAR. While the episode elevates Earnhardt to the status of very cool legend, it mercilessly skewers Jeff Gordon for being a rich daddy’s boy. While Hank, Dale and the guys are shown to take NASCAR extremely seriously as as sport, the real meat of the episodes focuses on Bobby Hill’s moron of a boss who manages the racetrack. “Life in the Fast Lane: Bobby’s Saga” is as brilliantly evocative an examination of the bifurcated way America views NASCAR as the fact that its biggest draw is a woman who always loses.
Tragedy occasionally strikes at NASCAR race tracks and so does it strike in the world of TV. In fact, the most tragic episode of “The Simpsons” ever–depending on your perspective–occurs as a result of the unlikely visit of the Flanders clan to the world of NASCAR. A T-Shirt cannon is the weapon that sends Maude Flanders tumbling to her death as she falls over the back of the grandstand from the nosebleed seats to the unforgiving harshness of the asphalt below.
The Dukes of Hazzard
Remember when the nation came together in a collective display out of outrage and nausea when Luke and Bo left Hazzard County to try their hand at a career in NASCAR? Oh, sure you do. Remember, the guys who played Luke and Bo wanted more money and CBS and Warner Brothers didn’t want to pay them what they deserved for making the executives at CBS and Warner Brothers richer than God due to a show that should never have lasted past the Halloween of the fall it premiered? And so while Luke and Bo were off trying to make names for themselves as NASCAR drivers, their cousins Coy and Vance came back to Hazzard County. Then some stuff happened and Luke and Bo may have gave up their careers with NASCAR to come back home. I never watched the show and don’t really know how it all ended up, to be honest.
Cartman wants to live the dream of becoming a NASCAR driver, but is convinced that the only thing standing between him and his dreams of days of thunder and nights of endless beer drinking is that he’s too fat and smart to become a NASCAR hero. Sadly, Cartman may well be onto something. So Cartman launches on a trek to become poor and stupid enough to make it on the NASCAR circuit. That’s all I’m saying about the matter.