Another View, Mine: October 2017

John Nieman

We have become so divided and so entrenched in our beliefs about every single issue that it sometimes makes one think that there is no point in expressing one’s views. Those of you out there who believe that “taking a knee” during the national anthem is the same as spitting in the faces of our military and first-responders will never accept the viewpoint that it is a quiet, respectful display of opposition and protest concerning the use (and abuse) of force—sometimes deadly —against persons of color in this country by members of law enforcement.

There is nothing that I can write in this space that will convince his supporters that having the President of the United States encouraging animosity against those who express views counter to his own by use of such protest is a serious threat to our freedoms and that calling for the firing of those players is a clear violation of his duty to protect those freedoms.

And so that one area of discourse that I could feel comfortable about free discussion, sports, has now been infiltrated with heated cultural division.

This is particularly apparent to me as I prepare for trips to Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. NA­SCAR has become the designated Trump sport because of the views of a couple of team owners that if any team members “took a knee” they would be on a Greyhound bus home. The “prayer” before the Dover race last weekend was a paean to the President and his family.

When is it going to be too much for a fan like me, who gets a dull ache in the pit of my stomach at the sight of a confederate battle flag and/or the mention of Trump?

Polls are now saying that less than a third of the nation support the views of the President and the eyeballs show that NASCAR viewership in the stands is way down. Can they be related? If they are, why does it appear that NASCAR is doubling down in its support of the President?

The lone voice in opposition to the insanity is Dale Earn­hardt Jr. I wrote in this space years ago of the courage that it took for Jr. to call for the removal of the confederate battle flag from the South Carolina state capitol. We have now descended to the point that his support of the right to free speech and peaceful protest is now equally, if not more, courageous.

And does the future hold any change? Chase Elliot’s first public appearance as the heir to the Jeff Gordon seat was at a Trump for President rally with Brian France. The Dillon boys’ grandfather was the author of the Greyhound quote above.

And so long as corporations sponsoring NASCAR and its teams remain silent, no one is going to go out on a limb and risk sponsorship loss. As I wrote in this space last month, you can lose a sponsor by giving out doughnuts.

So I’ll go to Charlotte and Talladega. And when I return, I’m going to give some of my choices some thought.

I may just go full American Outlaw and start following the US Men’s National soccer Team. By the time this gets to press, they will have finished the hex—hopefully with a win over Trinidad and Tobago. The defeat of Panama 4-0 was a pure joy to watch. It brought back a wonderful memory.

Years ago, the Head Beers soccer team in the Rainbow league was a mixture of rec participants, club players and some college players. One game, we had mostly rec participants, but we also had David Smyth. Smitty was a first-team All-American with UNC, had a cap with the USMNT and went on to play some professional soccer. He was just out of school and was a great friend who was more than able to stand for a round at He’s Not Here.

Now during the one game, Smitty gathered everyone around at halftime, sipping on a beer, and said, “Have you all noticed that good things happen when I have the ball? So what we need to do is make sure I have the ball.” It was not boastful or arrogant or demeaning. It was just fact.

I thought of that time as I watched the US play Panama. I imagine that someone in the locker room said something like, “Have you noticed that good things happen when Pulisic has the ball?”

At least, that’s what occurred to me.

A little backsliding, but a toothache has proved beneficial to bad habits. Fat Boy Index: 281.