Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NASCAR vs. Jousting

Unlike almost all of my neighbors, I have little interest in NASCAR and fail to understand their fascination with constant left turns. I’ll admit that after watching an accomplished pit crew in action I am impressed with their speed, skill, and discipline. But since that is not a major part of the time invested in a race, those golden moments are rare. After a life time accumulating 3,000,000 miles in personal and commercial vehicles, maybe the thought of being in all that traffic has a conditioned negative aspect.

It may also be that I’m just a snob. Then again, I enjoy mayhem as much as the next guy and any event which draws a bit of blood can’t be all bad—as long as it’s not mine.

In a recent piece in the New York Times magazine, Dashka Slater gives us an inside look at a possible replacement sport. For violent, rough and tumble action with a lot of shiny equipment, Jousting would be hard to beat. Saddle up a massive Clydesdale with the strength and durability to carry the rider fully clad in heavy armor, tack, horse armor, lance and race full speed down the 60 yard track. The object then is to strike the opposing rider by placing the point of the 11 foot lance at a critical point on his chest. Bonus points are awarded if he is successfully unhorsed.

Currently, this is sport is reserved for small crowds at Renaissance Fairs where historical significance rules the day. There are also familiar “dinner theater” layouts where it’s not so much sport as theater arts. As you read Slater’s piece, see if you agree that it could be competitive for the NASCAR audience. At the least it is no sport for the faint of heart.

Every financial aspect of the horse maintenance is a plus. Fuel is far cheaper for a steed—a few bags of oats and a little hay instead of “high test” and nitro. Replace a pit crew with a self-healing vehicle and a vet bill here and there. The reduction in CO² alone by shutting down the engines spewing noxious gasses should bring attention to the sport for the upper west side enviro-nuts. Just the thought of watching your favorite villain knocked on his butt and saving the planet at the same time would be a delicious combo for potential new fans. Compare the cost of racks of racing slicks for each car as opposed to a handful of horseshoes and a few nails. The pre-run burnouts would be replaced by natural emissions from the horse which would sustain a level of crowd olfactory participation.

On the down-side, finding experienced participants could pose a problem at the offset. As the sport gained acceptance I’m sure every little kid in America would hone his skills by riding the family pooch in imagined combat. As he grew, he would then graduate to the goat, the pony, and then the big time—the old gray mare.

The staple beverage of NASCAR would probably change to flagons of ale which might possibly present a change in alcoholic consumption in America. I’m certain that the brewers could easily handle the alteration in the drinking habits of the country.

Trash talking would continue to be a part of the activity with oblique reference to any participant jouster who indulged in too many flourishes etched into his armor. Nearly every sport has its “protective” armor to appease the safety Nazis so little would change there. The prime retention would be the venue. Both sports are best appreciated out of doors where the elements can be a contributing factor. With ambient temperature a vital feature, the primary emphasis would remain in the southern states.

Just imagine for a moment the excitement at Daytona as 168,000 fans rise to franticly cheer the jouster of their choice as he takes the pitch for his first joust of the day. As the signal is given for the start, the crowd muffles their enthusiasm to better hear the resounding crash as the two warriors collide with lances seeking the vital targets with splinters flying and the clank of the bulky armor as one of them falls from his steed. At that moment a roar goes up from the contestant backers either of disappointment or pride. Ah, that will be a golden day for the sport.

Will that be the change we have all been waiting for? The change described here is about as likely as the change we were promised back in November 2008. If you take either one seriously; we can easily find the boob in that scenario.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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