Maybe you missed this, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
On March 16, 2011, FX aired an episode of its stellar crime drama, JUSTIFIED, titled “Blaze of Glory.” The episode featured an aging criminal mastermind who’s slowly dying of emphysema. Hoping to go out in one final ‘blaze of glory,’ the bandit conspires to double-cross his two young upstarts/partners by sending them out on a bank heist, drawing the attention of the show’s U.S. Federal Marshalls, while he escapes custody by fleeing in a private airplane in the other direction while no one is looking. In the episode’s final moments, the aging thief is caught by an equally aging detective who sees beyond the misdirection.
Now, what caught my wife’s attention (she has a wonderful knack for spotting the little quirks in televised storytelling) was that one of these young criminal thugs was wearing – that’s right, you may’ve already guessed it – a NASCAR shirt.
Well, wasn’t that precious?
If you’ve never seen JUSTIFIED, I encourage you to watch it. Despite the show’s predilection for dealing with more than a handful of Hollywood clichés somewhat nastily attributed to Southerners, it’s an extremely well-written, well-acted, and well-conceived drama. Timothy Olyphant (from HBO’s DEADWOOD) stars as U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, and veteran character actor Nick Searcy provides excellent supporting moments as Givens’ boss, Chief Deputy Art Mullen. The talent doesn’t stop there, though, as all of the players are given terrific moments to lift these characters to life in much the same way TV had a knack for doing with some other sleuths back in the days of Columbo, McCloud, and Jim Rockford.
Still, I have to admit that I was somewhat troubled – albeit mildly – by the inclusion of something so benign as a NASCAR shirt. As anyone involved in any television production will tell you, every choice made – from talent all the way down to sets and props – is a deliberate one. There are such things as intellectual property and product placement (every NASCAR fan appreciates how important a sponsor’s name is to his or her driver’s automobile), so very little of what actually makes it on film much less broadcast on national TV is unplanned. Literally, nothing is left to chance, so, while NASCAR’s full name (all six letters) was cleverly obscured by the actor’s heavy jacket in this episode of JUSTIFIED, anyone with half-a-brain and a watchful eye could make out the word and the possible intent:
So … NASCAR fans are bank robbers?
Sadly, Hollywood’s playful ribbing at America’s Southerners didn’t stop there.
As I mentioned, there were two young upstarts sent in to rob a bank. Only one of them was wearing a NASCAR shirt. The other – a true ruffian, one who even kicked a female hostage in the face at the start of the episode – was strapped with what he believed was a vest of dynamite. Fortunately for all of the hostages, the vest turned out to only be taped up with road flares, something the robber was too clueless to spot when he was duped into putting it on by his emphysema-stricken boss.
So … friends of NASCAR fans are too stupid to know the different between a stick of dynamite and a road flare?
Well, how easy it must be to get a job screenwriting in Tinseltown these days!
It would appear that all one has to do is have a healthy, above-average understanding of the predictable or the routine. Aren’t there now whole college courses that teach writers the most up-to-date tips and tricks to getting a screenplay filmed? Do teachers and students really invest time and effort to mastering yet one more cultural label? At a time when our political leaders are encouraging greater civility in public discourse, why is it that the old guard in Hollywood prefers to continue to explore the predictable, the passé, or the stereotypical? At a time when NASCAR’s ratings are arguably a cause for concern inside the entertainment industry, pundits and their scribes still reach for the easy joke instead of elevating the bar to, at least, the level of respect for what remains a “billion dollar past-time.” Am I disappointed? Not really. Am I going to tune out one of my favorite programs? Not at all. Am I genuinely interested in indicting an entire industry – Hollywood – for a single, shoddy depiction of a possible NASCAR fan on a TV show? I’m honestly no more interesting in that sort of ‘typecasting’ than they are. Personally, I would’ve found it more interesting creatively to have the bank robbers sporting ObamaCare bumper stickers on their forehead because at least that would’ve been something I’d never seen before, but I’ve heard it long ago said that originality “sleeps with the fishes” on television. Besides, I’ve watched enough movies and seen enough TV to know lazy writing when I see it.
At the end of the day, I may not be a scholar who understands all of the intricacies involved in the sport of auto racing, but I can still tell my Ricky Carmichael from my Ricky Bobby. I know racing enthusiasts continue to embrace NASCAR for what it’s been, what it is today, and what it’s becoming, taking little or no interest in what some in the media make the sport out to be. Science assures us that life evolves, and, while the jury may be out on that grand observation, I trust that the sport of automobile racing will continue to evolve and change through retirement, driver attrition, and Sprint Cup point changes. I think NASCAR fans long ago tired of that quaint, incisive observation, “What’s so fascinating about watching cars go in a circle?” And, statistically, we’re certainly not all bank robbers or even friends of bank robbers who couldn’t tell a stick of dynamite from a road flare, though I’ve no doubt we’ve had our fair share of both … just like every subculture of sports fanaticism has had.
Stay proud, race fans. Stay true. Don’t rob any banks. Don’t strap on any vests. Don’t kick hostages when their down, not because you’re unsure of whether or not the hostage may be sleeping with a U.S. Marshall, but, I tell you like your mom or dad would tell you, don’t do it because it’s entirely the wrong thing to do. It’s bad for you, it’s bad for me, and it’s bad for our sport. As a matter of fact, don’t take any hostages in the first place. That’s probably the safest advice.
And always – always – keep your eyes on the wheel.
Let me make it clear right from the outset--I am not trying to be a wise guy. I understand that NASCAR has a huge following around this country. I just never understood why. Perhaps it is the region of the country that I hail from. As a percentage of the population you won't find a whole lot of NASCAR fans here in the Northeast. I can honestly say that I do not know anyone who is even remotely interested in it despite the fact that there is a fairly … more
NASCAR stands for National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing. It was founded in 1948 by two Americans, William France and Ed Otto. These men enjoyed watching car races and realized that other people also enjoyed races. They were looking for a way to standardize the races and the industry as a whole.
The idea of their plan was to attract more racers and at the same time make the races equal for all the competitors. This was a fantastic idea because a greater number of racers also meant that the number of fans increased, and these are willing to pay to watch their idols.
In the early years, the cars raced as NASCAR were big standard stock cars. These stock cars are basically exactly the same as the ones that come out of the manufacturers factory, this means that nothing is changed or altered in any way.
In these early years accidents were very common, and so it was agreed that some form of modifications were required to make the racing safe. These safety modifications were adopted well before the modifications focused around increasing speed and the characteristics of the cars.
Many people that enjoyed this type of car racing started designing and building cars that were exclusively designed for NASCAR racing. These cars utilized all of the modifications permitted by the NASCAR rules. The only thing that the NASCAR car resembled would be the body.