Saturday, March 6, 2010

Danika Patrick: God I love the media

I've put it off and put it off as long as I could. I've remained very quiet about it. The time has come to break my silence. I am about to weigh in on the most controversial, most talked about subject in motorsports. And if you believe that, I've got some beach property in Tennessee I'll sell you real cheap.

Everytime I've tuned in to watch a race this year, I keep hearing about Danika Patrick. I hear about how she's great for the sport of Nascar. I hear about how people don't like her because she's a woman. I hear about how she's getting unfair criticism because she's a woman. I hear about how she's a woman. Right now I'd like to ask a question that's been bothering me for quite some time:
What criticism? What controversy? I haven't actually heard any that wasn't media manufactured.

I've scoured the Internet (OK, I looked for like five minutes, but five minutes is scouring, right?) and have only found a handful of sports writers openly criticizing her, but it wasn't because she was a woman. Here's one: Queen For A Day. The criticism here wasn't even about her but about the state of affairs at Indy, and while that may or may not be a valid point (I haven't paid attention to Indy in some years) it spoke nothing of Danika except to say she is a talented driver.

I did find one driver toss out some criticism about her being a woman. Robby Gordon claimed he wouldn't return to Indy because Danika has an unfair advantage as a woman because her car is lighter. Danika weighs in at about 100 pounds whereas Robby comes in at about 180. Of course given Robby's driving ability I've fairly certain he wouldn't be a match for Danika if he weighed 80 pounds. I wonder if he would complain if Mark Martin (135lbs) decided to race in the Indy 500? Aside from Robby Gordon's idiotic whining I haven't seen any actual disparaging remarks about Danika being a female driver.

Here's another comment I've been hearing: Danika's just a PR move for Nascar. Yeah, so? Nascar has been openly trying to find a talented female driver for years, it's a valid point but it doesn't take away from her talent. Part of the issue I think comes from the fact Danika is the first female driver to really get the support of Nascar.

Sara Christian was actually the first female driver in Nascar history, back in 1949 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. She qualified 13th. Her second race was at the Daytona road course that year and the 28 car field included two other women, Ethel Mobley and Louise Smith. As a side note, Christian's husband, Frank also ran in that race. Christian's fourth race was at Langhorne Speedway where she finished sixth. Mobley and Smith also competed in that race.

1977 again saw three women in the same race, Janet Guthrie, Lella Lombardi, and Christine Beckers. Guthrie, a former aerospace engineer, was actually the first woman to qualify and compete in both the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500. She finished 15th at the World 600, now the Coca-Cola 600, at Charlotte. In her first Daytona 500, she finished 12th on six cylinders after blowing an engine ten laps to go. Not bad for any driver. Oddly enough, one of the old criticisms about female drivers (by old I mean back in the early 70's when Guthrie first competed) was that women are too emotional for Nascar. I haven't actually heard that comment from anyone but the feminists who like to throw it up as men just being derogatory. Guthrie actually commented, not on the subject of "female emotions" but on drivers in general, "What I'm trying to emphasize is that a driver is primarily a person, not a man or a woman, and a great deal of driving is mental. You can not afford to get angry behind the wheel. A good driver needs emotional detachment, concentration , good judgment, and desire."

With the possible exception of The Intimidator himself Dale Earnhardt, Guthrie might actually be the only driver in Nascar history to exhibit those qualities (I'm looking at you Robby Gordon) .

None of those drivers attempted a complete Nascar season, nor, in my opinion, did they have the support of Nascar. Back in the days of Christian and Guthrie a drivers team was still a big deal, but it didn't make half the difference it does now. In order to make it in Nascar today, regardless of skill, you have to have money and the right builders and crew. The last female driver that sticks out in my mind was Shawna Robinson who often would race unsponsored. I think that had less to do with her being a woman and more to do with her just not being the best driver or spokesperson. Yes, she had some talent. She actually finished sixth in Arca series points, but in all honesty, that doesn't say much. Many, many drivers have preformed well at the lower levels and just couldn't cut it in Winston Cup. It's like a hotshot AAA ball pitcher getting shelled in the Majors.

That's going to come into play with Danika. We know she's a pretty good driver, we know she's got a decent car and backing. My only worry isn't that as a woman she's going to get emotional and start wrecking people. It's the fact that she is a little too high strung. She makes Rusty Wallace look like he's taking queludes. If she can calm down and just listen to her crew chief I think she's going to be alright. At the moment, all indications are that she will. She knows there's a big difference between Indy and Nascar and she knows that she doesn't know that much about the sport (relatively). Because of this she is probably more likely than any other driver on the track to actually listen to her crew chief. It's simply going to come down to her being "good enough."

Ok, so now that I've got the criticism about her being a woman cleared up (there is none), how about all this crap I hear about a woman driver being great for the sport. Why? How is having a female driver so wonderful? What does it actually do for the sport? The demographics I dug up show that Nascar fans are about 60% male and (obviously) 40% female. I suppose the belief is that a woman driver will attract more women fans, so congratulations Feminism, you're "great for the sport" ploy is nothing but a Nascar play for your pocketbooks. On that note, it will probably work.

Time for some business 101: Yes, Danika's been selling merchandise hand over fist, but so do all new drivers that are heavily backed by the media. She's new which means fans can't wear the same Danika Patrick shit (that was actually a typo, I meant to type shirt, but it has the same effect either way) they bought two years ago. There will be a noticeable drop off in sales in about three years, assuming this madness continues. Who will buy this merchandise? That 40% of women. That's actually pretty good because you can figure where all the male drivers are competing for 100% of the market, Danika has cornered 40% by herself. Nearly all women will want a Danika Patrick shirt. As for the other 60%? Well, let's just say I don't see myself in a bar sitting next to a guy in a Danika hat shouting "Patrick!" like Freebird.

Ok, so there is money involved. Is that how we define "great for the sport?" It doesn't grow the fan base, it merely grabs an untapped marketing potential of the current fans. Some how I'm not expecting hundreds of thousands of women to come flocking to the sport just because there is a woman driver. The only thing Nascar gets out of this that is "great for the sport" is media attention. With any luck somebody will tune in to see this woman driver everybody is talking about and decide "hey, this is a pretty cool sport." I hope that happens, because hey, it is a pretty cool sport.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Goodbye Jake

Apparently I am officially a blog to be reckoned with. I received my first spam comment today and, ironically, it was for a gambling site. I wonder what that says about my blog?

I am wrestling with a topic this week and it's entirely my fault. I had intended to break my silence about Danica Patrick this week but because I didn't bother to check the schedule I only now realized the Nationwide series (Busch to you fellow hold outs) has the week off. It just doesn't seem timely to talk about her yet. I have been putting it off for as long as possible, both because I think there has been too much media coverage of her already and because what I have to say on the matter will likely go against conventional opinion. In fact, I'm probably going to at least slightly miff some people, no matter what their opinion of her. I'll talk about her next week. That's what we call a tease by the way.

So, Danika's out, what to talk about? How about the Panthers, my home state's struggling football team. Today general manager Marty Hurney made an announcement we have seen coming for a long time. The Carolina Panthers have released Jake Delhomme. I have been calling for the Panthers to drop Delhomme as their starter for several years now, regardless of his being the only QB to lead them to a Super Bowl. I like Jake. He's a great guy, he's given everything he's got to the Panthers and on the whole he had served them well, but he has never been more than an average quarterback. After last years disastrous season with Jake's career high 18 interceptions, 23 of which were in his last 12 games, this was a move that has been a long time coming. That said, I think Carolina has made a dreadful mistake. Not in releasing Jake, but in the way they have done it.

The Panthers have remained steadfastly loyal to Delhomme over the years, even with naysayers like myself calling for at least dropping him to second string. Last year they extended his contract in a move that will now cost them quite a lot of money as they have to buy it out. In addition to this, they have also allowed Julius Peppers to go free agent, thus losing a large part of their bargaining power. By extending Jake's contract one year too many, the Panthers have passed on several very good QB's I think they probably could have signed. With all of this, what are they left with? Matt Moore.

Moore did an outstanding job this past season, stepping up and scoring a 61% completion percentage with 9 sacks. That's pretty good considering his situation, but I fear we have dropped one average quarterback for another average quarterback. Much of this can be chalked up to inexperience, and maybe the Panthers have seen something in him that makes them think he will turn in to something great. I actually am holding my breath.

I think there is another issue the Panthers need to consider in addition their QB situation. Jake had 23 sacks on 321 attempts last year. Matt had 9 sacks on 138 attempts. That suggests to me either their receivers aren't getting open, or the offensive line isn't giving them enough time. That's something coach Fox is going to have to look at very closely this coming season.

I have officially crossed the line. This post marks my movement into the realm of Monday Morning Quarterback territory. I am probably the least qualified person to be second guessing the Panthers coaching decisions, and I hope coach Fox, Jake, and Matt will all forgive my uninformed criticism, I'm merely voicing the opinion of a fan.

This is the first Jake Delhomme highlight reel I came across. I apologise for any issues with the audio, I actually selected this video on a computer with no sound, so I have no idea what is said or what the soundtrack might be.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I warned you, my mind tends to wander

This has gotten out of hand. I knew it would, I've never done anything halfway. Ok, sure I'll occasionaly start something and quit, but that's different. I usualy quit to avoid doing it halfway. I'll explain more in a minute. First off, did you hear about Patrick Beckert, the German speed skater? He missed his chance at the Oylmpics this year because his cell phone was turned off.

Yep, aparently he was the fourth alternate in 1,000m. Two time gold winner Enrico Fabris, from Italy, withdrew an hour before the race and Olympic officials couldn't reach the first three on the list. The Germans heard about it and started searching for Beckert. They called him and they called his sister, a contender in the 3,000m race trying to find him, but still no Beckert. 17 minutes before the race Beckert finaly called back but couldn't get to the track in time. As it turns out, Beckert's cell phone was turned off.

So, how does this relate to my own situation? I managed to lose my own cell phone Wednesday night in what could probablybe turned into a highly stupid low budget version of "Dude, Where's My Car." Happily my cell phone insurance came through and I recieved my new phone today, Friday. I'm actualy kind of happy because I've spent the entire day playing with it and coming up with ring tones.

Ring tones, as it turns out, are a great way to spend an entire night. After all, I can't have just any ring tone, it has to be just the right one. Something slightly subversive and just the right amount of annoying to the people around me without being obscene. I started by looking through my "Cracker" albums and thought I had settled on "Don't Fuck Me Up With Peace And Love" but figured that wouldn't be the best thing to start ringing in church or while I'm on the air. After that I thought, how about Teen Angst, but then I got creative. Some quick checking on Groove Shark and I hit gold. I have managed to put the most politicaly conservative songs I could find on my phone. That of course lead me creating a CD of these songs, and I now think I may have the greatest mixtape ever created. I'm not talking some cliche cd full of mindless Toby Keith drivel, I'm talking real recording gold.

My new ringtones? Well to kick it off, I've got everybody's favorite conservative the motor city madman Ted Nugent with Damn Yankees recording "Don't Tread On Me." After that, "Government Cheese" by The Rainmakers, then of course I went with "Capitalism" by Oingo Boingo. Next I dug up "20th Century Man" by the Kinks. I think I've got it pretty well covered.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Wicker Games

As I was watching the Men's Curling match the other day in the 2010 Olympics, I was struck with an odd realization. Actualy, three odd realizations. One was that my microwave pizza rolls were extreamly hot and I wouldn't be speaking coherently for several minutes, Two, I realized that I had no idea what was going on in this sport I was watching, and Three, apparently there are some strange things going on up in Canada this month.

As our rock slinging heros slid their stones down the ice, I noticed for the first time the Olympic emblem for these games and was uterly bewildered. I had seen this thing in other places through coverage and on the Olympic websites but for some reason I never really looked at it. If you haven't seen this thing, here's what I saw.

You see that multi colored man up there? Not the guy kneeling down, the one painted on the ice. My first thoughts on this thing made me fear for the lives of our competetors. I couldn't believe it.

"Holy crap! Why do they have a wicker man panted on the ice?" I thought as I scrambled for something cold to to drink to cash down the pizza roll that had just burned my mouth. "What kind of wierd ceremony are the planing for the close of these Olympics?"

Not seeing what I'm talking about? Try looking at it from this angle.

Still don't get it? Try this.

Aparently the giant rainbow wickerman is based on a traditional Inuit symbol and they have these things in various places throught the great white north. Seriously, I'm fearing for the lives of our Olympians. Maybe I'm reading to much into this, but if Nick Cage shows up in a bear suit, I hope Lindsey Vonn runs for her life.

Men's Curling; or What I Do When I Get Off My 9-5 Job

Unintentionally I seem to be paying attention to the weirder, lesser understood Olympic games. The Biathlon of course I already talked about and it's really no surprise it caught my attention. It involves people skiing around and shooting at stuff, who wouldn't want to watch that? The sport that's caught me by surprise this year though is the one I've made fun of for years, pulling out all sorts of references to cheese making, house cleaning, and general Canadian jokes. Admittedly I knew absolutely nothing about this sport, but to be honest, not knowing what I'm talking about has never stopped me before.

Curling. I've been asking myself for years how it could be considered an Olympic sport, this year I've come to a conclusion: if synchronized swimming is a sport, surely this ice thing is. Heck they're doing better than me by just not falling down. My attention was first drawn to the sport when the NBC anchorman announced they would be running a story that takes an in depth look at the US Curling team's training "and despite popular belief, it's more than just drinking beer and playing cards."

Holy crap, our curlers are apparently more infamous than Bode Miller. Unlike Bode, thankfully, I don't think our curlers have ever curled drunk. At least not in competition. They have taken a bit of flak I'm afraid for their losing record, but I think that's sort of the price to be paid when a nation competes in a sport most of its citizenry has never heard of. Think of our curlers as the Jamaican Bobsled team.

After I watched the story on our curlers, John Schuster, Jason Smith, Jeff Isaacson,John Benton, and Chris Plys, I discovered something. These are regular guys. Schuster, Smith, and Isaacson have been best friends for years, playing on the same curling team in Chisholm, Minnesota and even living together in Schuster's two bedroom apartment with his fiance. Schuster is a bartender and groundskeeper at a golf course, Isaacson is a teacher, Benton is an operating systems analyst. They like to drink beer and play poker in their down time. They are not your standard Olympic athletes, and I think I like that about them.

After finding out a little about the team I decided to watch a match and was somehow sucked in. I had absolutely no idea what I was watching, except that it resembled the strangest shuffleboard I have ever seen. I understood the gist of it, throw the stones down the ices, sweep in front of it to speed it up or slow it down, and try and get it as close to the center of the bulls eye as possible. Also, there seems to be some sort of shot clock involved and a blocking strategy I couldn't figure out. It was research time.

The game apparently originated in the early 1500's in Scotland. You may note another odd game that involves attempting to get a round object into a small target that was invented in Scotland just a few hundred years earlier. I suspect both sports involved a large amounts of scotch whisky, probably making Schuster and his bunch the most historically qualified team in Vancouver this year. The sport was first played competitively in the Olympics in 1998; I think that was my first actual exposure to this odd game. A curling match consists of ten "ends" with each team throwing sixteen stones per end. There is a 73 minute shot clock per team and each team gets two 60 second time outs. A team must get off all of their stones within the 73 minutes. The team with the stone closest the center of the "house", or target, gets the point.

This year the U.S. has gotten off to a rough start, both in men's and women's. At the time of this writing, the men have a record of 2-4, and actually replaced Schuster with their alternate, Plys, for one match. He returned for their most recent match and won 8 to 7. The women are currently 1-3.
If you'd like to take a closer look at your American Men's Curling team, check this out: The Everyman Olympians.

If you're still not interested in Curling, here's a bunny with a pancake on its head.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daytona 500: Who to watch and A Little History

Here we are, 7:26am, Sunday morning, February 14, 2010. Daytona 500 day. Many of us have waited months for this. Some of us are from Washington and are stupid. Most of us though are excited today because Nascar has made some changes to the cars and promises a little better racing; something more akin to the way it was when I was growing up. It should be a good race, but I never expect to see anything like the '79 finish where Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough ended up in a fight in the infield while Richard Petty came in for the win. If you haven't seen it, check this out: The Fight.

As I mentioned before, we've already had some great racing leading up to today with the qualifying race, and I'm hoping to see it carried on throughout the season. Since I still haven't figured out the system for figuring out who starts where in the 500, I'm going to shamelessly steal from Here's the official starting line up for today's race:

15Mark MartinChevrolet
288Dale Earnhardt Jr.Chevrolet
348Jimmie JohnsonChevrolet
49Kasey KahneFord
529Kevin HarvickChevrolet
614Tony StewartChevrolet
718Kyle BuschToyota
842Juan MontoyaChevrolet
933Clint BowyerChevrolet
102Kurt BuschDodge
1178Regan SmithChevrolet
1219Elliott SadlerFord
131Jamie McMurrayChevrolet
1456Martin Truex Jr.Toyota
1543A.J. AllmendingerFord
1620Joey LoganoToyota
1739Ryan NewmanChevrolet
1847Marcos AmbroseToyota
196David RaganFord
2000David ReutimannToyota
2124Jeff GordonChevrolet
2283Brian VickersToyota
2316Greg BiffleFord
2417Matt KensethFord
2511Denny HamlinToyota
2612Brad KeselowskiDodge
2799Carl EdwardsFord
2836Mike BlissChevrolet
2955Michael McDowellToyota
3082Scott SpeedToyota
3113Max PapisToyota
3298Paul MenardFord
3334John AndrettiFord
347Robby GordonToyota
3537Travis KvapilFord
3677Sam Hornish Jr.Dodge
3738Robert Richardson Jr.Ford
3826Boris SaidFord
3931Jeff BurtonChevrolet
4021Bill ElliottFord
4187Joe NemechekToyota
4271Bobby LabonteChevrolet
43151Michael WaltripToyota

So, who to watch? First off, Mark Martin. He's the second oldest driver in the race today (the oldest being Bill Elliot) and has never won a Daytona 500. With the poll position and a strong showing in the Gatorade Duel, he's got my bet. He's smart enough and experienced enough to stay out of trouble and skilled enough with a strong enough car that he can certainly do it.

The one everybody will of course be talking about is Dale Jr. He's got a lot of pressure on him but a decent car and he's a pretty good driver. Still, and I'm sure I'm risking life and limb by saying this, I don't think he's good enough to win today, front row or not.

A much better bet than Jr. in Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie's proven he's got what it takes to win, consistently has the best car on the track, and hands down has the best crew chief out there. Chad Knaus pulled one of his famous moves and picked Jimmie up a qualifying race win.

Tony Stewart on many days is the best, talent and skill wise, driver on the track. I'm not sure of his car, I think he's going to have some handeling issues, but he can do more with a bad car than anyone else. Watch him, he's got a good shot.

Jeff Gordon was caught up in a wreck during the qualifying race, so i have no idea what will happen, but he's so damn good he's always got a shot. Watch him at the first and see how he works his way to the front.

Some others to keep an eye on will be Mike Waltrip who got in the race the hard way, watching from the Hollywood Hotel, could finish well, but I don't think he's going to win. Of course there are also your usual cast of drivers to keep an eye on like Busch, Bowyer, Smith, Khane, and the like. Some of those you may want to watch for other reasons like.....

The Big One.
My money? Kasey Khane and Kyle Busch. They've both got a shot to win, they're starting close to each other and neither is the best driver on the track. They're far enough up in the line that if something happens it's not going to pretty.
Other people to watch are, as always, Juan Pablo Montoya. A good driver but not a great one, Montoya hasn't quite figured out the stock car thing. Again, he's starting far enough up that he could be trouble.
I put big money on Hamlin and Keselowski. One of them is not going to finish the race. They've had an on going feud for some time now and they are starting the biggest race of the year side by side with cars that aren't capable of winning the race. That's a recipe for trouble if ever I saw one.
Also on the feud note, you've got Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch starting close to each other, but I don't think it's worth watching.

Max Papis is starting near the back of the race and I think he's a wildcard. He's quite a driver but new to Nascar. He could do anything from break to wreck to win the race. I'm looking forward to seeing where he finishes.

On a side note, not because I'm encouraging gambling (I'm sure nobody would bet on a Nascar race), I checked the actual Vegas odds on some of the drivers and found some interesting things.
Mike Waltrip is literally a 100 to 1 shot today. I'd give him better than that, so if you're into that sort of thing, think about plopping a buck or two down on him. I'd certainly give him better odds than Keselowski who is a 50 to 1.
Carl Edwards is an 18 to 1 bet which I think is a little low. He's worth betting on, and I think he may have a shot, but in my opinion you should get a higher payout on him.
Gordon is a 12 to 1, Martin 10 to1, Harvick 9 to 1, Jr. 8 to 1, Kyle Busch 8 to 1, Tony Stewart 6 to 1, and Jimmie Johnson 5 to 1. Go with Gordon, Martin, Stewart, and Johnson. If you like semi long shots bet on Harvick or Busch. Don't even think about wasting your money on Jr. with those odds.
I've done it again. I will wake up to a shotgun tomorrow. If you're a Dale Jr. Fan (hey, I like him too, I just don't think he can win today) then my address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Biathlon: These women scare me.

I've always considered myself to be an above average rifleman. I was taught to shoot by a State Bureau of Investigation agent and a former Navy man and figure with any rifle I match most people I will meet at a shooting range. As I sit in my studio running an Elon basketball game I am watching the women's biathlon.

"Taylor, I'm watching the Olympics where the women ski around and shoot at stuff," I said down my mike to my play by play guy.
"The Biathlon, yes," he said.
"Yeah, that," I said. "These women are scary good."

If you're not familiar with the Biathlon, it entails cross country skiing at the least 7.5km, and at the most 15km and shooting targets that are 45 mm (1.8 in) in diameter from the prone position and 115 mm (4.5 in) while standing at a distance of 160 ft feet. The shot its self may not seem all that daunting until you consider they are doing this with a very increased heart rate from cross country skiing and adrenalin from competition. Also of course they are trying to beat the clock.

The Biathlon started as a means for Norwegian soldiers to train and morphed into a world wide sport as it caught on in other European countries like Russian, Sweden and Austria. If it gives you an idea of how awesome these people are at their job, think about this: some of the best militaries in the world used to do this as training. Back in the 50's and 60's they used to compete with .30-06 ammunition (that's very high powered). Nowadays they use .22's which are less powerful but very accurate.

I'm not much of a skier; actually I've had only one skiing experience and one snowboarding experience and to say they were less than graceful would be an insult to ungraceful beings everywhere. Picture a drunk basset hound on roller skates and that would be me. Today in the women's 7.5 K sprint, Anastazia Kusmina from Slovakia picket up a gold medal with a time of 19:55.6. She had one penalty, which means she missed only one of her targets.

If you want to give these athletes a look, here's the schedule.

If these folks don't impress you, try reading about this guy: Simo Haya.