AULD: The Off-Season

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Doug Auld
Doug Auld

Previously in this column, I have questioned what effect it might have upon our sport to have an off-season. And, I’ve not been alone in pondering that question. Our own Pat Sullivan previously penned (or computered) an excellent column for SC&M on the subject, as well.

Every sport has one – football, baseball, hockey, basketball, you name it. Even NASCAR has a stretch where there is no racing. But, in sprint car and midget racing, we have no real off-season.

In one respect, that’s a good thing. It’s great that we can enjoy our sport practically all year long. However, something powerful happens when we realize that something we love is suddenly not there for us to enjoy whenever we’d like. We begin to realize how much we may be taking it for granted. We may even begin to ponder how different things would be if it were to never return. We learn to value it even more.

Since the shut-downs, stay-at-homes, or whatever label you prefer to put on this strange era we find ourselves in, for the first time in years we are in the midst of an extended period without racing. Basically, an off-season.

In the overall scheme of current global events, to miss going to an auto racing event may appear frivolous. Surely, there are those who would feel compelled to attempt to shame us for even raising the subject. However, if we value life, there is no shame in valuing what we do with our life; what things make life joyful. Because certainly there is more to being alive than simply working, paying bills, and starting over again the next day.

Everyone needs activities and entertainment that they enjoy with their family and friends which strengthen their relationships and create our life-long memories. For us, it’s racing.

So many of today’s movie and television industry “stars” are obnoxious, as are many in the music industry. Unfortunately, although they are relevant for creating enjoyable movies or television shows, or creating music that moves or entertains us, they have begun to believe that they must be something more. We only know and care about them because they entertain us, however, they themselves now place little value on the work that they do. And so, they “use their platform” to branch into politics, activism, and just plain lecturing. They don’t attend special daily briefings in which they are educated in ways we cannot be, so they know nothing that we don’t already know. However, they feel they must have a purpose more important than entertaining, when in actuality entertaining is exactly what we count on them to do.

I really couldn’t tell you which political party most of the racers belong to that I’ve known for years. I really don’t care. I also don’t expect them to be dedicating their lives to bringing about world peace. I want to watch them pilot race cars around an oval. And, one of the reasons I do is to get a much-needed break from the 24/7 news cycle which became a non-stop barrage of ratings-seaking, sky-is-falling negativity long before the pandemic struck.

We, as humans, can’t function endlessly on political divide and crime and world problems that seem to be everywhere we look these days.

We used to realize this. When I was a kid in school, each day we had a thing called recess. It was a chance to go outside and play – to clear our minds and take a break from sitting at a desk working for hours on end. Since “improving” the school system they’ve done away with this. It’s a shame. Because we used to realize that people – and especially young children – need a break from time to time. We’re not machines. So, recess was important. It gave our minds a chance to refresh. We were able to burn off pent up energy and stress, and when we returned from recess we were fresh, ready to sit still again and get back to work, be creative and actually more prepared to learn.

There’s nothing wrong with missing entertainment like auto racing, even during a pandemic. There’s nothing wrong with missing normal life. It’s not selfish. We can mourn those who have lost their lives, or empathize with those who have battled through the disease, and have a desire for more normal events to return. Those things go hand-in-hand.

We have now experienced our off-season. We now know (or, maybe remember) what it is like to have a time when we are unable to enjoy racing, and how it feels to be chomping at the bit to return to something we love. It’s likely that everyone now values the people who make it possible for us to enjoy this sport even more. In particular, promoters who are presently taking huge financial risks relying on pay-per-view income with no fans in the stands. As in every other industry, everyone in the racing industry is trying to hold on to their business or job, pay mortgages and feed their families. We need them to be able to do so.

I, for one, am ready to see this off-season end and get back to racing.

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