bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: It’s time for NASCAR to lose the televised pre-race prayers

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Each week, I sit down to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Some of the time, I turn on the broadcast too early and subject myself to the variety of useless things that the track promoters choose to bring to us, from hideous renditions of the Star Spangled Banner to some wildly unnecessary and expensive flyovers by the military. I am not anti-military by any means, but I am pretty sure there is a better use of the money it costs to run those planes than to fly over some mid-season race that means little in the long run. Save it for the big races, guys. Anyway, part of the pre-race routine always includes some sort of religious (read: Christian) prayer. I find it totally bizarre that not only is this still done, but it is almost always broadcast by the television network as well. This is a practice that should be changed.

I have stated before that I am not a Christian. It is amazing to me that, in the year 2011, a religion-specific prayer is still being broadcast on television before a major sporting event. I know that stock car racing has its roots in the South, and NASCAR likely feels it would be straying too far from its origins if it eliminated or homogenized its prayer routine. I also know that the drivers are not exactly a picture of diversity. Every one of the 43 guys that strap into those cars every week is a white male, save Juan Pablo Montoya, who is at least very likely to share a religion with the rest of them. If there were Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu drivers, perhaps there would be a movement to reduce the Christian-specific content. I have to imagine, though, that the television networks must know that they have viewers who come from a wider swath of people than the race participants. Do I really need to watch some local pastor pray before the green flag? I am not saying he shouldn’t pray. I am just saying I don’t think I need to watch him do so. Any time I have this conversation with people, they tell me that the world is becoming too “politically correct,” and that people should have the right to pray if they want to. Again, they are misunderstanding my point. Yes, anyone can pray any time they want to. Pray all day long, if that makes you happy. Does that mean a guy needs to get up in front of a microphone on television and ask Jesus to give them a good race? Is the prayer somehow more valid, or more likely to be answered, if it is televised?

This weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide series was racing in Nashville, my home-away-from-home (my wife is from there). Although the pastor delivering the invocation was clearly going for humor, I am assuming that he did not take his prayer the same way I did. To him, he was just making light of something solemn. To me, he proved my point about how ludicrous it is to ask his god to care, in some way, about a bunch of guys turning left. Don’t get my wrong, I think the video is hilarious. I am shocked his name is not Ricky Bobby.

A few years ago, as NASCAR was starting to become far more mainstream than it had previously been, the invocations were often ended with “Shalom and Amen.” The fact that this came right after “we pray in Jesus’ name” did not seem to throw these guys off, amazingly. I assume they had been asked to be more inclusive and that was what they came up with. I actually appreciate that they dropped this practice. I would appreciate it more if they would just leave the whole thing out of the television broadcast. If the prayers are going to be answered, I am pretty sure it won’t be because they were on television.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Nate Webster, a football player who played for several NFL teams between 2000 and 2008, was arrested this week and charged with having a two-year relationship with a girl who was 15 when it started, and using guns to intimidate her into keeping quiet about the whole thing.

3) It is really unbelievable how close fans are allowed to get to the riders in the Tour de France. On Friday, disgraced former champion Alberto Contador, who is competing despite the ongoing investigation into his failed drug tests, must not have appreciated the joker in the medical scrubs who was holding up a fake bag of blood while running beside him for a short stretch. Contador actually punched the guy in the face while riding.

4) Luis Mendoza, a minor-league pitcher in the Kansas City Royals system, threw a no-hitter on Monday. Until Wednesday, that is. An error call was changed to a hit by the official scorer two days after the game, taking away the no-hitter.

5) Kasey Kahne, a NASCAR driver taking advantage of the off-week in the sport’s top series, decided to participate in a dirt track race in Pennsylvania on Friday night. The decision nearly turned into a disaster, as Kahne lost control of his car after contact with another vehicle during the race, and the car actually flipped over the barrier and down the hill on the other side. Fortunately, he was unhurt.

6) It is never pretty when a soccer player scores a goal against his own team, but this own goal by Arsenal rookie Carl Jenkinson was beautiful in its own way.

Both bad sports and good sports:

1) It would appear that the NFL lockout is about to end. I am excited for the likely return of football, but disgusted by the process that got us this far in this work stoppage, including a ridiculous press conference by league officials on Friday night that turned into a lot of bad publicity when the NFL Players Association denied that any agreement had been reached.

Good sports:

1) An Iowa high school baseball team won its 84th straight game this week, as Martensdale-St. Mary’s defeated Twin Cedars-Bussey High on Tuesday. This set a new national record for consecutive wins in high school baseball.

2) Cadel Evans, a cyclist from Australia, became the first-ever Tour de France champion from that country on Sunday. I assume that it is just a matter of time until we hear that he failed some kind of drug test, since it appears that there are no clean riders in this sport, but for now, let’s applaud his accomplishment.

3) Check out this catch by San Diego Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia during his team’s loss to the Phillies on Sunday. I bet even Raul Ibanez, who hit the ball, must have been impressed.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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