2/28/07 – William Faulkner – NASCAR Crew Chief?

In business, they say that a company has to know its target demographic and then appeal to that group of people. Let’s not get too deeply entwined in the concept of “profiling” and “stereotyping” because those words have negative connotations, but recognize that these concepts are not exactly antithetical to “appealing to a target demographic”. In writing newspaper columns, I would also imagine that one should have an idea of the target demographic and “play to it”. And so, with that preconceived notion in mind, I did a double take when I read the first three sentences from Ed Hinton’s column on 23 February 2007 on the Orlando Sentinel’s website. Ed Hinton is their NASCAR columnist; he writes well; he certainly knows more about NASCAR than I do. I suspect his “target audience” would be people who follow NASCAR closely and carefully; therefore, imagine my surprise when I read the lead to his column on the website:

“William Faulkner’s slickest character, Flem Snopes, developed a fatal flaw as he rose to wealth and power. He lusted for respectability. And that was his downfall.”

Pardon me for having a stereotypical mental image of his target demographic, but somehow I don’t think that Flem Snopes – or his less than fully virtuous wife, Eula – are frequent topics of conversation or reference in the RV-community that comes together for NASCAR events. I even wonder if William Faulkner would be immediately associated with literature and not the theory of carburetion. In any case, the lead worked on me; I had to read the column to find out how this all tied together. So, I guess Ed Hinton really did get it right; he attracted someone from outside the target demographic and got him in under the tent…

Speaking of NASCAR and target audiences, they ran a race last weekend in California and did not come close to selling out the venue. The track seats 92,000; and when attendance figures were not immediately forthcoming, writers estimated that 70,000 – 75,000 people showed up. The spokesperson for California Speedway explained the disappointing turnout by saying that the race had to compete head-to-head with the Oscars. Think about that for a moment. People are going to go out to an event in Southern California; how many of them get into their car and ponder the choice of standing behind the ropes to watch celebrities get out of limos and walk on a red carpet or going to a NASCAR race? I don’t think that explains a 20,000 shortfall of fannies in seats.

Last year when Phil Mickelson led in one of the tournaments going into the final hole and then couldn’t hit the ball anywhere near the zip code of the green, commentators kept saying that he choked – again. Unless I saw a totally doctored video highlight, last weekend Tiger Woods lost a tournament because he missed a four-foot putt and the focus of the commentators and writers this week has been that it was an unfortunate circumstance for Woods because of “a ball mark in his line”. If Mickelson “chokes” when he loses, then that performance last weekend from Tiger Woods was worthy of a Heimlich maneuver.

While on the subject of golf, I’m sure you’ve read about Fuzzy Zoeller’s lawsuit based on something he claims is defamatory in his Wikipedia profile. Dwight Perry summed all of that stuff up perfectly in the Seattle Times:

“Fuzzy Zoeller is suing Miami’s Josef Silny & Associates, the Miami Herald reported, claiming that one of the company’s computers was the source of defamatory statements about Zoeller posted on the golfer’s Wikipedia biography.

Defense lawyers immediately moved to have any actionable untruths be ruled an unpayable lie.”

Former Senator George Mitchell’s wide ranging inquiry into steroid use in baseball continues. Remember the story of Diogenes? He’s the guy who kept roaming around shining a lantern into people’s eyes looking for a truly honest man. Somehow, I think Mitchell has as much chance of uncovering the truth about steroid use in baseball as Diogenes had in finding his “truly honest man”.

Mitchell has sent letters to various players and their lawyers asking them to provide medical records and to speak with him and his staff. If you are surprised to learn that none of the recipients of his letters have fallen all over themselves to accommodate his requests, then you would probably also believe that The Tooth Fairy and The Easter Bunny are involved in a sordid bestial affair. Gary Sheffield called the whole matter a witch-hunt. But the most ironic response came from Barry Bonds’ representative. Bonds cannot accept Mitchell’s invitation to cooperate with that investigation so long as Bonds is still at risk for a perjury charge from the Feds who are also looking into the matter. That means that Bonds is able to avoid lying to Mitchell because he may have lied to a grand jury in the past but no one knows yet whether or not what he said then can be proven to be a lie. Don’t even try to parse that last sentence; even my 12th grade English teacher – who went to Mount Holyoke and was “as one with grammar and syntax” – would have to go to the reference books.

It was a big story when Manny Ramirez reported late to spring training yet again this year. I don’t exactly know why because the sun came up in the east in Florida again this year and no one reported on that. I think Manny Ramirez lives in a time warp. Every other baseball player who was not involved in the World Series has been “at loose ends” since early October and they managed to figure out how to get done whatever it was they needed to get done in the four months or so that have transpired since early October. Ramirez never seems to get that right so he must live in a time warp. Maybe that explains the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle?

Finally, one more tidbit from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Lewis Dartnell, the leader of a University College London study, has proclaimed that the surface of Mars is devoid of any possible life, SPACE.com reported.

“Or, in earthly terms, just think upper deck at a Marlins’ home game.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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