NASCAR, Knight and OJ Simpson

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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

I was kvetching last week about the overextended seasons for almost all sports. It's a great word, kvetching, isn't it? Pure onomatopoeia. Not accepted English. Borrowed from the expressive Yiddish vocabulary, brimming with onomatopoeia. But no English word more succinctly captures "to complain" than "to kvetch". So, as I was saying, I've been kvetching lately about the way-too-long hockey and basketball and tennis seasons. But today I'm asking for some NASCAR fan out there to tell me how you hang on from February to mid-November, how you get up for 36 races, some of them 400 miles and more than three hours long? Even if you can convince me that the race tactics require smarts, the fuel management is skillful, and the drivers are brave, you can't convince me that the NASCAR championship system makes any sense. This weekend will be the final of the 36 races, down in Homestead, Florida. But here's the illogic. After the first 26 races, the ten drivers with the most points qualified for what they call The Race for the Nextel Cup. Those ten drivers are the only ones, over the last ten races of the season, who can vie for the title of the overall NASCAR champion for 2006. YET, other drivers from the first 26 races are also competing in these last ten races. They can win some of these last ten--and they do. They can race very aggressively because they have nothing to lose. They can bump and crash into the top ten--and they do. This past weekend, in the penultimate race of the season, Tony Stewart bumped a car from the rear. Stewart's not among the top-ten dogs. His bump caused another car to brush the inside wall, then careen up the track and hit the outside wall, eventually knocking the car of Kyle Busch, who is a top-ten dog, out of the race. To my mind, this would be as crazy as having football teams that didn't make it to the playoffs able to play in the playoffs anyway and actually knock out legitimate playoff teams if they beat them. Why have drivers who didn't qualify for the Race for the Nextel Cup drive the last ten races?

Now, let's talk about the Bobby Knight incident of Monday night. Plenty of critics have been outraged this week, calling Knight's hand-to-the-chin of one of his players a "pop in the face." I saw the replay about a hundred times and it wasn't a "pop." It was a tap. The player himself, and his parents, called it an encouraging gesture, a signal for the player to keep his chin up, to keep believing in himself. Trouble is, frustration and passion expressed in physical terms open a Pandora's Box of allowances. Bobby Knight has literally choked players' throats. He's dangerously thrown metal chairs across the court. He can't be permitted to bump a player's chin. He's got to show enough restraint to get that player's attention with a glare, with a raised voice. Hands off, Coach Knight. Hands off, all coaches, at all levels of play.

Talk about lacking restraint, how thoroughly disgusting is it to hear that a publisher has payed O.J. Simpson $3.5 million for a fictional account of how he would have gone about killing his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ron Goldman. Two weeks from today, Regan Books, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, will publish If I Did It, Here's How it Happened. That same week, the publisher, Judith Regan, will conduct an interview with Simpson on Fox, also owned by Murdoch. Simpson is a sociopath, clearly. We can't explain his thoughts, nor comprehend his actions. But Rupert Murdoch and Judith Regan? These actions of theirs are truly despicable. We must join in a nationwide boycott of both the book and the television interviews, don't you agree?

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW. And that's The Score.



Diana Nyad