So I saw a NASCAR race this weekend. Leah and I, along with 200,000 other folks got off the highway to attend the same event. Massive gridlock. We eventually found our way to a parking lot and walked a mile to the track. It was a spectacle that you really have to see to believe. Outside the gates are what seems like hundreds of semi-truck trailers full of embroidered hats, shirts, coozies, stickers. It seemed like every major corporation had some kind of enormous booth letting you learn about their product in an interactive fashion. Did you know Coke bottles get turned into yarn? People are tailgating everywhere. RVs with Dale Sr. memorials painted on them are parked bumper to bumper as far as the eye can see.
Then you get inside. Thousands of semi trailers, RVs, buses, trucks line the infield. The track is 2.5 miles long and everywhere you look there are people. It's an absolute mad house. And when Dale Jr. and the gang take off... it's one of the more intense things I've ever seen. It makes the roar of the crowd at Ohio Stadium seem like a mouse fart. It's awesome. For about 20 laps. Then it's monotonous and confusing.
It's easy to make fun of NASCAR and write it off as a bunch hillbillies who like to watch their cousins turn left real fast. That would be a mistake. NASCAR fans are simply members of a sub-culture. We all are. Maybe it's church or Facebook or knitting club. But the more knowledge you gain about a the ins and outs of a particular sub-culture the more interesting it becomes. NASCAR will now be more interesting to me because I know a little more. If I decide to keep learning I may become a fan. If I decide not to keep learning it will never be more than a confusing novelty.
After gaining knowledge comes shared experiences and interactions with other people on the same track and before you know it, there's a 200,000 person-strong community. The kind of community that will travel the country, sit in traffic, grill bratwursts and drink Budweisers, wait in lines for porta-potties and sit in metal chairs for six hours. They do that because they understand the sport AND they've spent time with other people enjoying it.
Knowledge + shared experiences = sub-culture aka: community. NASCAR is church with beer and burnt gasoline.
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