COLUMN: Everybody wants to be a star
Not supposed to be part of stories
BRISTOL, Tenn. – NASCAR is holding a series of races here this weekend, and I have almost nothing to do with it.
For 20 years I’ve been writing about the sport, and for 20 years I’ve been unimportant. It’s my role. I’m not a race driver. Nor do I build engines. I don’t make lots of money. I used to scribble a lot but now I mostly type.
NASCAR has grown by leaps and bounds since my youth, but the importance hasn’t changed. The men and occasionally women who drive the cars are the ones who really matter. A few others matter a little.
Nowadays, though, everyone wants to be a celebrity. Spotters are angling for their own souvenir trailers. Tire changers are trying to get their own fan clubs. Many television analysts probably do have their own fan clubs. And they attach their names to books they mostly didn’t write.
People think there’s plenty of acclaim to go around. They think, well, if Tony Stewart can hang out with Kid Rock, well, why I can’t I be buds with Blake Shelton? They can, of course, but only by making sure the country-music singer is well taken care of when he shows up at the track. Kid Rock wants to hang with Stewart, and Stewart wants to hang with the Kid, but the easiest way for others to be friends is to be good, old-fashioned “yes men.” (And let’s not forget all the “yes women” because the art of the sycophant is not confined to one gender.)
I’d like to set the record straight. I’m not pals with any race driver. I’m friendly with several, but none of them is an honest-to-gosh friend. It’s not smart to become friends with someone about whom one writes. I never end interviews by referring to my subject as “buddy.” When I was young, I was interested in being friends with race drivers. Those days are long over. I just like to watch them race now.
No one has ever won a race because I wrote about him. No one has blamed me for his losing a race. No one has ever held it against me that I didn’t pick him to make the Chase. No one has ever noticed that I didn’t pick him to make the Chase. It’s more likely, if someone in the garage gets angry with me, that someone else read what I wrote and exaggerated it. Pipefitters are more likely to read my stories than NASCAR drivers, probably by a wide margin.
Too many of my peers have grown bored with merely telling stories. Now they want to be part of them. They rationalize it away on the basis of bosses, webmasters, producers and various other BMICs (Big Men in Charge, not to be confused with BWIC’s) who supposedly force them to be parts of the stories they write. Supposedly, I’m told, it produces more “web hits,” and web hits, as everyone realizes, make the world go wrong.
Around. I’m sorry. It was a slip.
Monte Dutton; 704-869-1841; twitter.com/montedutton