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Memo: Never Place Bet With NBA Player

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 6 2010
Jeff Gordon holds his daughter, Ella Sophia, as they talk with actress Anika Noni Rose. Awwww. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The guess here is that neither Jeff Gordon nor his daughter Ella are packing heat at race tracks. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Let’s see what’s in the Morning Memo:

Well, looks like we in auto racing are going to have to change the term we use to describe team sports in this country from stick-and-ball to stick-and-ball-and-9 mm.-semi-automatic-with-a-nine-shot-clip.

The reference here is, of course, to allegations that NBA player Gilbert Arenas got in a squabble with a teammate after that teammate failed to pay-up on a gambling debt which was incurred on a team flight.

Seems Arenas, still angry after the flight, confronted the dead-beat hoopster in the team locker room and pulled a gat. Or two. Or three. The pieces had allegedly been in Arenas’ locker. (What? you don’t keep an arsenal in your locker at Bally’s?)

The teammate’s response was reportedly: Hey I got a gun too.

Arenas’ response to the whole thing? Hey, what’s the problem?

Are the reports true? Who knows but there seems to be something out of whack here.

Why mention all this in a column about auto racing?

For entertainment purposes. But also as a round-about way firing back (so to speak) at that portion of the American sporting public which has taken great pleasure out of looking down its nose at a sport they neither follow nor understand.

Instead, they take cheap shots and aim derogatory stereotypes at auto racing athletes and fans. All the while, they are packing arenas and and stadiums to watch sociopaths make a mockery out of the American work ethic.

They brand us all as hillbillies and Gomers and rednecks and our sport as being unsophisticated and as simpleminded as its followers. I’ve heard it on radio talk shows, I’ve heard it in daily newspaper editorial meetings, I hear it on television.

Yes, racing, especially stock-car racing, has a Wild West past. Back in the day, drivers and promoters were said to keep guns handy and there is, of course, the story of Big Bill France waving one just to let the drivers and teams know who was boss.

But over the years, the sport grew and became increasingly civilized. My guess is that Jeff Gordon does not keep a handgun in his fire suit just in case he needs it to collect money from bets which Jeff Burton placed on a dog fight held at 3 a.m. at Matt Kenseth’s Wisconsin farm. 
It’s called evolution of intelligence.

Why make a fuss over one isolated incident? Because it’s not an isolated incident? Toting guns has become an obviously rampant subculture in American team sports – both professional and collegiate. Apparently, if you ain’t packing a piece, you ain’t no man in the NBA, the NFL or down on campus.

Google “athletes and guns” and you will see what I mean.

So, which athletes are the morons and which are not? Which sports – racing or team sports – are producing the better role models?

I leave this great quote from dog-killer and Leavenworth alumnus Michael Vick for you to think about as you ponder that question.

According to Sports Illustrated, Vick, who was recently voted recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award by his Philadelphia Eagles teammates (another wonderful glimpse at contemporary locker-room culture) once philosophized: “I have have two weapons – my legs, my arm and my brains.”

Memo to self: Look into the cost of body armor before conducting next locker room interview.

One last look back

The best memory I will have of the 2009 racing season will be of the events surrounding the voting for the inaugural class of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The scene in that meeting room in Charlotte that day in October will never be forgotten. To the left was Ned Jarrett, to the right, Junior Johnson. Up in front, Bud Moore. Out in the corridor, David Pearson. In another corridor, Richard Petty.

It was a half day of talking and debating racing with the people who are living racing history. It was like talking about home runs with Babe Ruth, about dunks with Julius Erving, about the Packer Sweep with Vince Lombardi.

I have covered everything from Super Bowls to Final Fours, the U.S. Open golf tournament to, well, the Indy 500.

A quiet, three-hour discussion session in a darkened media room trumps it all.

Memo to self: Should have brought a camera.

OK, one more look back

The story of the 2009 racing season was not Jimmie Johnson, Tony Schumacher, Kyle Busch or Dario Franchitti.

It was Hendrick Motorsports.

What an assemblage of success. First, second and third in points. Four championships in a row for Johnson. Mark Martin is put into a great car at age 50. Affiliation with Stewart-Haas. Even the not-so-positive portion of the story – Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s continuing sturggles – added to the drama.

Great story. Classic. Best in a season which featured a bounty of good stories.

Memo to self: See if Rick Hendrick has any advice on improving writing skills.

P.S.

Congrats Jimmie and Chandra. And you thought keeping Kyle Busch behind you was a tough task.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 6 2010
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