Wednesday, Aug 17

Sorry, Charlie: NASCAR Was Winning Way Before Sheen

Guest Column By Cathy Elliott Friday, Mar 25 2187

For the past few weeks, it has been all but impossible to turn on the television without being subjected to some new update on the antics -- and particularly the ever-expanding list of outrageous comments -- of actor/pontificator Charlie Sheen.

Opinions seem to be evenly divided as to whether Sheen is:
1) Suffering some sort of unfortunate public breakdown
2) The canniest self-promoter in America.

He is on the morning talk shows, the magazine shows, the entertainment channels and the news channels.

He has even managed to infiltrate professional sports. Following a Today Show interview, I ran across an online poll (OK, I voted in it), conducted by a highly-respected media outlet and accompanied by a story written by someone I actually know, which posed the question, “Which NASCAR driver possesses the most ‘tiger blood’ like Charlie Sheen?”

Uh-oh; now we’ve gone and dragged NASCAR into this thing.

Sheen has a flair for dramatic, even bombastic statements in which he compares someone, usually himself, to things he considers spectacular, like F-18 fighter jets and the aforementioned tigers. But something about this river of rhetoric has been nagging at me, and I have finally realized what it is. Sheen is being touted as a complete original, but haven’t we heard a lot of this stuff before?

Yep. And not only have we heard it – we’ve said it.

Remember when the “All we do is win” T-shirt – a reference to Denny Hamlin’s comment as he crossed the start/finish line after taking the checkered flag in last May’s Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway -- made its first public appearance at the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge, where it was worn by Hamlin’s date? Sure enough, the No. 11 team won that contest, along with eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races last season, and finished second in the driver standings. So Sheen’s “The only thing I’m addicted to is winning” comment seems like flagrant theft of intellectual property to me. Clearly, Hamlin said it first.

Like a lot of other people, making a list each morning helps me accomplish more during the day. A typical example would include activities like write, do laundry, buy shoes; just my normal stuff. I have this mental image of Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus doing something similar each January, sitting down together to make their checklist of resolutions for the upcoming year, then crossing each one off as it is completed: win races, make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, win the title (again); just their normal stuff.

Johnson isn’t generally known to be verbally aggressive. He lets his actions on the track definitively speak for him. Sheen seems to admire this kind of dogged success, reminding us that “The scoreboard doesn’t lie. Never has.”

“I’m different. I have a different constitution. I have a different brain … I got tiger blood, man,” Sheen says.  Forty-seven percent of respondents to the online poll mentioned earlier feel this description also applies to Kyle Busch.

That’s interesting, and rather astute. No matter how many trophies he wins in any racing series you can think of, Busch never, ever abandons the hunt. Look no further than the March 18-20 race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he swept both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events, for the most recent example.

So this tiger blood deal, although it sounds a bit gory, seems to be quite the compliment. Tigers are tenacious and territorial, speedy and strong. Apparently, besides the usual attributes, i.e. being warm and red, tiger blood has the capability of helping propel its host to the very highest level of accomplishment – making him the ‘top cat,’ so to speak. Isn’t that goal of every driver, every week?

What this all boils down to is that, despite all the confused head-scratching he has caused me and everyone else recently, I have a couple of things to positively acknowledge Charlie Sheen for. First, I have finally, definitely learned that silence really is golden. And second, if you’re going to plagiarize the comments of others, aim straight for the top. It seems that even Mr. Sheen realizes the grandest descriptions should be derived from the grandest things. So what does that say about NASCAR?

“Duh. Winning.”


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