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Sunday, July 21, 2013

A REAL 'WOW MOMENT'

(Brief this week due to more urgent personal demands on my time.)

Brian France drew a fair amount of attention last year when he proclaimed that NASCAR needs more "Wow moments."  It was hoped that the new Gen-6 Sprint Cup car would, in part, help produce this sort of attention-getting, water-cooler talk happenings.

I can't honestly say I think that's occurred. NASCAR, of course, has prided itself over the decades on its ability to help create such showbiz. And, let me admit this based on my own experiences in the wonderful world of public/media relations and publicity: Under a limited and very special set of circumstances, with some sophisticated and well-thought out manipulation techniques, it is possible to artifically create "Wow moments." But such times are the exception, beyond even NASCAR's full control.

Real "Wow moments" are real, genuine, almost always spontaneous. Alex Zanardi creating the contemporary donuts VICTORY celebration at Long Beach in 1997 certainly is an example. Sebastien Bourdais doing donuts for finishing SECOND at Toronto most certainly is not. (I got an E-mail the other day from someone saying Courtney Force's magazine photos are a "Wow moment," but that's a different sort of "wow.")

The sports world enjoyed a honest-to-God "Wow moment" last week. It came when Mariano Rivera ran onto the field in the eighth inning of baseball's All-Game Game in New York City. Rivera, by statistical objectivity the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history who has announced he'll retire from the Yankees at the end of this season, not only received a much-deserved standing ovation from the Citi Field fans. His American League teammates intentionally stayed off the diamond so Rivera could have the stage to himself. They applauded from the dugout. As did the National Leaguers. You could see the tears welling in Rivera's eyes. He then pitched a classic three-and-out inning.

It was special. It was real. It was a true "Wow moment." You didn't have to be from New York or a Yankees' or even a baseball fan to get emotionally connected to the scene. I watched and, yes, said out loud: "WOW!" 

I don't think fans are getting enough of that in racing this season. Maybe, perhaps, Wednesday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on the dirt at Eldora Speedway will change that. I know I'll be watching, waiting, and hoping . . .

[ more next Monday . . . ]