NASCAR and Me: "The Next Best Thing," A Love Story.

Kara MartinSenior Analyst INovember 5, 2008

No matter how bad we may want something, life as we know it doesn't always comply with our wishes. While wanting the best for ourselves we are often forced to settle for the next best thing. Through my own experience life has proved that the next best thing can actually be better than the very best thing
In high school I didn't possess the athletic ability to play soccer, so I did the next best thing; I varsity lettered in "Boy's Soccer Management." Who knew that you could actually letter in something like that? I gave it my all and it turned out to be a pretty good gig. I got to attend all the games and practices for three years while bossing around the cutest boys in the school.
I can't carry a tune to save my life, so right out of high school I did the next best thing; I got a job managing a Record Store. It came with awesome perks like promo Cd's, free concert tickets and backstage passes without the talent needed to make it as a musician.
It was a decade of solid partying and good times, all the while staying true to my own values by never stooping to groupie levels. Turns out, you can still have fun and remain "prude and proud!"
No matter all the medicine and self-help books in the world, I can't "fix" myself, so I did the next best thing; I became a Paramedic. Now I "fix" others and have found great reward in it. It is my true calling.
I fought the law and the law won, so I did the next best thing. Although I have the heart of a rebel, I now get my car inspected on time, stay within the speed limit and do my very best not to blow through red lights.

Being from Texas I've always had a thing for the rugged cowboy type, but the Washington, DC metro area doesn't really cater to those type of men, so I fell for the next best thing, A transient "Cowboy" from Connecticut, a bit of an oxymoron I know, but somehow it just worked.
The first time I laid eyes on him he was wearing a belt buckle the size of a dinner plate with the state of Texas on it, embossed with a shiny silver "No. 5" right in the center. I got up my nerve, crossed the room and asked the beautiful boy if he was from my beloved state.
"Nope," he replied. "Connecticut."  
Strike One. I couldn't understand how this Northern imposter could so shamelessly wear the pride that we Texans hold so dear, so I pushed a little further.
"Did you use to live there?" I asked.
"Nope, but I'd love to see it some day."
"So, what's up with that belt buckle then?"
"It's for my favorite NASCAR driver 'Texas' Terry Labonte."
At the time NASCAR to me was nothing more than a bunch of cars going really fast in a circle. I'd never given it a chance but just knew that I didn't like it. Strike Two!
Strike Three would not come until couple of years later. I gave the boy a chance and ultimately he became one of the greatest loves of my life. By accepting him into my world meant that in order to accept me into his I had to understand that NASCAR was part of the packaged deal.
Joe patiently taught me all about the sport. Every Sunday I would ask things like "What's the pole?" or "Explain to me how the points system works...again." I learned everything that I could about it over the first few of months of our relationship until I eventually became quite an expert. We watched every race together and when we were traveling always had it tuned in on the radio. It was "our thing."
Sadly the relationship eventually came to an end and we went our separate ways. There it was Strike Three. It hurt like hell, but "they" say, "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," right? Blah, blah, blah...
In my case it twas better. Without Joe I never would have known what NASCAR was truly about. I am grateful to him for leaving me with that.Through him I was able to adopt new experiences and interests. I gained knowledge by opening my mind, giving the unknown a chance and finding respect for something new that I still cherish in my independence.
Is NASCAR the perfect mate? Absolutely not, but it remains faithful, always entertains me, has strong future goals, and still respects me in the morning!
Sure, NASCAR and I will always have our ups and downs. I may not agree with it all the time, we occasionally fuss and fight but I know that week in, week out it will always be there for me. The absence during our annual 10-week Winter break does indeed make the heart grow fonder. When we reunite every February I am reminded of just how much I've grown to love and appreciate the sport.
In the end I may not be a stellar athlete or musician, but I do have a clean driving record and the skills to save a life. And yes, I lost the boy but I got the next best thing, 43 hard driving men in form-fitting fire suits. I'd say that's a pretty fair trade!