Moments ago I was driving back to work from some lunchhour with a local sports radio station (AM-1500) playing in the background. They were yammering on-and-on about the LeBron James self-gratification last week – you know, the hour-long, made-for-TV event on ESPN-TV, where James apparently wanted us all to hold our breath until the moment he told us he was going to play for the Miami Heat and settle for his millions in income-tax-free Florida?
The guest on the radio program, Steve Aschburner (currently of NBA.com but previously a sports journalist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Milwaukee Journal, among others), said he was in Greenwich, Connecticut, last week “covering” the James’ TV show called “The Decision.” And he used this analogy to describe what it was like covering this horrible event: It was the second worst assignment he’d ever had in his professional reporting career, topped only by the time he was sent to cover a snowmobile race in Wisconsin, featuring snowmobiles racing on grass in the summer. (paraphrased – I didn’t have a notebook or tape recorder in the Durango)
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen – the only thing worse than the LBJ fiasco was our sport!! It’s a dubious distinction to be sure.
I remember when I went to my first grass drag race in the fall of 1993. It was in Mason City, Iowa. It’s bad enough that I was in that God-forsaken town (inside jab at friend from Mason City intended here). The sleds were lined up four wide, the low-tech light system in front of them flashed and then the four sleds launched off the line and went in a straight line for 660 feet, with the top two advancing to the next round. Dust flew, the wind blew, it was about 95 degrees and humid. This was my future!
Back then, grass drag racing was bigger than it is now – in fact, if I recall right, there were 50-some-odd entries in the big Stock classes that day. This is also where I met folks like Glenn Erlandson, Pat Hauck, Craig Marchbank and Dean Schroeder for the first time.
Back when we had Snow Week magazine kicking out 18 issues a year, including six issues each fall, I grew to love grass drag racing! I knew all the players, the rules, the classes, the inside politics and I really enjoyed learning about how some of the Improved Stock, Pro Stock and mod sleds were built and tuned. In the ‘90s, there were some years where they’d get 900-plus entries at Haydays and 700-plus at Ohio, New York, or Epping, New Hampshire. It was a huge deal in our little world.
But still, even for a snowmobiler like me, thinking back to my first time viewing snowmobiles compete on a grass strip in August, it did seem peculiar – I can’t imagine what a mainstream journalist like Aschburner thought…
Well, maybe we don’t have to imagine what he thought, given what he said on the radio this afternoon. Grass drag racing is a bit quirky, but can it possibly be the worst thing he’s ever covered in his entire careeer? He started at the Milwaukee Journal in 1979, for cripes sake!!
Oh well, what’s the old saying about publicity? Good or bad, say whatever you want, just spell my name right? That’s s-n-o-w-m-o-b-i-l-e g-r-a-s-s d-r-a-g r-a-c-i-n-g, Aschburner!