Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday April 24, 2008
As a motorsports journalist, I am repeatedly told by my editors that I must remain impartial. Well, as a motorsports commentary journalist, I am repeatedly telling my editors… don’t worry about it! In my way of thinking, being a writer of a commentary piece provides me a few loopholes. They are, after all, paying me to write my opinion; not theirs. Unfortunately, their value of my opinion has not kept up with the rising price of gas…
But values of gas and opinions aside, when things get really messy, writer/editor wise, I am sometimes forced to drop the dreaded journalistic F bomb! No, not that one (in this case, anyway); but sometimes, it becomes necessary to remind them that long before I became their journalist, I was, in fact, a fan first. I remind them that the very concept for this wonderful column was conceived in the inner sanctum of a gloomy, yet gloriously smoke filled tavern, in the middle of a cornfield. Obviously, it’s an idea that only a beverage filled NASCAR fan could think of, even if he did come to regret it later sometimes … especially when a deadline was looming. While it must have been a halfway decent idea, seeing as how I am still here writing, the tavern, unfortunately, no longer exists.
Any regrets notwithstanding, during the last five years that this column has been authored, I have never been shy to let it be known that I am/was a diehard Dale Jarrett fan. I didn’t go overboard singing DJ’s praises in this space; I mean, let’s face it, these last few years, there hasn’t been that much to sing about. Luckily for me, though, DJ’s personality, career stats, and hilarious UPS commercials made him a favorite that any man could be proud of.
However, these last few years, I have had a problem (besides the ones that those that know me are now snickering about). The problem I am talking about, of course, was Dale Jarrett’s impending retirement. Not only was my favorite in the waning days of his career, but he just couldn’t seem to even be competitive anymore. Coupling those two factors, I found that I was beginning to have another, potentially more serious problem; I was losing my NASCAR enthusiasm. It’s hard to write about something if you don’t really care; so, something needed to be done.
That something was Carl Edwards.
Back when Carl was still driving just in the CTS, I decided that when the fateful day came, when DJ hung up his helmet, Carl Edwards would be my new man. To me, Carl exuded the things that I saw in DJ: class and talent. The cool backflip was just the cherry on top for a guy who looked like he was going to rise through the ranks.
Over the years, Carl has not let me down. He is personable, approachable, funny, and more importantly, talented enough to have almost perfected his patented backflip. He drives for a strong organization, has a cool sponsor(s) and except for the whole Ford thing, I find very little fault with the man. And now that I can solely focus on him as my favorite, NASCAR has recently started to be a bit more fun for me.
But wait! What’s the new buzz around the garage? Could it really happen?
Word on the street is that, with Office Depot’s sponsorship contract up at the end of this year, UPS is extremely interested in hiring Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Ford to make their NASCAR deliveries to Victory Lane. Office Depot, meanwhile, while not really wanting to give up on their prized spokesman, may be stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Over the last three years, Office Depot has been sponsoring the RFR No. 99 to the tune of about 14 to 15 million bucks a year. But now that Carl has become a true NASCAR star, word is that same sponsorship may cost at least 22 million a year. Further complicating things at the moment for Office Depot is the fact that they are in a proxy fight with a group of shareholders who seek to unseat the company’s CEO, Steve Odland. Seems said shareholders are a bit unhappy over a measly 85 percent drop in fourth-quarter net earnings year-over-year, not to mention that their stock, trading at a high of around 37 dollars a year ago, is now worth about eleven and a half bucks. Ouch.
Now, I do not have anything against Office Depot; they have been an awesome sponsor for Carl and the No. 99 team. However, just the thought that UPS could be sponsoring my new favorite is just too much to ask for!
I mean, how ironic is it that the very man I picked to bestow my NASCAR loyalty upon because he reminded me of Dale Jarrett, could now end up with the very same sponsor?! The ramifications of such a move are, to me, a sure sign that the planets are lining up in my favor. I could once again wear my beautiful No. 88 UPS racing coat without feeling like I’m showing my true age. It’s not like the 88s are on the front or the back of the coat. Those spots are dominated by the (new) UPS logo. Truth of the matter, is I would never take the 88 patches off, for to me, DJ is the No. 88. Instead, I would have my friend who owns an embroidery shop add some fashionable No. 99s! Plenty of room for that! And how cool would it be to have my coat autographed by both Dale Jarrett and Carl Edwards?!
I know, I know; it is probably too early for me to start holding my breath over the whole deal. But WOW! Talk about renewed enthusiasm. If it does happen, I’d have to consider myself the luckiest fan alive!
Oh, and a journalist too!
Stay off the wall,
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