In yesterday’s installment of Voice of Vito, I wrote about Kyle Busch, his 2010 season, and touched briefly on his turn around of sorts this year. Not just behind the wheel but in front of the cameras and microphone as well. The snide remarks have been few and far between this year, as have the scenes of him walking off in a huff after taking a dominant car and failing to convert what was clearly a sure win in the making. Reading similar accounts of those who attended yesterday’s promotion by Michigan International Speedway – one that Busch volunteered for and was not compelled to attend – a similar thread began to emerge; Busch apparently has changed.
Well I for one kind of miss the Old Kyle.
I know, I know – I’ll be the first to admit I was one of the ones who were openly critical of his antics in recent years, particularly after bailing out of his car at Bristol when pit-road troubles proved the undoing of the No. 18 Z-Line Camry in early 2009. Many Busch defenders stuck up for their guy saying that if he didn’t act like himself just the way he was, he’d just be another vanilla pitchman, belching out sponsor names at every opportunity. While Kyle has devolved into a Johnson-esque quote machine, who even after the most improbable win manages to sound like Billy Maze on lithium.
His personality appears intact, but the emotions that he wore on his sleeve or was always ready to bubble to the surface has been tempered some, and the sport might be worse for it.
There are two great crimes you can commit in America. The first of which is being bad on television, whether it’s making a fool of yourself with a stupid comment, or having awful hair. The other is taking steroids. Heck you can cheat on your wife with every STD-riddled porn skank, intern or Perkins waitress in the land, lie to the public about it for months, then have a really creepy, awkward press conference and hug your mom at the end, and everything’s cool. Heaven forbid if you want to look good for a summer or need to smack the crap out of a baseball that’s wound super tight with a corked bat for people to cheer at. For anybody that has ever struggled for six weeks to barely push more than 225 pounds of iron off their chest with a shoulder injury, it can be tempting to tell your liver it might just have to take one for the team.
To our cousins across the Atlantic however, the most dreadful thing one could possibly aspire to, is to be boring. In Great Britain, being an axe murderer ranks a distant second to inducing a yawn, which is a bit ironic considering their penchant for bland food and uncomfortably dry comedy. Even one of England’s most treasured song smiths, Morrissey has a song titled, “The World is Full of Crashing Bores.” The last chorus goes, “The world, I am afraid, is full of crashing bores, I am not one, you don’t understand….”
Oh I do understand Steven, all too well.
So does Clint Eastwood’s character Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway in Heartbreak Ridge after being thrown into the drunk tank one night after imbibing a bit too much simply states, “You can rob me… you can starve me, you can beat me, and you can kill me… just don’t bore me….”
‘Ooh Rah to that, Gunney.
Watch any post-race interview now or read the transcripts the following day of a presser, and there will be a distinct lack of anything to inspire a chuckle or eye roll. Where are the good sound bites? Why can’t the Car of Tomorrow still suck after winning a short-track race? How long until Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano are called out for not drafting with him at Daytona or Talladega?
One of the funniest things I ever saw was at Michigan in 2008. Busch was walking through the garage towards his hauler to get ready for practice. Almost immediately upon entering the garage area, Busch was besieged by a throng of fans seeking an autograph. He patiently signed everybody’s item as he made his way to get his fire suit on, when one over zealous fan ran up to him and literally shoved a hat into his face for him to sign, nearly knocking him over backwards. Busch snatched it out of his hand, quickly scribbled his name on the bill, then flung it skyward, and took off in a dead sprint towards his trailer.
The guy stood there dumbfounded and was looking around frantically to anybody in earshot who would hear his pleading; How could he do such a thing?! I was bent over laughing, kicking myself for not having my camera ready to take a series of photos documenting the incident. Seriously, if you’re in your late 30s and are still partial to jean shorts, do yourself and everybody else a favor – fuel up the IROC, throw in your Damn Yankees cassette single of “Can You Take Me Higher,” go to Old Navy and score some $10 cargos. Please.
Prior to his arrival yesterday in Grand Rapids, Mich., there were whispers among some in attendance that were hoping he would be in a good mood. He was as laid back, jovial and accommodating as one could ask for, answered everybody’s question, did all the radio interviews and TV spots, posed for pictures, signed autographs and graciously answered many of the same, trite questions he undoubtedly answers at virtually any question and answer session.
The maturity he has shown this year comes with the territory I suppose of having grown up quite a bit in the last few years, enduring an endless string of criticism and critique, heading some advice from those close to him, starting his own business, winning a Nationwide Series championship, and now getting engaged just a couple of months ago, the petulant youth has been eclipsed by a more reserved adult.
The next time a driver you may not particularly jibe with starts going off, ranting, raving or acting like a lunatic, please, thank him or her. After all, this is America. Land of the free, home of guys who started blasting because they didn’t like the tax on their breakfast treats. So long as nobody gets hurt or something runs afoul of the law, there is no greater freedom than speaking your mind, and nothing as dishonorable as being boring.