There’s nothing quite like Opening Day, or a race at Martinsville, to get a sports fan to wax poetic about fondly remembered days sitting in the grandstands under a bright Spring sky. It’s funny though, I experienced about the same weather in the hills of Virginia on a beautiful April day as when I attended the first game of the season in Fenway Park.
Still, the little paperclip half mile and the aging Boston ballpark are two of my favorite sporting venues. Both are nestled in a neighborhood where you park in any spot you can find and wend your way to the gates through backyards or back alleys. There’s no massive parking lot with lighting poles marked with helpful letters and numbers, instead there’s a random collection of lots scattered for miles around. Locals will tip you off where you can squeeze in the car if you know the guy wearing the faded camo jacket. Once parked, you join the avalanche of fans and go with the flow heading toward the distant stadium. Nobody is especially in a hurry or even taking it slow.
Local vendors pop up selling favorite regional snacks, unbranded T-shirts and neon necklaces. By the time you’ve entered the venue, you probably have collected an interesting variety of coupons, samples and shopping bags.
Once inside, while effort has been made to update the concession stands and seating, there’s still an air of age and tradition that practically oozes from the walls. People are wearing hats where the logos are faded and holes have worn through the brim–not because they picked them up like that at the local Lids, but because it’s the one that hangs on the hook by the back door. We love this place.
Now, it’s time to load up with snacks. If you’re in Fenway, you pick up a pair of Fenway Franks from the vendor climbing up and down the rows crying out, “Get yer hawt dawgs here!” At Martinsville you take the order from your row and bring your cooler so you’re able to carry twenty of the popular pink dogs back to the seats.
The afternoon passes under chilly blue skies, with white puffy clouds dancing across the horizon. It’s questionable if you’ll be able to shed the jacket in favor of your T-shirt. It simply depends on the day, the wind, and the angle of the sun. There might be a home run or a bump n’ run that breaks the steady hum of the event.
You’ve been here before. You’ll come again in the future. No matter if your hometown hero wins or suffers defeat, the experience of celebrating the arrival of Spring and green things by escaping the confines of your couch is one that ought to be repeated on an annual basis.
Thank goodness Martinsville is still part of the NASCAR circuit. Attending a race at the storied track is truly a special experience, just like heading out to your major league ballpark on Opening Day. It’s simply an All-American tradition.
While checking out the Mexico City ePrix this past weekend, I watched teams switch out noses and rear wings with a single bolt and gun, taking no more than fifteen seconds to effect a permanent fix to their damaged machine. It makes you wonder what kind of modular systems NASCAR teams might be able to create in the future to allow them to sidestep the “you bend it, you park it” system that is currently messing up the races with this year’s rules package.
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