MONTE DUTTON – WHAT IF THE END IS IN SIGHT?
From the time I was a kid, it’s been a thrill on every trip when the destination was in sight.
Driving into Myrtle Beach, that moment when blue horizon of the Atlantic could be seen in a gap between the high-rises.
“Hey, y’all, it’s the ocean!”
The glittering lights of a carnival midway.
I have always been an avid observer from the windows of airplanes. The only time I’ve ever flown over Oregon, I was enchanted by Crater Lake. I’ve dratted my luck many times when I was sitting on the right and the Grand Canyon was on the left.
The skyscrapers of Gotham. The winding Mississippi. The bands of green on either side of rivers coursing through western deserts.
It’s enough to make a man write an inordinate amount of sentence fragments.
Another NASCAR season is in sight.
We’ve gotten ourselves encumbered. We pay a ridiculous amount each month for cable, satellite and high-definition electronics. If the cost of living had risen at the rate of education and sports tickets during my lifetime, it would be comparable to Germany after World War I. We’d be showing up at the grocery store with a wheelbarrow full of dollar bills to buy a loaf of bread. College tuition has risen 1,000 percent since I went to one.
Watching on TV still doesn’t beat being there. It breeds passing, not vital, interest. That’s why attendance and ratings are both plunging while the fellow who took the leap of faith wonders at what point he can depend on the parachute opening.
Last night I was standing in the wings of a small-college basketball arena, talking with someone I’ve known for 30 years about how money is gradually ruining everything.
All the glistening edifices have become so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.
When does it end? That’s the optimistic question. The pessimistic question is, what if it doesn’t end?
What is also in sight – not just in NASCAR, not just in sports, not just in politics, not just in life – is utter disaster, and if it occurs, it will be everyone’s fault. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, an English poet, got it as right as anyone before or since in a sonnet written in 1818 that ends thusly:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Silly me. I thought the recent history of NASCAR was written by Hans Christian Anderson in a short tale known as “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
That was in 1837. Nothing ever really changes.