World's Fair

Or so I was told.

Speaking of ill-conceived arguments, we’ve been blessed at The World’s Fair to host a lively conversation about NASCAR over the past two years. After one provocative query — isn’t burning a lot of fossil fuel bad for the environment?; can you believe they just banned lead in racing fuel after all these decades? — we found some support from the NASCAR fan community itself.

After you get a chance to read up on the prior NASCAR post, for context to this post, come on back. I think there are a few lessons to be had. One is that we still lack a facetious sans serif font for the internet, so readers are not always able to tell when a writer is being completely serious or just having fun and trying to be provocative; a second is that there is more to the call for evidence-based science than just having evidence–the more crucial, the more scientifically and philosophically apt matter is what counts as evidence, since as we know anyone can pull something from the sky or the racetrack or the banana tree to support a claim; and third, NASCAR commenters have more to offer to the conversation than one might’ve thought. Who knew?

The title of this post is a nugget of wisdom from one of those commenters. Do you think he’s on to something? Or do you think it matters which half of the brain he was referring to?

Along with that global warming observation, we had some other inspired connections made by inspired fans. For example, a few spirited repliers have drawn connections between sexuality and energy concerns, namely the possible connections between homosexuality and anti-NASCAR sentiment. Jake Jakers suggests that the conversation about banning NASCAR itself has a homosexuality connotation, calling it “gay,” though I’d like to see more data to draw that link. You know how it is at a blog, sometimes the debate isn’t as empirically supported as we might like. Plus, I’m interested in Jakers’ ascription of agency to a conversation, that the conversation itself has homosexual tendencies. (He didn’t leave accurate contact info with his comment, so I don’t know if Mr. Jakers does gender studies or not.)

I suppose the other glaring though admittedly under-supported observation our commenters have offered deals with intelligence levels. I can’t tell if Jared, Mike, or Joe were drawing on 19th century theories of intelligence or if they were making clever though disguised references to Bell Curve-type debates on IQ, but each noted the “moronic” aspects of the issue’s debaters. There is surely more to be said here.

Anyhow, the following has been the most surprising part of the debate: instead of refuting the post’s premise, a good number of repliers to this mostly joking “Ban NASCAR” post seemed to agree with us. One wrote: “lets ban football too, and baseball, and basketball.” (Another added further support for this call here.) Another replier is an acolyte of Al Gore (I was surprised by that, actually): “so they [the NASCAR cars] pollute, purchase a few carbons credits from Al Gore’s company and all is OK with NASCAR’s world. Right?” A third wanted us to go further, suggesting that our scope was too limited: “If you stop Nascar then you have to stop F1, F2, F3 & Touring cars.” Point taken, though, oh boy, I’m not sure fans of those races would be too happy about that idea! Yet another suggestion came from the mild-mannered “creeper the reaper“: “we might as will drive bikes everywhere and walk to town.” Interesting, though I’m not sure that would be feasible in today’s world. Perhaps he is referring to sustainable community design principles, like Transit Oriented Development? Yes? No? The point being that I appreciate that these fans are thinking about solutions.

But wait, there’s more. Commenter Jeremy Silver encourages us not to take our eyes off other problems, by reminding us to, in his all caps, “SAVE THE WHALES!!!

Our friend David also writes with other energy tips: “Wind power huh go and blow in front of a windturbine, that should cover your emissions of using the computer.” I actually wasn’t aware that that was as feasible as David suggests, but certainly we should have our interns look into it.

All of which brings us back to Mike, writing that “Of course anyone with only half a brain knows that global warming is natural (unless those dinos were driving SUVs)…”

Another one for the interns to look into, I suppose. Though I should say, so as not to regret this post, that it’s here that the facetious sans serif font would be turned off.


  1. #1 Bob O'H
    April 20, 2009


    If we want evidence-based opinion, we would need some people with only half a brain to survey. I’m writing the grant application now. Would any of your NASCAR commenters be prepared to volunteer to work as subjects?

  2. #2 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    April 20, 2009

    I am sure that he means “at least half a brain.” Right?

  3. #3 Russ Finley
    April 20, 2009

    Ah yes, the power of sarcasm.

  4. #4 David Marjanović
    April 20, 2009

    I am sure that he means “at least half a brain.” Right?

    I’m not sure about that at all.


  5. #5 David Marjanović
    April 20, 2009

    Blockquote fail.

  6. #6 mpatter
    April 20, 2009

    Behind the jokes, there is a real debate to be had about motorsport, emissions and climate. Is it just out of place to race petrol cars in a world where we’d like to avoid a climate catastrophe by quitting fossil fuels?

    This article is about Formula 1, and I find it quite interesting:

    Uniquely, F1 could actually be a force for environmental good, because the teams all (very cleverly) engineer their own cars. The rules are already geared to researching non-fossil-fuel transport solutions – they plan to switch to biofuels by 2012, and some cars already use “kinetic energy recovery system” doohicks (flywheels or batteries) that improve efficiency and are transferable to road cars.

    Of course, NASCAR is just about souping up production cars, so it doesn’t have that going for it. But the *absolute* carbon footprint of motorsport probably isn’t any higher than any other sport – particularly as it’s a minority interest with less “leagues”, so less racing events happen in the world on any given weekend than, say, football/baseball/basketball games…

    (P.S. As a European I find it hard to understand why it’s exciting to race around ovals where you barely need a steering wheel … could somebody please explain the appeal?!)

  7. #7 Joel
    April 20, 2009

    To expand on mpatter’s post on F1’s attempts to “go green”. The big idea that they are pushing for is a standard engine that would be used across all the formula regulated by the FIA (Rally, Touring Cars and F1). The standard engine would then have specific areas that the teams could exploit to recover lost energy in the car be it kinetic or thermal. So instead of BMW making a different engine than Ferrari, they would be restricted to a spec engine but would be allowed complete freedom of development in how they recovered lost energy. I guess the plan is that since gas engine technology is pretty much tapped out, why not force the manufacturers to concentrate all their resources on these “recovery” technologies. The FIA is really keen on seeing this happen but the manufacturers are going to be a little queasy about it as it goes against the “spirit” of the sport. Personally I think it would be awesome because the engines are already rev limited and homologated.

    Max Mosley of the FIA talks about the plan here.

  8. #8 davidp
    April 21, 2009

    One of my kids calls almost everything “gay”. Her in Melbourne, Australia, it’s a teen derogatory term, with minimal homosexual connotation. She uses “gay” where I’d use “stupid”. She gets annoyed when my older daughter objects because some of her friends are gay, and the younger one is insulting them.

  9. #9 CW
    April 21, 2009

    She gets annoyed when my older daughter objects because some of her friends are gay, and the younger one is insulting them.

    Then the younger one should stop doing it.

    Kudos to your older daughter for speaking up.

  10. #10 Benny the Icepick
    April 21, 2009

    @Joel, Post 7:

    Aha! The conversation IS gay after all.

  11. #11 Katkinkate
    April 21, 2009

    Of course global warming is natural! It’s the natural consequence of increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  12. #12 Ben
    April 22, 2009

    NASCAR is clearly a plot by the oil companies to get us to consume more oil. Nothing to do sexuality at all.

    Speaking as a male raging heterosexual, football, however, is clearly teh gay. I mean, just look at it. Buncha guys out there in tight spandex, making piles of squirming masculinity, smacking each other’s butts, “ramming” into one another. Plenty of S&M overtones. Basically San Francisco on Gay Pride day, except with field goals.

    In the meantime, isolated over on the sidelines, are female cheerleaders –– who sports broadcasts do their level best to ignore, and who must never mix with the players.

    Personally, the day they devote a channel to the cheerleaders, I’d become interested in watching a football broadcast. Otherwise, I’m too in touch with my feminine side (who, btw, is a lesbian) to be interested in what goes on out in the field.

    Hey – not that I mind teh gay. Do what you like and enjoy it, by all means. Especially if it leaves more females for the likes of me.


  13. #13 Ray
    April 22, 2009

    mpatter wrote

    “Of course, NASCAR is just about souping up production cars”

    No, its not. The car is based on a racing chassis and the bodies are all standardized to the same specs. They have as little in common with production cars as F1 cars do.

    The only way to tell the Chevy Impala vs Toyota Corolla in NASCAR is to read the label on the front of the car.

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