12 October 2007

Emergency Preparedness and the 'Redneck Rash'

So I'm up late, prepping for my weekend getaway to Charlotte. Yes, it involves NASCAR and lots of 'rednecks' and 'rabid race fans' and the like...but the season is quickly winding down, so cut me some slack. This one in Charlotte this weekend and then one next weekend in Martinsville, VA. And then, with the exception of the God-awful TV coverage that only the seriously deficient ABC/ESPN networks can provide, I must stay content watching on the television until next year. Sadly, as the colder months come on, my beloved racing (both local and national with the Busch and NASCAR series) winds down. I really hate to see the summer go, and each year reminds me that I need to find a job where I'm always somewhere in warm weather. I don't know why that is exactly, but today's 20 degree temperature drop appeared to me as a bad omen. And yes, I fully acknowledge it's the middle of October already. I'll stop griping about Mother Nature.

So, as I said, I'm up late doing some last minute laundry and cleanup (which apparently a lot of women do, but men don't seem to comprehend...something I'll never understand really). As per my nature, I scanned over to Drudge to check out the latest headlines before going to sleep (nothing like a casualty report from the war to make one have restless dreams). Imagine my surprise when I read this headline: "REDNECK RASH: Congressional staffers urged to get immunized for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria and influenza -- before going to NASCAR races!" Apparently some Congressional aides to the House Homeland Security Committee were encouraged to get a whole slew of immunizations and booster shots before doing surveys at...wait for it...some recent major NASCAR races, including the ones held this weekend in Charlotte. Now I can appreciate a good sensational Drudge headline as well as anyone, but even this one (and even at 1am) was just too good to not click through on and read.

(And before I have to endure the kidding of friends who will oh-so-subtly remind me that I should not be surprised at this, given NASCAR's 'reputation'...read on to the next paragraphs before casting this off as some 'redneck thing'. While I am sure there are a slew of communicable and perhaps very dangerous diseases involved in the racing circuit, I am also very sure that these surveyors could simply exclude the Pit Lizard Beauty Pen and no one, Congressional aide or Jeff Burton fan or food vendor or otherwise, would ever come into harm's way. And, honestly, I'm not sure the immunizations recommended would do much help against the Pit Lizards, anyway. If any one person could have 'Redneck Rash', I suspect a Pit Lizard would...but that's based only from reputation, so I may be being too harsh and stereotypical.)

Actually, when you actually read the above-linked article, it's clear that the shots are more intended for protection from all the venues that the aides may travel to, such as hospitals and large holding centers where communicable diseases are far more likely, while they evaluate emergency response problems and procedures in case another terrorist attack should happen at a large sporting event. The fact that the immunizations were encouraged before said aides were in Alabama last weekend for the yawner of a Talladega race and also in North Carolina this weekend with the Bank of America 500 appears to be just a collateral (and unfortunate public relations) happenstance. (And we fans just know this same Drudge headline would have been written completely differently if it had been attached to another sport, say golf, basketball, or soccer.)

You can read an additional article on this here.

All I can say is that in 2001 I went to Egypt (and was actually there on Sept. 11, a very long story, even for here), and, prior to travel, I had to get a whole litany of shots 'just in case'. One month after my return, I was examined by my family doctor who told me the International Travel Clinic I had visited for the shots had went a 'bit gung-ho', but at least I was pretty much immunized 'against everything' now. Little did we know then that I was simply getting well prepared for race watching in Concord, NC, now.

I'm actually not sure which is funnier about this whole affair:

  • the quote attributed to NC Representative Robin Hayes...
    "I have been to numerous NASCAR races, and the folks who attend these events certainly do not pose any health hazard to congressional staffers or anyone else,"...
    a quote from a man who clearly has not spent much time with the rather hard-partying aspects of the NASCAR and dirt racing crowds, their tattoo tents, their open keggers at 3am, the slightly undercooked 'mystery meat' from the grill, and the shared but overrun PortaPotties that are the staple of the whole racing 'experience'. Not all the fans are new to the sport and not all are are made of money (although current management might take heed of that last part a bit more), not all arrive in luxury SUVs and stay in a Sheraton. 'Going to the race' was once the equivalent (and still is to many) of a week-long camp and/or Spring Break-like party, and on-site, too, damn it, with thousands of your newest friends (and enemies). So as to the thought of current NASCAR fans and attendees being a potential health hazard? yes; but as potential communicable health hazards? hell no. If you haven't risked your health and/or sanity doing something fun and undisciplined at a race (especially if you're not a driver), Mr. Hayes, you're not doing 'racing' right.


  • the part that someone in Congress seems to think some semblance of order from emergency management could even exist, should a terrorist-like attack occur at a NASCAR race at all. This is a sport, after all, that starts with a prayer, then the national anthem, then a flyover of some extremely expensive military equipment to show our supreme aerial fighting power. And generally all of that has followed some sort of showing of military might, whether that be a distinguished honour guard, heavy duty field machinery on the backstretch, or a continuous loop of Lynard Skynard's "Sweet Home Alabama" playing at full volume in all corners of the property. (The latter is the unofficial theme song of not only the South and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s 'Nation' of fans, but also racing in general...even if you're a Yankee and you're far, far away from Alabama.) So, we not only believe in a Christian (and generally Baptist-leaning) God, but we also believe in a God that has no problems with us kicking someone else's ass with our large weapons arsenal. Additionally, this is a sport that still desperately clings to its Southern roots, present 'globalization' campaigns by the NASCAR overseers be damned.

    And we're not even talking about the hardcore, 'old school' fans yet...many of whom are veterans, reservists, or proud Mamas and Daddies of those currently serving this country (and thanks to all of the above, by the way), and many others who have no military connection but have a fondness and talent for using personal firearms. It's no accident that all of the military branches either sponsor cars outright and/or have information centers alongside the merchandise vendors. In short, this is about a terrorist-unfriendly place as one can readily find in the US of A. Should there ever be an attack at a NASCAR race, there will be no order, there will be no 'well laid out plan' track security can implement within a set time frame. As any NASCAR fan knows, track security can't even keep the Jeff Gordon and the Dale Earnhardt, Jr., fans apart to keep the peace. Or the Jimmie Johnson and the Tony Stewart fans apart, for that matter. Or the Denny Hamlin...never mind, you get the idea. If track security can't even keep order for an afternoon or evening race, just how does Congress envision this 'response' from emergency personnel and security teams to actually work, anyways? Add lots of beer and hot wings to this patriotic, freedom-loving, and 'ready to fight and defend one's driver and country without hesitation' crowd at any given moment and stir: welcome to NASCAR. It's not just an enthusiastic fan base, it can be a mob. A mob that does its own damn thing, when it damn well feels like it, thank you.

    Personally, I question just how much these aides' trips have to do with the stated mission of 'exploration'. While I appreciate that the Committee wanted to do this at two of the biggest races of the year, different venues (Watkins Glen, for instance, as it's a road course and the fans closely line the track throughout vs Talladega where fans are more 'contained' but are well known beer can and other item 'tossers' onto the track) and different races (the Daytona 500 in February, which is the race in many eyes) would have given a better glimpse at preparedness perhaps. Not to mention NASCAR's attendance is dropping at some of the races, too (see above comments about (mis)management), so maybe other sports should be looked at as well. Otherwise, why not a college football arena, or a professional hockey rink, etc? And, it's only been 6 years now since Sept 11...I guess I should be thankful someone got around to looking at protecting sports fans in general (sarcasm).

    Nope, I suspect 'exploration' means that these aides wanted to see the races, up close and in person...and, given my luck, they'll have a much better view than the ticket I bought long ago for myself. Before I even knew there was a 'health threat' and all. Yeah, rigggght.

    That's just me and my opinion, though, people...and I've gone racin'.
  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    I would not worry about it. It is just pop drinking yanks trying to be funny.