Pretty exciting day Sunday, between the new format of the Daytona 500 and the, well, "new format" of announcing best picture at the Academy Awards.
I'll begin with Daytona. I thought the new stages of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series were both good and bad. For the good, I'll admit it did add a little intrigue into the portion of the race where one's interest may wane. At Lap 45, for example, I was enjoying feeling like I was watching the closing laps of a race. Except, I really wasn't.
The drawback I can see is the stages create a natural tune-out point that otherwise may not have been presented in the mind of the viewer. "Oh? Only 15 laps left in this stage? I'll watch and then go run my errands."
If that natural break was not offered, people have no perception that the action is about to stop – whether or not it truly does. By the end of Stage 2, I can't deny an inevitable thought of "didn't we just do this?" Like anything, however, sometimes change just takes time to embrace.
I did think it was cool to see Kurt Busch win. I've never liked the way he would occasionally treat media in his younger days, but I think he has humbled and matured. Busch, who became just the fourth driver to win the Daytona 500 and have a top-10 Indy 500 finish, was nothing but respectful of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its history during his time at Indy in 2015. He also showed great respect and reverence to IMS historian Donald Davidson. That goes a long way with me.
The true loser in the Oscars snafu was NOT “La La Land,” Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway or Jimmy Kimmel. It was "Gary from Chicago." That guy, part of the bus tour group brought into the middle of the Oscars show as a surprise, was well on his way to a Ken Bone level of overnight American sensation status. Then, boom! The clock of fame raced past 15 minutes for him in the flash of Beatty being handed the wrong envelope. Cancel the T-shirts and morning TV appearances for Gary. At least he and his fiancée will always have that moment being “married” by Denzel Washington.
For the record, "Fences" and "Manchester by the Sea" were the only best picture nominees I saw. But I've never put a lot of stock in the award since "Ghandi" won over “E.T.” in 1982. I get it now, but 9-year-old Jake Query was devastated then. At least I got to flip the channel that night to see a North Carolina freshman hit a game-winner to beat Georgetown for the NCAA basketball championship. Michael something, his name was. I think he went on to win a few more awards of his own.
It's March, so that means the best weeks of college basketball are upon us. I love conference championship week. There's nothing like seeing two schools battle it out for the right to be a sacrificial lamb for Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. Yet, you always wonder if you're seeing the next Hampton or Lehigh or Cleveland State. It's magical.
Speaking of the NCAA tournament, if your team is one "on the bubble," you better pull hard for St. Mary's or Gonzaga to win the West Coast Conference. Those two would both get at-large bids if they don’t win their conference, so if a Cinderella wins their conference tournament, it would be stealing an entry from a bigger school on the bubble. I'm looking at you, Wichita State.
I really want to see Northwestern get into the tournament. Did you know Northwestern hosted the first NCAA tourney in 1939, but has NEVER been invited? Frankly, I find that rude. Let the madness begin.
It's less than two weeks before I fly off to St. Pete for the Verizon IndyCar Series opener. I can't wait. I hope to meet some of you trackside this year. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Be sure to say hi if you see me. Don't hesitate if I look busy. I've made a living looking like that. I'm probably not.