Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: NASCAR Nation (2012)

By Chris Myers with Michael Levin

In 2010, Chris Myers and Michael Levin combined to write the book, "NASCAR is America - How Racing's Values Mirror the Nation's."

Now in 2012, the same combination has come out with a book, "NASCAR Nation - How Racing's Values Mirror America's."

It seems safe to conclude that if you bought the early book, you probably don't need to acquire the later version. Come to think of it, you probably don't need to buy "NASCAR Nation" under any circumstances.

Myers jumped from ESPN to Fox more than a decade ago, and has found a home as part of the "newer" network's coverage of stock car racing. I was easy to guess that a book by Myers would use the subtitle's themes about racing's "values" as a launching point for stories he's seen around the racing circuit.

That's a book that would have been relatively entertaining. But instead, Myers sticks to the subtitle's theme and writes 221 pages about how wonderful NASCAR is. The chapter headings include "Risk," "Patriotism," "Speed," "Tradition," "Pageantry," "Heroes" and "Victory." Get the idea?

Even if the reader buys that premise, there is a big, big problem with how it's told. There are no backing anecdotes or examples of virtually anything along the way. If it is the same book as the one written in 2010, I can't imagine that much updating was done ... because there are only a few references to current news in the sport, It's simply a book filled with Myers telling us how wonderful everything about NASCAR, instead of showing us. And what happens when you do that? After a while, you can't help but repeat yourself. A lot.

By the end, we get a section like this: "NASCAR is at its core an American sport, a sport defined by American values, American sense of risk and rewards, and an American thirst for speed, competition and achievement. America is a nation of risk takers. We can't recognize that you can't change the status quo by hiding from possibility, and so we're a nation of people willing to go out on a limb, to take a chance, whether the outcome we're seeking is a more secure future for our children or just a thrilling weekend afternoon." Change a few words, and you might have a typical political speech heard this fall.

Speaking of politics, there's one odd exception to the relentless positive approach taken in the book. There are about four references to how wonderful it is that NASCAR doesn't have any unions. I'm not so sure that some of the workers would agree with that, but you won't find an opposing viewpoint here.

Any book that's part of the "NASCAR Library Collection" obviously isn't going to criticize NASCAR. The concept behind the book might have worked for some sort of article for an in-house magazine or a race program. But it's just too thin to work in a book-length form.

Myers has always come across as a good, smart guy in his broadcasting career. He'd be enjoyable company over lunch or an adult beverage, I'd bet. He probably has a good book about NASCAR in him. "NASCAR Nation" isn't it.

One star

Learn more about this book.

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